Traveling is only for rich people, mija.
I was devastated. Sweet 16 and wanting to take Marine Biology in high school and one of the major perks was that after the class was over, and during the summer, everyone went to Costa Rica to fully appreciate what they had learned over the last 4 months. I was green with envy when my friends came back and it was all they could talk about… for about 10 years. But for a household that was comfortable (but not that comfortable), it wasn’t an option. I either had to use the money I was saving up from Pizza Hut on a car, or this one time thing. My practicality went for the utilitarian approach of having the driving freedom in Austin.
But here is where I experienced the first major fork in the road as a teenager. Do I take this “advice” and not try? Or, in typical, bull headed Erica style, do I try to show the world that I can attain the “impossible”? Anyone who has read this blog in any capacity knows how that turned out. It became my dragon to slay, my Mount Everest, my big “FUCK YOU!” to The Man – and those words took a life on its own as I figured out how this Latina could afford a backpacking trip at any point of my life.
So at 28 I had – what I refer to as – a quarter life crisis. I had a goals I had set for myself as a young adult and I suffered the Millennial curse. As I was about to head into an interview for Austin City Limits (I had put in 3-4 years of public access studio work), 2007 smacked me in my face. PBS was severely underfunded and they froze all new job postings – for years. I found myself with a degrading set of skills (due to new technologies) and had to settle working a customer support job for a video game company that ended up emotionally abusing me and taking advantage of the work I did. (But that is a story for another time.) I was barely making ends meet and a house was off the table with skyrocketing Austin prices.
So, fuck it. We were watching No Reservations about Ecuador one day in 2009 when it hit me. Why don’t we take the money that we’ve been saving for a down payment on a house and travel? The little bit of money we saved wouldn’t have allowed us to purchase within town, and if I’m going to make that big of a purchase, it better be for something I liked and wanted.
To understand how I got into WordPress initially – well, I love to document things. I have had a “blog” since Live Journal. Wrote a bit on My Space. But in 2004, I moved over and started to document bits about our upcoming wedding and uploaded some photography. I had effectively started teach myself the DIY approach of WordPress AND dove deep into my passion for the visual arts. I had found my platform, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – when my film degree had failed me.
So in 2010 it made all the sense in the world that I should document what we were doing to save and set ourselves up for a year backpacking trip from Mexico to Argentina. It was really only for me and my friends and family – but slowly I found people starting to read it. I really realized what I had when I wrote about my struggle finding out how on earth I was supposed to procure birth control while backpacking through rather conservative countries (that don’t make it particularly easy). It is still one of my more popular posts even today – 7 years down the line.
And it clicked.
I can make this work. We have a story to tell. And holy hell, there are so very few Latinas making their way around the world (you have no idea how hard it was to be a Latina traveling – I even was asked to change out someone’s sheets once we are so rare…). So we took the risk. It drove our parents insane that we had the audacity to leave a steady [underpaid] job to be dreamers. But that is what we have always been, and I don’t know why it would be any different then. Both of us were studying up on WordPress daily. I was swimming in a sea of social media.
And we were successful. Our one year journey turned into two. We were flown to Costa Rica, to New York, to Florida (among many other places), and worked with quite a few companies. I’ve had photos in flight magazines, and became a Getty Images Contributor. I got to see Europe! We hustled. We learned. We made people look our way. We had a pretty prolific career, and were named as top influencers. I look back and I get weepy.
I made it work, but WordPress got me there.
It isn’t a secret that I currently work on the WooCommerce team here at Automattic. We were acquired by the mothership about 2.5 years ago, and I’m working for a company I can ethically get behind. We take Diversity & Inclusion seriously (no abuse this time in tech!). I’m making what my male counterparts are. And more than anything, I’m working in open source, where I’ve seen people around the world who have “The Hustle” change their lives by using WordPress and WooCommerce. I’ve seen people rise from the throws of poverty and overcome. WordPress is changing the world.
So on those weeks I’m working an absurd number of hours, my motivation is this – what I do matters. What I do changes lives. WordPress changed my life.