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The Adventure of Connection

By: Savannah Vasquez + Save to a List

"Does she like stuff outdoors?"


My dad's seemingly out of the blue question startled me from my daydreaming, lulled by the blurred scenery passing by my window and Henry Jamison singing through my earbuds. We were in my dad's packed up Jeep, well into our drive to Colorado for one of our yearly Jeeping trips. 

"Does Melissa like outdoors stuff?"

The clarification only made the question more surprising; my dad was asking about my partner, Melissa, whom my family had spent quite a bit of time with. This, however, was new territory. I gathered myself.

"Oh yeah, she loves it! We've been talking about trips we want to take."

I excitedly regaled him with a bit of our bucket list... Sedona, more of Colorado, going back to Arkansas. My dad quietly nodded, in his stoic yet understanding way. Then he said something that I will always hold close to me. 

"Melissa is a hell of a good person."

It's worth noting that my dad and I are close, although our closeness looks different than the relationship my mom and I have. He and I bond over our love for outdoor adventures, our willingness to drop everything to help someone, our introverted demeanors, and perfectly-timed Adam Sandler movie quotes. He calls me "kid" at the age of 25 and I hope he never stops. He came into our lives when I was 3 and he has been my dad since. I often tell people that my dad is Ron Swanson, and I think he is perfectly content with that description.

When I came out as gay, I worried about disappointing my parents. I worried that I somehow let them down for the way they had always remarked how proud they are of me. Still, I did know that they would love me no matter what. They always welcome my partner to family get-togethers and just to hang out at their house, which makes my heart so happy. However, I had only come out to my mom in actual words. My dad got the message, just not directly from me, and we had never really talked about it. Now here in this Jeep, my dad asked what may seem to be a small, unremarkable question; to me, it was everything.

We continued to talk about places that Melissa and I should travel to, the logistics of building a trail-ready vehicle, and even my difficult break up of my previous relationship. My dad noted that Melissa and I have similar energy, smiling and finishing with, "I'm glad you're happy, kid."

Our entire trip was one long conversation consisting of deep dives into goals and dreams, laughs about memories of trips gone awry, dashboard drumming to favorite songs, making plans for my future vehicle, reflecting on our past, and dotted with moments of simply being in awe of our surroundings.  When I drove on the trails and got to more tricky switchbacks, Dad encouraged me and cheered me on when I would get past them. 

There's some sort of magic that happens in the outdoors, if we still ourselves long enough to recognize it and let it in. Dad and I have our differences, but we both have the same craving that can only be met with breathing in that mountain air. It fills our lungs, but more than that, makes its way to our souls. It's a divine connection that bridges across divides and makes way for understanding, acceptance, and really seeing people. Go outside alone, with someone you love, with someone you feel disconnected from, with your coworkers... roll down your windows, and be open to the adventure of connection.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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