When people think about New York City, what comes first to mind? The skyline, the culture, the business, the crowds?
For me, it’s the trees, the water, and the hidden green spaces. Even in New York City, you can find nature – and it can change your life.
New York City Has Always Been My Home
I’ve lived in Washington Heights my whole life.
While a lot is still the same, I’m grateful to say that a lot has changed too. Growing up as a young Dominican kid back in the 80s and 90s was… challenging.
Just think of a zombie apocalypse with that old “COPS” theme song playing in the background – “Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do?” – and you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of my neighborhood. Getting frisked at gunpoint when you ran an errand to the bodega for your mom was a common occurrence. The gang you belonged to really mattered and getting through school was secondary to surviving the weekend.
Home wasn’t necessarily that much easier to deal with, so my brother and I had one option when we wanted to feel safe: the woods of Highbridge Park.
We’d make treehouses from the cardboard boxes we found in the alleys. We carried a buck knife and got good at making bows and arrows for target practice. After the rain we knew how to find the garter snakes and the newts. No matter what the weather, we knew how to avoid the drunks and addicts.
Time didn’t exist when we were surrounded by trees and had a chance to escape the stress of the streets. We just had peace and play…
Ultimately, the Entire Natural World is My Home
Fast forward to the Alex who could no longer cut class and hang out in the park every day.
As I created my adult life, I found ways to venture much further, exploring the wilderness faraway in places like Patagonia, Chile and the Amazon rainforest. But no matter how much I’ve traveled, the real magic has always been waiting for me back in the parks of New York City.
Now it’s my passion and my mission to introduce others to the wonder that’s hiding right here in our urban jungle.
I lead Nature Connection Walks through my favorite places like Fort Tryon Park and Inwood Park because I know that even just a few hours immersing yourself in nature can make a tremendous difference.
And as full of possibility as this this city can be, I know a complete change of scenery can make all the difference. That’s why I also lead daylong excursions and overnight adventures to places like the Catskills.
I Take Playing Outdoors Seriously (in a good way)
Simply going outside offers so much healing and possibility, but I knew it was important for me to build my knowledge and skills. That’s why I’ve become a licensed New York State Hiking & Camping guide and have taken a Wilderness First Responders course to be sure that I can handle emergencies out in the field.
Ultimately, my biggest questions are about how I can help people deepen their connection with nature. How can I help repair the separation between us and the wild world?
The led me to the most exciting part of my training: becoming a Certified Forest Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy. It’s such an honor to be a guide for people who want to to visit the ultimate healer, the ultimate therapist: the forest itself.
We All Benefit From Spending Time Outside
Every day I watch people moving across the sidewalks, eyes on their phones and minds a hundred miles away. They’re suffering from the kind of dis-ease that comes from being alienated from this earth we all walk upon.
It doesn’t have to be this way,
Something powerful happens when you step off the concrete and follow me along a dirt path that leads toward the trees…
Come explore with me!