ADVENTURE – A GIFT FOR US ALL

Whenever I share I was born and raised in Alaska I wait for the reaction. Nine times out of ten I will be met with a look of surprise followed by an emphatic, “Really?!” Amused, I’ll watch the wheels quietly spin in their mind with the question I know they want to ask, but they aren’t sure how. Most of the time they don’t. Most will then begin to ask me questions regarding if the cold and darkness rumors are true. But some are more bold. I’ll never forget the first time someone paused for a minute and said, “I’m sorry, but…there are Black people in Alaska?”

I usually laugh, because in a way I get why they are asking this. When you picture a born and raised Alaskan, you don’t picture me. You might see a man, with a giant beard, wearing a flannel shirt, hauling lumber in freezing temps. You might picture igloos and people with parkas, ice fishing. But chances are you don’t picture a Black girl hiding quietly in the bushes with her Black father waiting for a perfect shot at a moose. You probably don’t see a girl with my skin complexion spending every summer in the great outdoors, fishing and dip netting. It’s not that you are against it. It’s just hard to picture something you rarely see.

For those of you wondering how my Black father and Puerto Rican, Lebanese and Syrian mother ended up in Alaska, I’ll tell you. I joke that people only end up in Alaska for three reasons:

1. They are running away from something.

2. They got stationed there through the military.

3. They fell in love.

In my parents case, the military is how they ended up in The Last Frontier. They came to Alaska because they had orders to be there. And when their time serving was up, they stayed because my dad fell in love with the hunting and fishing.

A couple of years later, I was born. Not long after that, my little brother showed up. Life got a whole lot busier for my parents, but that didn’t stop them from packing us up in our old minivan and driving out into the middle of nowhere. My childhood was full of beautiful moments out in nature – hiking, fishing, camping, and hunting. It was rolling up our jeans and walking through the river. It was skipping rocks and going to bed smelling like campfire.

In the midst of all those beautiful memories, there is something that I don’t ever remember noticing. I don’t ever remember seeing people out experiencing nature that looked like me. When I would watch shows about adventure and wanderlust the people shown were almost always White. It left me often wondering why. I knew my family couldn’t be the only non-White folks out there that had a deep love of nature and adventure, but at times it felt like we were.

I’m very thankful that I fell in love at a young age with the great outdoors. That love has shaped so much of who I am today. I live more of a city life now, and I love it, but there’s a special place in my heart for nature. Whenever I feel tired or burned out, I go to my favorite sanctuary. It’s any place where the walls are a forest of trees and the roof is nothing but blue sky. It’s the church where the altar is a babbling brook and the pew is a slippery rock.

Going on an RV trip was such an important thing for me to experience with my family for a couple of reasons. First off, I know that life is short. I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and create memories with my children that would hold forever. I want my kids to be well acquainted with nature, so that wherever they end up in this life they know they are never that far from the outdoor sanctuary that feels like home. I also want them to have a heart that is full with a sense of adventure. I want them not to just read about purple mountains and waterfalls but to experience them for themselves.

Lastly, I want my children to know that nature and adventure don’t just belong to certain groups of people. The outdoors is a gift for us all. My life has been blessed greatly by this gift, and my heart is to see more people of color out enjoying it as well. The good news is I’m not the only one. I am starting to see more people speak up on this very topic. It’s becoming less strange to see people who look like me hiking, fishing and RVing.

This encourages me. It brings my heart joy to know that my kids will grow up in a world where they don’t have to question if adventure is for them. Perhaps one day they’ll pile in a RV with their families and see where the road leads. They’ll hike trails, catch fish and go to bed smelling like campfire. They’ll breathe in the fresh air and see for themselves the purple mountains’ majesty. And what I hope more than anything is that the people they pass on those trails and meet at those pitstops reflect what I’ve taught them at a young age.

That nature and adventure belongs to everybody. The outdoors is a gift for us all.