As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person.
Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!
If there's one thing this Woman in The Wild has in spades, it's fire. Her passion for everything - from outdoor adventure and trying new things to helping others find their place in nature - is ridiculously vibrant and contagious. And she's now putting it all to good use through her work with Latino Outdoors! Get the full scoop below.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: Isn’t my name just a mouthful? I love it! You can call me “Bianca” or “B.” I am an aspiring physical therapist, avid traveler, life-long learner, adventurer, outdoor enthusiast, and I am absolutely passionate about helping others. I am a 25-year old Latina from a small border town with Mexico, and I am determined to break through the barriers that are set out to stop me.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: I feel like I discovered this when I was in kindergarten and spent my time collecting rocks and dreaming about becoming a “paleontologist” when I grew up. I have always been such a curious soul, wanting to discover and learn something new every day. Growing up, I spent a good amount of my time outside playing sports, riding four-wheelers, fishing with my older brother, or traveling around the U.S. during the summer to different areas with a geology program called “GeoFORCE.” Even though I spent most of my time outdoors, I did not see camping, hiking or backpacking as an option because I did not know where to get started.
It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and apply to become a Texas State Park ambassador through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Once I was selected as one of the ambassadors, we traveled out to West Texas for training, which consisted of camping and backpacking for five days out in West Texas with a group of more than 20 people I had never met before in my life. I was absolutely terrified at first, but little did I know that I was about to come across one of my biggest passions. I was assigned to a state park where I assisted with community outreach, hands-on service projects, and social media. Being a part of the ambassador program is when I truly realized that I was going to spend my life outdoors creating awareness about all that our beautiful Earth has to offer, especially in the surrounding San Antonio area. I am now blessed to be a part of Latino Outdoors, and I cannot wait to partner with different organizations and create opportunities to get more Latinos outside!
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: It means constantly doing what is not expected of women to do and changing the way society views us. I am often told that I should not be out there in the wild exploring new trails, mountain biking, or camping unless I have a man with me to keep me safe. Why? Please give me a great explanation as to why women cannot be strong enough or just enough to be outdoors. I am an adventurous woman who loves to sweat and get dirty in the outdoors by going hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, or basically anything at all. If I have not tried it before, I am willing to learn and do it. I am smart enough to know not to venture off without a plan for safety or preparation for what to do if I were to catch myself in certain situations. I love the outdoors, and I am here to prove to everyone that women belong in the wild.
I think what I love the most is surprising people with what women are capable of doing. “Oh, you went backpacking and hiked over 10 miles in this heat?” “You went rock climbing?!” “You actually enjoy camping and know how to set up a tent?" “Did you go alone?!” You best believe I did, you best believe I do, and you better believe I will do it all over again.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: The outdoors has given me life and something to truly be passionate about. It has become my freedom and a release from all of life’s stresses. The outdoors has provided me with countless opportunities to grow as a person, but more importantly it has allowed me to help others grow more confidently in the outdoors.
Bianca Velasquez: My mother. I hope to continue to make her proud and to one day be as fearless as she makes me out to be.
I also continue to be inspired by the individuals who chose to take that first step out of their comfort zone and into the outdoors by joining Latino Outdoors for an outing. Most have never been camping or hiking in their lives, so it is amazing to know that we were able to create an opportunity and provide the comfort they need to get out there!
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: At the moment, my passion for the outdoors has not aligned with my career, but it is a huge part of what I do on my spare time. If I’m not at work, I am out exploring a new park. One of my greatest missions in life is to start up a non-profit organization or outdoor physical therapy facility that incorporates my love for physical therapy and working with individuals with disabilities and the outdoors. As of right now it’s all just a plan jumbled around in my mind, but I am working on making it a reality! Give me five years!
My advice would be to follow what you are passionate about and things will fall into place as you go through life.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: "The good you do today will often be forgotten, do good anyway.”
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: Does my sense of adventure count? I’m kidding. Definitely a camera…or my REI water bottle.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: A few months ago I was feeling pretty low and defeated after finding out that I had not been accepted into any physical therapy programs that I had applied to. I was venting to my physical therapist that I was falling behind in life and felt so lost as to what I would do if I didn’t get into a program soon. He looked over at me and said, “You will get in, and there’s no doubt about that! It’s just that the route that’s going to get take you there is a lot different than the one you were wanting to take.” That hit me pretty hard because all my life I have had a set plan of how I wanted my life to go, but so far everything has turned out completely different yet amazing in its own way. I know that I’ll get to where I want to go, and as my PT said, it’ll just be different than how I had originally planned to get there.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: I am actually just starting out with Latino Outdoors, I am going on eight months with the organization, and so far it has been nothing short of amazing. I get to work along side Josie Gutierrez, who is one of the most passionate individuals I have ever met and truly believes in the mission of Latino Outdoors. We are fairly new to Texas, so there is still a lot of growing to do and opportunities to create. This past June we partnered with Texas Outdoor Family (TOF), One Blood Initiative, and REI to take 18 Latino families camping, most for the first time in their lives. It was truly amazing! In September, Josie and I are flying out to California for a LO leadership training, so I’m excited to finally meet everyone who has helped LO grow into the amazing organization it is.
If there is any advice anyone might have, feel free to send it my way. I am always ready to listen and grow!
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: In the coming months I plan to work alongside Josie to help Latino Outdoors – San Antonio grow and reach a lot more Latinos in the surrounding areas. We truly want to create awareness of all the outdoor learning opportunities that are happening daily, whether they are some of our own events or those hosted by organizations around the city. I also really want to walk El Camino de Santiago or volunteer abroad for a medical mission trip once my lease is up in April 2019. If and when everything goes according to plan, I will be attending physical therapy school in the summer/fall of 2019.
In the coming years I plan on becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy and work as a travel physical therapist before settling down in either the Pacific Northwest, Boston, Europe, or Texas. Once I do settle down, I want to work with either individuals with disabilities or families in underserved communities who are not receiving the proper healthcare that they deserve. I will also continue to be a part of Latino Outdoors one way or another, and ultimately I plan on starting a nonprofit organization by the time I turn 30.
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: “Bad Luck Bianca”
Bianca Velasquez-Perez: The outdoors is and always will be for everyone. Please do not think that you have to be an expert or have all the top gear to get outdoors. I completely understand how it feels to be overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what to do or being scared to embarrass yourself by doing something new. But like the saying goes, a pro was once an amateur, and an expert was once a beginner. Get out there, this world is yours to explore!