September Reflections: On Intentional Rest

Raised bilingual, I can remember being curious about the inner workings of language at a young age. I remember wondering why and how utterances came to be words, or how such a string of sounds could convey a certain concept. I remember comparing all the words I knew in English to their Spanish counterparts, and then repeating this process from Spanish into English. At times the translations were straightforward, unimaginative, or humorous. But I also remember concluding that translations were not always equal. Some Spanish words are more poetic than their English equivalents are. There were words in Spanish that I felt were mismatched with their English counterparts. One of my earliest memories of a mismatched English/Spanish pair was with the idea of “time off”. In American English, we refer to it as paid time off, days off, or vacation time. In Spanish, however, this idea is known as dia de descanso, which translates to days of rest, or rest days. No other word in the English language clarified to me what was supposed to be done those days― rest. Whoever coined dia de descanso had clear intentions as to what should be done that day.

As I got older and began to work, I tried to respect the Spanish translation of time off. While we all view our days off as rest days, I felt that I had to be intentional about doing what my body and spirit needed. After all, my language declared them to be days of rest for a reason. 

Intentional rest can be a challenge in and of itself. I am distracted by my phone, my computer, my smart watch, my smart tv― all of which easily provide the world at my disposal. The sounds that echo from our city streets or apartment walls can also interrupt any attempt at meditating. Needless to say, it’s taken me a long time to learn how to disconnect and rest. That is until I began spending more time outside at my local parks, seeking hikes, and being introduced to the world of backpacking. My senses were revived by the fresh air my lungs breathed in, the warm sun beaming on my skin, the vibrant green and brown that no camera could ever capture, a variety of birds chirping and leaves rustling, and the delicious taste of fresh spring water that I’ve just filtered into my water bottle. I began taking pictures of everything I came across: plants, animals, and even rocks! I was curious to know what the various names these organisms were known as; what would they call themselves if they talked? Would they even name themselves if they could? 

My time resting outdoors began with solo excursions, then grew to adventures as a couple with my partner, and then expanded as a volunteer for Latino Outdoors. To share a place outside in nature with others who share the same language as me and represent so many different backgrounds, was the ultimate marriage of descanso and language for me. 

Latino Outdoors is a unique Latinx-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. We prefer to descansar afuera, rest outside. We carry this practice with us when crafting events that will provide members of the public with memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. These moments encourage families and members of our communities to visit local parks, try new hikes, advocare for environmental issues, and even enter the workforce. 

While local parks are free to visit, many Brown and Black communities still face barriers to the outdoors: lack of parks or properly funded parks, or lack of transportation to green spaces and coastal sites. For families on a limited budget, the cost to travel, entry fees, meals, overnight accommodations, and any necessary accessories can be prohibitive. Let’s not forget that dia de descansos, especially paid ones, aren’t always available for everyone. This is why Latino Outdoors has chapters throughout the country to support free and accessible events that are family friendly, culturally relevant, and bilingual. We provide the tents, sleeping bags, and even transportation when possible!

Getting the Latinx community outside is more than just getting off the grid and bagging peaks. It’s about spending quality time together away from technology, away from our stressors, and creating a sense of belonging in nature. It’s about creating stories to share with our loved ones. It’s about sharing a common language― whether that be English, Spanish, Spanglish, our Indigneous languages, or even bonding over the complexities of animal languages. 

This year for Hispanic Heritage Month, support descanso for the Latino Outdoors community by donating and supporting these free programs for multigenerational families. We inspire, connect, and engage Latinx communities in the outdoors and embrace cultura y familia as part of the outdoor narrative, ensuring our history, heritage, and leadership are valued and represented. Your donation can support the redefining of what it means to be outdoorsy, and ultimately what Latino Outdoors represents. 

Krystle Ramos is a volunteer for Latino Outdoors Los Angeles Chapter where she supports programming that connects cultura to the outdoors while also breaking down barriers. She loves drinking yerba mate, eating soups on hot days, and spending quality time with her family and senior pup, Maggie.

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