“When I was 24, I decided to take a year off to travel. And I sold everything. I ended a relationship that I was in. And I ended up taking a plane trip to Colombia, a one-way ticket. And then I backpacked throughout South America for the next six months. And that's where my father is from in Ecuador. My mom is from Mexico. So a part of that trip also was trying to reconnect to a continent that I didn't really have much knowledge of or experience in, even though it was where my family came from.
I did all kinds of new things that I had never tried before. But I do think now looking back, there was also an ancestral connection. So that area was really important for me and really got me thinking too about my identity as a Latinx person in the US and as a person of color. I think what also was really important about those travels is that it made me realize that identity is really malleable, that in the US, I'm considered a Latinx person of color. In South America, I was considered a white person, actually, or an American. People heard my accent, but even when I was speaking Spanish, because of my light skin, I had a different classification in Latin America than I did growing up in the States. So I think also seeing how I changed based on where I was traveling to and where I was living within, in some ways that was kind of liberating. It was educational, and it was also liberating that these identities are not fixed and that we need to be cognizant of them and responsible and accountable to the position we live in or the positionality that we have of privilege or not privilege, depending on where we are. But that there is no concrete identity really. It moves and changes and shifts with us, depending on where we go. So I think that was also something that helped expand and broaden the way I was thinking about all the things I was feeling a little bit trapped in when I was in the United States.”
Amanda E. Machado is a writer, public speaker and facilitator whose work explores how race, gender, sexuality, and power affect the way we travel and experience the outdoors. She has written and facilitated on topics of social justice and adventure and lived in Cape Town, Havana, Mexico City, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, and other cities. She has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, New York Times, NPR, and other publications. She is also the founder of Reclaiming Nature Writing, a multi-week online workshop that expands how we tell stories about nature in a way that considers ancestry, colonization, migration trauma, and other issues.