By Tatiana Q (she/her)
My appreciation for the natural world really grew when my mom decided to move our family from New Jersey to North Carolina when I was in grade school. This was the first time in my life that I experienced a huge life transition like this – moving away from our family and our support system – to start fresh in a different region of the country. As a child, I remember the cultural shock of leaving the city and trading that in for red clay dirt trails, brown muddy creeks full of crawfish, and muggy pine forests of central North Carolina. Looking back, the transition was huge! Suddenly it was safe to play outdoors all evening after school and even to leave the door unlocked! Although that is never a habit I got used to (even today), I recall feeling freer than I ever felt living up north and my world was able to expand in so many ways.
As I transitioned into college and other aspects of adulthood, accessing outdoor spaces wasn’t completely inaccessible, but it was difficult to find friends and mentors who wanted to take me under their wing. I saw that it was so easy for white folks, particularly ones with thin body privilege, to easily find people who identified with them and befriend them and join the informal mentorship community that exists in white outdoor communities. That simply didn’t exist nor feel accessible to me as a queer, fat, Puerto Rican woman. It took me the next 10 years to slowly accumulate new friendships, experience, and expertise to help me feel confident enough to then lead others in the backcountry.
I worked as an outdoor expedition leader for a state-run program in Connecticut for 7 years where I would lead 5 to 20-day multi-phase expeditions seasonally. I have been certified with a whole host of skills that are required of an outdoor guide such as Wilderness First Responder, navigation, Top rope rock climbing and belaying, and other activity-specific certifications that gave me the practical experience and confidence to help teach and lead folks safely in the wilderness.
I have since switched careers in order to be able to financially navigate this capitalistic society and plan for my future. Unlike many folks I know who are “dirtbags” or transient by choice, I don’t have parents who will leave me with an inheritance or a house or any financial resource in their absence that I could count on later in life. So these days I balance working my 9-5 job to pay the bills and finance my future, with weekend warrior outdoor adventures and aspirations. I am looking to be mentored and to mentor others everywhere from the crags to the trails to water sports, and more.
These days you will find me hiking in the foothills of the cascades, exploring a national park or forest searching for fungi, snowshoeing up near Snoqualmie Pass on days when the avalanche danger is mitigable, or taking a relaxing walk at one of the many oceanside parks anywhere along the Puget Sound south of Seattle. In 2021 I am setting my sights on scaling some of the beginner mountaineering objectives in the region. I have been taking courses like AIARE 1, wilderness navigation, and a scrambling clinic so I can reconnect with skills I have learned in the past, learn new skills, and have grand experiences in the backcountry.