Guilt and the Outdoors

Have you felt guilty for being able to take time to be outdoors? I have.


My mother is 61, and as recently as her late 50’s, she had never left El Salvador, our home. She does not lack a sense of adventure or desire to travel, but money has always been a huge limitation.

I left home when I was 15 with a scholarship, so I had access to moving around at a young age. But when I told my mother about my long bikepacking trip plans, she was not only scared but strongly against it. 

I had been low-key dreading breaking the news to her because I suspected how she would react. Unfortunately, I was not wrong; damn, that phone call did not go well.

“How could you leave your job and let your U.S. work visa go to waste? Just to go ride your bike?!”

I hung up the phone and could not help feeling deep sadness and anger, but mostly guilt.

My mother wasn’t wrong; I mean, getting a U.S. visa is fricking complicated and expensive. But this trip had been a dream of mine, and our conversation made me realize that my mother never had the privilege of pursuing her dreams.

There are so many expectations for immigrants, first-generation, low-income, and BIPOC folks in general, and this whole “pursuing your dreams” thing is kind of a new concept to a lot of us. It’s heavy. Way too heavy. And those big expectations represent huge limitations for us getting outside. 

Dealing with (all kinds of) guilt is not fun. But I decided to carry on with the trip, and I’m so glad I did. It has been a life-changing opportunity to reclaim not only my time but also my overall autonomy. Because of this, for many of us, getting on a bike is a radical act, a chance to challenge old narratives and create new ones. Do you wonder why you don’t see a lot of other BIPOC riders on extended trips? Guilt and access to resources are huge factors!

So, instead of letting guilt paralyze me, I carried on; because my mom and I both dreamed of freedom.

With time, my mom realized that I was not running away from life but learning to pedal toward the person she raised me to be.

And she came to understand that I inherited this thirst for freedom from her.



  1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about the journey of following your dreams *and* connecting with family and culture as you do it. As a second-gen immigrant who gave up riding for over a decade in order to focus on school, it’s only more recently that I have found a way to give myself permission to enjoy the outdoors. I’m so glad your freedom!

    1. Hi Jorge, Andrea here! Thanks for reading. I feel so incredibly grateful for this freedom and for a life outdoors. I still have moment when guilt makes me question what I’m doing – and I remind myself to be kind to myself when I let it bring me a bit down. It still happens but not as much as before. I’m learning to embrace those moments and they have been opportunities to recommit to my dreams. I’m so glad you’re back outside and enjoying that life. Sending hugs your way. I’m proud of you!

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