West Side to Worldwide

This reflection is written by Victoria Beltrán. Follow her on Instagram to learn more.

My name is Victoria Beltrán. I am a Mexican American twenty-something born and raised in a medium-sized California farm town named Modesto, in what my family unaffectionately called the “West Side” of town. By my own expectations and I think society’s not much was expected of me. I came from a lower-middle-class family, I went to public school, and I received average grades. My family was blended, my parents were separated and had families of their own with their new partners. I grew up being this island of sorts, I was the only child between my parents, so I became very independent, almost accidentally. To much of my parents’ credit, they gave me all of the love and patience that a very strong-willed independent child could ever ask for while still juggling their partners, other children, and full-time jobs. But for all intents and purposes, my upbringing was staged for me to lead a very normal domestic lifestyle, maybe have a few kids, work a normal 9-5, and get married, like so many of my family members.  

I can now proudly say that I am an educated Mexican American queer woman who is also a Pacific Crest Trail finisher,  writer,  digital nomad who is working for an outdoor map company that I love, and most recently, a world traveler.

I did not hike until the age of 21, I did not backpack until 23, and I did not leave the country until I was 27. Where I’m from, it was not the norm to do such things. I didn’t grow up with the financial freedom to recreate outside and we weren’t taught that the outdoors held space for us in the same way that it did for others. When I began exploring recreating outdoors like hiking, climbing, and biking, I was told several times that what I was doing was for white people only and that backpacking is dangerous for a young woman, let alone a brown young woman. I resented those opinions and I still do. Because even though I didn’t see many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color recreating or “living wildly,” there were a few that really resonated and reflected some of my same values, and loved the same things I do. To name a few from Instagram @NatureChola Karen, @luz.lituma Luz, and @zelzin_aketzalli Zelzin. 

I have chosen to lead what some people have told me is an “alternative” lifestyle. I don’t have a partner or an apartment. I work remotely and do freelance work, and I have spent every single month of this year traveling to someplace new. I have been so fortunate to travel to nine new countries this year and visit six new states. But what gave me the confidence or inspiration to live such a life? Wasn’t I  just another twenty-something Mexican American young woman raised in a lower socioeconomic area of town? 

The short answer is exposure. Exposure to seeing it’s possible to live such a life from people who look and or identify as I do: women, queer folks, Latinos, and other People of Color, even younger Americans, living their “alternative” or “wild” lives in such a way that is loud and proud and is out there in the world for all to see. Through the lens of social media and because of organizations like Justice Outside, I was fortunate enough to see versions of myself living out dreams and lifestyles that were similar to mine.

I am writing from a  place of privilege, even though my background and upbringing did not exactly place me here I know in my heart it is to the credit of all of those who have taken to social media and have paved the way to live boldly and uniquely so I could see it, believe it and now become (hopefully) a beacon for others to do the same. To live authentically and true to who they are, with love, joy, and wanderlust. I have made it one of my personal goals to live authentically and share my experiences as honestly and openly as I can via my Instagram and my writing. I think it’s important for others to be able to see and understand that just because you weren’t exposed to something early, it’s never too late to try and follow your passions and dreams.