Updated: Aug 5, 2020
A big thank you to Ramon for being the second guest entry! Thank you so much for being comfortable sharing your story and contributing to our journey of self-discovery.
Name: Ramon Rachal
Hometown: South Central Los Angeles
Major: Management and Business Economics
Hobbies: Hiking, Playing basketball, Movies, card games
My first true taste of the outdoor life began in high school at the age of 16. I took a trip with a college readiness program, during the summer of 2016. My initial thoughts were “This ain’t for me.” Along with the help of my peers and mentor, they convinced me of what turned out to be a very memorable experience.
I went on a 10-day backpacking and rock climbing expedition! This was insane! I spent the next 10 days in the wilderness away from the city, with no shower, no technology of any sort, and the landscape is your only bathroom! Oh, by the way, I'm camping out in territory that wild animals such as bears and mountain lions normally occupy. Now I say all that to make a point that my first exposure to nature was a bit extreme also that it is not as scary as it seems. Nonetheless, that did not affect my time there because I enjoyed it every moment of it.
During this time, I was going through a very difficult time because my grandfather had passed away 8 months prior. I was still very much grieving the absence of him and on top of a very important year in my high school career as college was my next step. Stress was definitely at an all-time high for a 16-year-old and this trip was exactly what I needed.
The combination of hiking and being in nature is like no other. Not only was I receiving physical activity but also giving myself a break mentally. Nature is so green and calming. Everything from the bugs, to the air, and trees plays its part in keeping Mother Earth functionally properly. I had finally gotten away from the crazy fast-paced city of Los Angeles. In the forest, I was able to hear myself think and be able to be creative as I reflect on my day. It was nice to not be so concerned with analyzing an article for homework, or worried about responding to a text or email, or hearing a tragic news story. Little do we know these things take a toll on our mental well being. In Black communities I know there is our own fix to mental health issues, such as: drugs, rationalizing behaviors to the point it’s the “norm”, and more. I found out first hand that there are better and more positive alternatives. Such as yoga, hiking, walking, sports, stretching, and other activities all in which I've done and feel a bit better about my day because I feel a lot better about myself. I took what I experienced and shared it with my family and friends. This led to me landing an internship with Yosemite National Park. I was able to educate the youth on the benefits of nature. Putting myself first hand in nature like that does more to you than you would believe. It reaches you differently than just having a cup of tea and watching the sunset from a nice view from a window. Fully emerging oneself in nature or any physical activity in the outdoors will definitely have a toll on your overall mood. Something about the calmness of nature that will leave your mind at peace.