How To Explore Local Culture and History Through RV Travel

Karen Blue's photo of native Alaskan boots

As RVers, we love to explore new places and see everything the United States has to offer. And while natural beauty and unique landscapes are certainly a big part of what draws us to RV in the first place, we shouldn't forget the importance of learning about, and appreciating, the local culture and history of the places we visit. There are so many amazing areas with rich cultures and fascinating histories just waiting to be explored—why not make it a goal to learn more about them during your next RV trip? Here are a few tips for how you can do exactly that.

  1. Visit A Local Museum

    Museums not only offer interesting details about local history but they’re also great for stimulating ideas and giving us a wealth of new knowledge. They’re especially great for RVers because, when the weather is bad and we aren’t able to go outside, museums provide the perfect place to explore indoors. I always try to visit at least one museum in every location that we visit. During a recent trip to Valdez, Alaska, I wanted to understand more about the native tribes, and a visit to the Valdez Museum and Archive provided so much valuable insight. We learned about five native cultural groups, the many different tribes within them, and the struggles of Alaska's native population for civil rights and aboriginal land claims.  

    Karen Blue's daughter learning about Alaska's history at a museum

  2. Attend A Park Program

    One of our favorite things to do at national and state parks is attend their educational programs. Most parks will offer ranger-led interpretive programs that are designed to help educate you about the history of the park and the surrounding area. These programs can be incredibly valuable in teaching people about the history of our country and the many different cultures that have contributed to it. 

  3. Read A Relevant Book

    If you're looking to learn more about local culture and history during your RV travels, one great way to do that is by picking up a book at a local visitor center, book store or park office. These books can provide a wealth of information, and locals often write them in an easy-to-read format. On a recent trip through the Pacific Northwest, my daughter read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This book is an incredible first-person novel about Indian reservations in Washington, the Navajo code talkers and cowgirls from the Wild West.

  4. Talk To The Locals

    While books and museums can offer a lot of great information, there's nothing like learning from the local people. During our RV trips, we try to get to know the locals as much as possible. We want to learn about their culture and get a first-hand account of what it's like to live and grow up there. Ask locals about their favorite stories and traditions, and see what unique perspectives they can offer. It's a fantastic way to get a deeper understanding of a place, and it can add a lot of richness to your travels.

    I recently spent a few hours chatting with a native from Northern Alaska. He told me about his experience growing up in the area, and shared some of the unique aspects of his indigenous culture. It was a fascinating conversation, and it really helped me appreciate his perspective. I have often found that these local interactions provide far more meaningful experiences than simply visiting the must-see sights and destinations.

    Karen Blue fishing in Alaska

  5. Watch Movies About Your Location

    Documentaries are another great way to introduce us to new cultures and lifestyles, and help us better understand the stories behind them. Even movies that have been filmed in the area or region you’re visiting can lead you to discover new places and adopt new perspectives. For example, the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California, have been a mecca for major Hollywood movies (think Gladiator, Iron Man and Tremors). These movies have helped shape and transform the local economy, and even contributed to the opening of a new museum—the Museum of Western Film History.

  6. Taste The Local Cuisine

    Food is more than just a means to fill our stomachs, it's a way to connect. During our travels, we've had the opportunity to try some amazing local cuisine steeped in history and tradition. We’ve learned about the ingredients used in traditional dishes, and we discovered how those dishes have evolved over time. We also got to know the people who make these dishes, and we heard their amazing stories about the deep connection between food and culture. Whenever you're traveling in an RV, be sure and try some of the local food. You might be surprised at what you learn (and taste).

    Karen Blue cooking up Alaskan salmon

On your next RV trip, if you'd like to learn more about a certain region's culture and history, remember to talk to locals, read some books, watch a few documentaries, attend an interpretive program, visit a museum, or try the local cuisine. RVing is a fantastic way to understand a destination more deeply and to interact with the people who live there. And best of all? Every single one of these suggestions benefits the local economy, as well as the individuals who take pleasure in sharing their traditions.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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