I first met bubbly, Spanish-speaking Camila in a pokey apartment on a quiet street behind Rome’s largest train station Termini.
It was the middle of a hot sticky Mediterranean summer and we were both twenty-somethings, travelling by the cheapest, and what we hoped most culturally-immersive way possible – couchsurfing.
Lucky for us, an easy-going Italian student called Davide was stuck in the city studying for the summer. His flatmates, like most Romans, had left for greener and more ocean-accessible pastures.
By sheer coincidence, and some amazing generosity on Davide’s part, four of us couch-surfers converged on the tiny apartment that week in early August: American Camila, Russian Ekaterina, my traveling buddy Austrian Sonja, and myself, a Kiwi.
Camila and I hung out for less than a week in Rome, but we quickly became friends, deciding to travel Greece together when we had finished our respective trips around Italy. Sitting at a beachside restaurant on the Island of Ios, we got chatting about Camila’s story.
“Growing up I was forced to travel due to my father’s job. I just grew into that type of lifestyle.”
Camila’s dad, an Argentinian-born polo player had to travel between his homeland and the U.S. for tournaments. To avoid splitting up the family, the Gonzalezs would live half the year in America and half the year in Argentina.
“Wherever we went for my father’s work trips, the rest of my family and I explored as much as we could,” she says.
Through travel Camila learnt how to quickly make friends and slot into new situations, but the transient lifestyle had its drawbacks.
“It was definitely hard growing up, especially when it came to constantly being classified as the new kid – I never knew how to identify myself.”
“In the U.S. I was the Spanish foreigner and in Argentina they would see me as the American or as they would call it, the ‘Yankee’.”
“It was hard to say where I was from because I really didn’t see myself as an American or an Argentinean.”
Looking back, the American-Argentinean hybrid is glad to have had such a unique childhood.
“I am a good mix of the two (American and Argentinian). It definitely made me much more open to a lot of different cultures.”
It also inspired some itchy feet, which were briefly quelled by a travelling stint through Asia, Africa and Europe last year.
“Morocco was by far the most interesting place I visited. The culture, the people and their customs were like nothing I had ever seen before. They are so humble and so open to teaching you about their culture.”
“Trekking through the Saharan desert was one of the best moments of my life.”
“Our host Black Star was amazing, he spoke five different languages, never went to school and played seven different instruments. He came from a family of ten, and refused to wear shoes hah – he knew the Saharan desert like the back of his palm.”
“He treated us like queens and even camped out with us under the stars when we didn’t want to sleep in our rooms since it was so beautiful. I don’t think I have ever seen so many shooting stars in my life.”
“He was the wisest person I’ve ever met. He made us traditional chicken dinner and mint tea all night. He recited Moroccan poems and played the drums while doing so.”
After traveling Morocco with her sister, Camila spread her solo wings and flew to Italy.
“Solo traveling is by far the best way to travel,” she says.
“While I was in Italy after we met in Rome I continued on to Florence, Venice, and then volunteered on a vineyard in Trento.”
“Volunteering was a great way to stay in one area for free and learn about a culture. I became part of the family, I was welcomed as one of their own. I then went on to travel in Istanbul, Turkey, which was an amazing cultural experience. I finished my trip off in Budapest, Hungary.”
Despite Camila’s love of travel, she is also smitten with her homeland.
“California is amazing when it comes to exploring new terrains. You can go from hot desert to the middle of a forest covered in snow in as little as an hour.
“For example, the Sierra (mountain range) – East you have the desert and you head a couple of kilometres West and you end up in a Winter Wonderland.”
“Bishop California is world-renowned for rock climbing. Yosemite is another of my favourites.”
Camila is weathering a Cali autumn at the moment but her eyes are set on visiting Asia sometime in the near future.
“I really want to go to East Asia, it has been on my bucket list for a while. Also, India. I would love to learn more about Indian culture.”
Camila has one of the most envy-inducing Instagram accounts I bear to maintain in my daily feed – weekend wandering in Death Valley, waterfall frolicking in Puerto Rico, bareback riding in Argentina – check it out below . . .
Follow Camila Gonzalez on instagram: camilu_91
– OUR TRIP – GREECE 2015 –