What Makes Me Texan by Nature: Danielle Blanco

What makes me Texan by Nature? I have lived most of my time outside the great state of Texas, but the adventure that is my life eventually landed me here and taught me a whole string of lessons along the way.

I grew up by a small lake just outside of Chicago, IL. My brother and I spent time fishing (with our Mickey Mouse fishing poles) during the summer and ice skating during the winter. We had a small foot powered paddle boat and I remember riding alongside my mother and watching the ducks as she did all the hard work paddling. Every year, we took a trip to Lake Michigan to enjoy the sunshine and the beach. I have since been told by my Puerto Rican husband that I can’t call the shores of Lake Michigan the beach, but us Midwesterners did our best!

Years later, we relocated to a suburb just outside of Atlanta, GA, and my brother and I went from fishing and ice skating on the lake to goofing off in the woods behind our house. My parents always encouraged us to explore and discover, but to also respect the environment surrounding us. What we brought into our outdoor adventures always came back out with us. Leave-no-trace principles were a part of my life before I even understood what that truly meant.

After college, I joined the Peace Corps. In July 2012, my plane landed in the Republic of Guinea in the middle of the night, and I started an adventure that would completely change my life. I spent the next two years in a remote village, with no cell phone service, no running water and no electricity. 

When I wasn’t teaching at the local school, I was hiking the mountains in the Fouta region and riding my bike to local markets. I learned how to cook over an open fire and to use ingredients that I had never tried before. During the dry season, I would sleep outside in my hammock, so I could catch tiny amounts of breeze and appreciate the beauty of the stars. I lived my life at a slower pace, not worrying about what was next, but rather, how I could enjoy my Guinean friends and family in that moment.

Texas was always part of the plan and in 2016, my husband and I finally made the move to Dallas. I remember the first time I drove down highway 75 and saw hundreds of colorful wildflowers lining the streets. It certainly made the drive to work each day more interesting. Fast forward a few years, a few houses, a new city, and two children later and now my oldest daughter picks the same colorful wildflowers to present to every friend she meets in her life. Texas has shown my family true hospitality and kindness and we are so thankful to have found our home here.

My life moves at a much faster pace these days, but we do our best to stop, slow down, and appreciate the beauty around us. Just like my parents taught me, I encourage my girls to explore, learn and discover, but to respect the world around them.

While I may not be Texan by birth, I am grateful to be a part of the Texan family. I am proud to be Texan by Nature and to help make my impact on our mission to support conversation across Texas!