Boheme Retreats in New York’s Catskills is owned by a Black woman who wants to ensure every traveler feels welcome in the great outdoors.
Keva Niver didn’t grow up camping. It wasn’t until college that she fell in love with pitching a tent outdoors and hiking.
“I always wanted to own a vintage camper,” she says, an interest that emerged after visiting car-restoration shows in her home state of Florida.
Her passion for old cars and the outdoors led to opening Boheme Retreats in New York’s Catskills in 2022 with her husband, Rudel Felicien. Guests bunk in one of five restored vintage campers.
On their own camping trips, the Black couple rarely saw people who looked like them at campgrounds and RV parks. “Ninety-five percent of the time, we were the only people of color there,” she says. “Our parents are not into camping. We didn’t come from this background to know how to be in those spaces.”
Their goal is to provide an inclusive environment for camping, hiking, and fly fishing — only 2.5 hours from Brooklyn, New York, where they partner with hiking clubs to host weekend retreats. Guests can also book a stay on their own. Reaching Boheme Retreats without a car is possible via a ShortLine bus from the Port Authority to Monticello, followed by a 20-minute Uber ride.
“I’ve set up Boheme Retreats to be an escape,” Niver says. “We wanted to create this vibe where people can relax and do nothing. It’s a vibe of disconnecting.”
Last year, the couple launched with three restored vintage campers dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. This year, they added two more. “I buy these on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I like to find them in stages where I can do a full-gut restoration,” Niver says.
Each camper is named after an inspiring Black woman in history. For example, there’s one named Rosa for Rosa Parks, and another called Fannie for Fannie Lou Hamer.
Inside each camper — which sleeps two to four people — is a stove, refrigerator and coffee maker, along with a shower, toilet, and full-size bed. Access to an outdoor fire pit with a grill top is also available. Within a 20-minute drive, in Livingston Manor, are two craft breweries (one with a food menu), The Walk In (for breakfast), and a barbecue restaurant, as well as a general store selling groceries.
Niver prioritizes hiring guides of color for her guests who may want to try a guided hike or a day of fly fishing. It’s all part of her goal to make the outdoors more inclusive and ensure that non-white travelers feel safe and welcome in the greater camping community.
“This is the way I like to camp,” Niver says about the no-fuss campers. “I started with one [camper] and took it around. You don’t have to go to a hotel. It just opens up so many more options.”
Even though the vintage car-homes are permanently parked at Boheme Retreats, she hopes guests who stay at the glamping retreat will leave inspired to camp across the country — with or without a camper van.
You can book your stay at Boheme Retreats at bohemeretreats.com.
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published 2023-06-13 10:35:46