Growing up in San Antonio gave me the opportunity to experience a very family-centered upbringing rich in culture. I'd go to school during the week, soccer games on Saturdays, and big family dinners on Sundays.
I was happy, confident, and curious: immersed in my Mexican-American heritage, which gave me a sense of cultural pride that I would carry with me through my whole life.
I was content with my upbringing but always found myself wanting more adventure, and a challenge. I'd picture myself speaking Spanish and cooking meals using old family recipes for my family. I'd spend hours in my backyard, pretending I was hiking through jungles, climbing mountains, and scuba diving in my swimming pool.
I remember writing in my diary as a little girl how much I looked forward to the future, a time and place where I could finally accomplish all that I had been dreaming of doing. I knew that in the future I would eventually make my way out of my city.
What I didn't know is that my beloved city would eventually call me back, and not long after I left.
The first time I officially left San Antonio was to study journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Life in a new city was exhilarating and challenging, but I adapted quickly and didn't hesitate to refer to Austin as my "home." It was in college where my wanderlust really took off, taking me to France, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.
After some of the best years of my life, graduation came along in May 2015. With my newfound freedom, I decided to take off, alone, to teach English in Argentina for six months. During those six months, I continued to chase adventures, always thirsty for more after having just returned from a trip.
I spent a month in Buenos Aires, running around the city in hopes to soak in all it had to offer me: delicious cuisine, a vibrant culture, a Latino edge that made some parts of its massiveness feel familiar. I eventually made my way to Serrano, a small town in the center of the country, where I taught English in the elementary and high school for four months. I lived with a wonderful, loving family and adapted Argentine culture as my own. I quickly learned the language and took every opportunity to immerse myself in the culture. I was happy, but I wanted more.
After Serrano, I decided to head south to Patagonia with two friends to spend the next month hiking and camping in the mountains. We hitchhiked our way all around San Carlos de Bariloche, our "home base" in Patagonia, and its neighboring towns. We ate asado, camped next to crystalline lakes, once woke up to a sheep herd grazing all around us, and met a lot of new friends along the way.
One day, when I was sitting on a mountain peak, silently observing the green and blue landscape below me, I realized I wasn't daydreaming anymore, like I did as a child; this time I really was on a great adventure.
My last week abroad was spent with one of my dearest friends in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, easily one of the most exciting and beautiful places I've ever been. We spent hours lying on the beach, drank caipirinhas, and hiked a lot to enjoy the city's indescribable landscape.
I wrote in my journal one day that I felt more and more eager to go somewhere else. That somewhere else was home. Coming home was easier than I had expected. By then, the thought of another day without breakfast tacos and my family's embrace was unbearable. I arrived just in time for Christmas, bronze from my time in the Southern Hemisphere summer sun and content to be home.
At times I would find myself thinking about what's next. I was back from the biggest adventure of my life, fluent in Spanish, and restless. What would my next adventure be?
San Antonio had changed so much from the city I had known before I left to Argentina, even from before I left to college in Austin. The blossoming urban core, with new restaurants, bars, green spaces, and other interesting places popping up, was exciting to me. The sleepy town I had grown up in suddenly wasn't so sleepy anymore. And I wanted to be part of it.
I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but never gave thought to doing so in my hometown. Now, the idea was the most appealing thing to me. So, when I applied for a job as a reporter for The Rivard Report, I crossed my fingers and wished for my new adventure to be there.
Now, here I am. After joining the Rivard Report team, I've been on the greatest adventure of my life. I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and grow under some of the most patient, and intelligent editors and I'm looking forward to getting to know my city again, telling its stories as a journalist.
*Top image: Camille Garcia on the summit of Cerro Campanario in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.