Three Nomadland-inspired campervan road trips in the USA

Up for six Oscars and winner of two Golden Globes, Nomadland is as much an inspiration for US campervan road trips as it is one of 2021’s best films. Find inspiration for your next road trip now.

It’s no surprise that off-grid camping has had a boom since COVID-19 swept into our lives. Camping – whether in a tent or an RV – is literally an escape from civilisation, which plenty of people have been craving lately. In the UK, leading caravan companies saw a 32% increase in orders for caravans in 2020 than in the previous year, and one in 10 Brits are considering booking a caravan holiday this year for the first time ever. With its combination of social distancing and much-needed time in nature, has there ever been a better time to take a campervan road trip?

So when director Chloe Zhao’s docu-fictional film Nomadland was released in the USA in February (hitting Disney+ Star on 30 April for UK viewers), its awe-dropping natural landscapes and themes of social isolation seemed perfect for the COVID era. But despite its captivating midwestern locations, the film is a social commentary rather than a travelogue. It focuses on a new and little-known phenomenon, of America’s 60- and 70-something generation who lost their jobs after the 2008 financial crash. A nomadic subculture arose, led by older people made homeless and roaming the country in campervans in pursuit of short-term work, in the likes of Amazon warehouses or seasonal agriculture, both depicted in the movie.

2021 docu-fiction film Nomadland
Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios

Inspired by Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Zhao’s powerful film sees fictional character Fern (Frances McDormand) meeting real-life nomads, and finding beauty, purpose and peace in a lifestyle that originated in hardship.

Make no mistake: the life of a nomad is a far cry from going on a campervan road trip. But Nomadland’s sweeping desert landscapes still hit us right in the wanderlust. Travel from the UK to the USA might be off limits for now, but it’s hard to imagine getting a greater sense of post-lockdown freedom than you’d get in an RV, exploring the open roads of Nevada, South Dakota or Arizona. Here’s how to do it.

Campervan road trips in Nevada

2021 docu-fiction film Nomadland was filmed in Arizona, Nevada and South Dakota
Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Kick off your campervan road trip in Reno. The ‘Biggest Little City in the World’ might be known as a mini Las Vegas, but it has a funky, arty side that sets it apart from the gambling capital. It’s the ideal place to pick up a campervan for your road trip, but check out the fast-developing Midtown District before you fire up the engine. It’s home to the city’s most exciting bars and art spaces, which cater to a friendly local community…

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