Journey Castillo is just 16 months old, but she’s racking up the miles as she leads a digital campaign to get people outdoors and into national parks.
SAN ANTONIO — She may not be reading yet, but Journey Castillo knows when she’s reached a national park. Her parents, Eric and Valerie Castillo, said their only daughter realizes it’s time to take pictures when she arrives.
“We call it our journey. It’s our journey. She’s the ‘journey,'” Valerie said.
Journey became the symbol of a new beginning in the life of his parents. They married with sons: Eric has two, aged 15 and 14, and Valérie has three, aged 21, 16 and 6.
After a three-year attempt and a pregnancy scare, Journey was born. Her parents wanted to bring their baby into the energy of being outdoors because they are in love with nature.
Even though the pandemic was raging, their doctor gave a thumbs up a week after she was born.
“If you go to a park, it’s the safest place for your baby,” recalls Valérie.
They took the baby to Pikes Peak in Colorado. Then they set off for Sedona, Arizona with their bundle of joy before arriving at the Grand Canyon.
“It was our first time to a national park, it was the Grand Canyon,” Valerie said. “We didn’t know at the time, however, that national parks were really anything until we experienced it with her when she was a week old.”
The couple decided to take their baby to all 63 national parks. With a name like Journey, how could they be wrong?
“I really feel like every park we go to,” Eric said. “She absorbs something of it.”
The Castillos own a business that gives them the opportunity to travel. Still, they are strategic in reaching the parks where they can get the most bang for their buck.
“You don’t see waterfalls or mountains here in San Antonio,” Valerie said.
They are on track to achieve the goal. The Castillos will reach 32 parks before the second week of March. But what does Journey remember about hikes and trails?
“She’ll remember that,” Eric said. “She will feel it more than anything. It will be more in her mind and the way she carries herself.”
To help her remember and document her journey, the toddler even has a presence on the web: journeygoexplore.com.
“I want Journey to be the kid who says, ‘I don’t care about laptops. I want to go back to Yellowstone, mom.’ You know?
Eric said travel isn’t always perfect. He said his energetic daughter is still a baby who needs routine care.
“When we travel it’s very difficult, as it would be for any parent with a baby,” he said.
The cost does not outweigh the gain, the couple said.
“We put her in situations where I think that’s going to make her stronger, and that will continue to make her great,” Eric said.
The backdrops of nature create a wonderful catalog to measure their daughter’s growth and environmental upbringing.
“It’s like time has stood still,” Valerie said. “When we go to these places, it’s like nothing else matters.”
The ultimate goal, they said, is to inspire others to get out and discover this country’s treasure-filled national parks.
“Her name was Journey,” Valerie said. “Like, it’s just meant to be.”
When she’s at home in San Antonio, you can see Journey running the local trails.