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Following our dreams is important

As I sit here writing my last article for the 2021 Outbound Writer's Residency, I feel such humility and gratitude. Never would I have thought I’d get the opportunity to be able to share stories of my outdoor adventures and exploration.

By: Angie Vasquez + Save to a List

I’ve always enjoyed the art of storytelling. When I was younger, I loved reading books that told tales of exploration, wildlife, and travel. I couldn’t wait to get my National Geographic and ZooBooks magazines in the mail.

At fourteen, my grandfather became ill with cancer. He was my hero and I’d follow him around everywhere - I wanted to be just like him. He gave me my very first camera a Canon AE-1 Program 35 mm SLR. I had signed up for photography class in high school and I guess he knew my potential. I learned how to take photos, process film and develop prints. Most of my brown and black classmates would tease me because they were into athletics while I loved the arts. I looked different in appearance and hung around a different group.

My high school photography classmates. Photo by Angie Vasquez.

I dreamt of becoming a photojournalist or wildlife photographer because I could tell a story through pictures. I carried my camera everywhere. I’d go looking for the perfect shot or story to tell. I aspired to be one of the first black women photographers in a magazine or newspaper but photography wasn’t my only interest. I also loved to write. 

I’d write poetry and short stories on parchment paper and in my journal. The idea of creating something other readers could relate to encouraged me to continue writing and taking pictures into adulthood. But there was one problem, I only showed my work to family or friends because I didn’t feel it was good enough.

I lost sight of that vision especially after the camera my grandfather had given me was stolen along with all of my printed work while hanging out with the wrong crowd. I’d lost sense of the vision and my creativity. In my adulthood, I still always carried some type of camera but more for creating memories with friends. I lost touch with myself when it came to writing and would only jot things down when I was going through difficulties. And then it all stopped. I wouldn’t pick up a pen or shoot with a professional camera again for many years.

When I moved to Florida, I started working with local musicians and was reintroduced to photography. Someone gifted me a canon DSLR and I would photograph music artists and models at events. I started to receive requests for photoshoots and even weddings. It was a lot of fun but not really what I wanted to do for a career.

It was amazing to have a camera again to take photos of outdoor spaces and wildlife. I felt creativity creep back into my life. The next few years took me and my cameras (I’d acquired two other canon’s) on adventures to places like Hawaii, Mexico, The Dominican Republic, and Canada among others. I captured stories to share with others through my camera lenses.

Fast Forward To Today

As I sit here writing, my last article for the 2021 Outbound Writer's Residency, I feel such humility and gratitude. Never would I have thought I’d get the opportunity to be able to share stories of my outdoor adventures and exploration. I was weary of applying. Although I have outdoor experience as an under represented storyteller, I didn’t think my writing was up to par. The day I received the news I was accepted, I was in my van Parker literally jumping and screaming! And as I turned in my first article, I cried.

Photo by Angie Vasquez.

It feels as though my dreams from childhood were coming full circle, I even recently inherited my grandmother’s Canon AE-1, giving me a chance at redemption. I love writing about the adventures I go on and teaching others how to recreate in the outdoors. As a black woman, I am breaking the stigma that black and brown humans do not explore the outdoors or live nomadically. My writing skills have grown tremendously, boosting my confidence in the work I create.

Catching the views in my Hoka and Eddie Bauer gear

Thank you to The Outbound Collective for giving my this opportunity. It has opened my mind to so many possibilities. Thank you for creating an inclusive space for ALL outdoor enthusiasts to safely share our stories, favorite outdoor places, and knowledge with each other. I would also like to give a special thanks to Sawyer, Eddie Bauer and Hoka for the gear packages as they have helped me to explore on a deeper level. And finally a big Shoutout to the other writers in my cohort from 2021 and the original class of 2020. You all have taught me so much about representation, adventure, and how to be a better human and storyteller. The last six months have been magical and I encourage anyone pursuing a career in the outdoor industry to go out and do it!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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