My parents moved to the United States from Puerto Rico a little over 29 years ago- making me a first generation American. The city, or how I like to call it, the concrete jungle, is all I have ever known. Don't get me wrong, I've visited my homeland more than enough times to feel comfortable outside of my element but I'm the true definition of a city kid. Which is why 4 days away from society, electricity, showers and fast-food seemed a bit crazy to me at first.
I first went camping/hiking when I was 15 years old with the Youth Program I was attending at the time. That experience introduced me to a brand new world. Ever since then I have been hiking countless of times. It's become one of my favorite forms of therapy. Ironically enough, many years later, I now work for that very same Youth Program. The opportunity for me to take my youth on outdoor trips presented itself through an Outdoor Leadership Training. We're talking about four days of sleeping, eating and "using the bathroom" outside. As well as two hikes. One which was up a 3,115 ft. mountain. Oh, and did I mention I'm scared of heights?
A few of us noticed the sky was covered in stars and decided to go for a late walk on the first night. I remember hearing someone say, "I wish we could see this in the projects [the city]". At that very moment, I knew exactly why I was there. I want the youth I work with to know there is a world beyond the concrete jungle we call home. They deserve that much at least.
On the third morning we set off on a hike that would last 7 hours. Little did I know I would soon find myself 3,115 ft. above sea level. I didn't feel it (my fear of heights) until we reached a point in the hike where the tree line ended. That's when I found myself digging deep inside myself for strength. I was way too close to the summit to give up. Thanks to Jessy, one of my team members who encouraged me to continue, I was able to climb all the way up. Words can not explain how I felt at the top of that mountain. Suddenly nothing seemed impossible.
I walked into this experience not really knowing what to expect but I made a conscious decision to embrace every bit of it. Before leaving I decided it would be best for me not to bring my DSLR on this journey. I wanted to make sure I was present and not distracted trying to get the shot. By day 4, strangers had become family. We all had trail names and knew a bit too much about each other (giggles). This was a weekend I will forever cherish.