I grew up a first generation Cuban-American girl in Miami, Florida that knew little about the outdoors. Living in the suburbs of this vibrant city were concrete adventures of invasive iguana chases to riding bike in circles up and down the one hill in existence. Miami is a place where beans and rice rain from the heavens and neighbors play loud Latin music throughout the night. I did not grow up frolicking in the grass with a meandering river to paddle and mountains to climb. My resume for the outdoors came later on in life, when I left my hometown. The first exposure to the wild came at the end of my childhood, when I went on an Outward Bound trip to Acadia National Park my parents gifted me as a graduation present. That experience would change my whole trajectory on life. Who knew not taking showers and wiping with leaves for a month could be so exhilarating?
I changed my degree from Psychology and French to Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, became an outdoor guide at the University of Florida leading backpacking and canoeing trips across North Carolina and Georgia. The wild became an uncompromising passion. I became a whitewater raft guide in Colorado and went on to take an Outdoor Educator course through National Outdoor Leaderships School (NOLS) in the Yukon, Canada. I became a Leave No Trace Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder. Meanwhile, I also became a high school environmental science and anatomy teacher sharing my own adventure for exploration with similar wild-eyed students. Since then, I have taken students to National Parks kayaking, hiking, and camping while teaching them basic first aid, outdoor, and photography skills.
The thing is, all of this is just a few paragraph’s formation of a resume. I have traveled to incredible places throughout the world, but this is not a measure of character. I am certain people will come across resumes of greatness. What defines me as a person is my unwavering relentlessness to inspire people to get outside, to laugh, and see the incredible transformation of the planet in spite of all its hardships. It is to learn from animals and about people’s stories of adventure while making friendships around a campfire. It is to be the first person to set out on a hike to catch an incredible sunrise and to be the last person to return. It is to go to sleep on a boulder underneath a real planetarium of stars to photograph star trails. It is to cry a little and laugh a lot when lost. It is about returning from a treacherous hike, cold, blistered, and bruised, to finally sit down, and smile about the great adventure you just had. It is about living simply, seizing the moment, and being enraptured by the magnitude of our natural spaces.