At the end of the first women’s meeting, I asked everyone to think about what they wanted to discuss at the next meeting and to come prepared with suggestions so we could start by making an agenda.
The first topic we discussed was what motivated us to live our lives as vandwellers/rubber tramps/travelers. While everyone there had a different story, several women spoke of wanting to live more simply. Some women started living on the road after nearly devastating personal hardship. Others decided not to wait until their final years to travel and see new places.
Next, we talked about our creative outlets and how we manage our supplies in our limited living spaces. A couple of women who work with fabric shared their techniques for storing all their cloth. A woman who works with glass told us how she stays neat and organized.
While we were writing our agenda, one woman said she wanted to discuss how to deal with men she wants to be friends with when they start giving off vibes suggesting they’re looking for romance. Recommendations ranged from wearing a fake wedding ring to being straight-up honest about feelings and intentions.
Another woman was interested in how traveling women manage to date and sustain relationships, especially if one’s partner doesn’t want to travel. One suggestion was to break up with the partner because if the partner wants such a different lifestyle, he (or she) must not be the right one. Another suggestion was to go out traveling while the partner stays at home but to stop in for visits as often as possible.
(Side note: The woman sitting next to me arrived after we had set the agenda and didn’t realize that a woman in the circle had asked to discuss this topic. When the discussion was lagging, the woman next to me said sharply, “I don’t think this is an issue!” I think she thought I’d put the topic on the agenda and was telling me no one wanted to talk about dating and relationships. Obviously someone wanted to talk about this subject, but the woman who’d ask to talk about it wasn’t talking. So I had to bring the discussion back to the original woman and get her to talk about her specific issues so others could present ideas that might help her. I wish people would get to meetings on time and not assume they know what’s going on when they don’t.)
The most polarizing topic of discussion was about shooting and posting photographs, as well as sharing identifying information about others, on the internet. (Coincidentally, before we had a chance to discuss photography, the woman sitting next to me got up, went to her rig and got her camera, and was about to shoot photos of the whole group. Another woman at the meeting told her that she should get permission before taking any photos. It turns out that the woman with the camera was quite irritated at being told she should ask first.)
We started the conversation talking about physical safety, elaborating on some of the safety methods we had discussed the week before. One woman talked about her habit of being aware at all times of who is around her, what those people are wearing, and what they are doing. She spoke of the importance of looking people in the eye so they know she is aware of them. This woman then started talking about security measures she takes when writing her blog. This (unintentional, as far as I could tell) segue took us right into a discussion of internet security.
Several folks pointed out that photographers should not be taking photos without permission and certainly should not be posting photos anywhere on the internet without permission. The woman next to me expressed that she was upset that she had been told she shouldn’t take photos (when actually, she was told she shouldn’t take photos without permission). She said she’d been doing this (and I assume by “this” she meant going to gatherings and taking photos without permission) for years and no one had ever said she shouldn’t do it. As the conversation progressed, she then asked if facial recognition software was what people were worried about. When people said yes, she seemed to understand at least a little why people were concerned.
While there was a group of women who were vocal about not wanting their photos taken or posted, another group said they were totally fine with having their photos posted any and everywhere. Someone suggested that in the future folks at the RTR who did not want to be photographed could wear a sticker of a predetermined color so folks with cameras would know who it was cool to take pictures of and who to leave alone.
The last topic discussed was how women could find other people (particularly other women) with whom to travel. Some already established group mentioned were Sisters on the Fly, RVillage, and the Wandering Individual Network. (I have done no research on these groups–other than finding a web address for them–so I can neither discourage or encourage folks to check them out.) Someone also mentioned a Facebook group for traveling women, but I didn’t write down the name, and I have no Facebook navigation skills, so I couldn’t find it. The last thing we did was pass around a sign-up sheet so women who wanted to could share their contact information with each other.
Facilitating the women’s meetings was a positive experience for me. It allowed me to get involved with the RTR, and made me stand out a little bit to people who might not have noticed me or talked to me otherwise. I also felt like I was doing a job that no one else wanted, but for which I was qualified. The main way attending the women’s meetings helped me was by giving me a chance to learn a little bit more about other women so I could use what I had learned there to strike up a conversation later. It was also extremely encouraging to see how many women at the RTR were single and traveling alone.
All in all, I’m glad I facilitated the women’s meetings.
Read about the first women’s meeting at the 2015 RTR.
Read about my first week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.
Read about my second week at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.
Image courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/282925/sixties-groovy-female-symbol.