Wild Keeper Spotlight: Jon Talamantez

Meet Jon Talamantez, a passionate second term Wild Keeper and newer recreator in the outdoors based here in Phoenix, Arizona. We wanted to begin celebrating PRIDE month by introducing Jon, who not only makes an impact as a Wild Keeper, but also as founder of the PRIDE community within the company he works for, Carvana. Jon has been pivotal to our design process for the OUTside Together Collection and chose the nonprofit organization we will donate 100% of proceeds from the collection to: The Trevor Project. 

Jon joined our Wild Keeper program 2 terms ago and, in a true testament to how 2020 impacted so many of us, Jon shared, "It’s no secret that 2020 took us for one hell of a ride. There were so many emotionally charged events that forced us into an entirely new psychological and social state. Everyone has been very quick to wish 2020 away but as I reflect on the year that was, I realize how many lessons I’ve learned and how much there is to be grateful for. When your home becomes your office, your school, your restaurant, and your family is now in your space 100% of the time… it’s easy to feel trapped. As a social creature who craves human interaction, I must admit, it really took a toll on me. However, I found a fix to keep my mental state in check. I started to get outside, just for a change of scenery, but it didn’t take me long to discover how beautiful Arizona really is. That ignited my interest to explore and see more and it was really this new hobby that gave me life in the 2020 chaos."

Through his newfound love of nature and how it has positively benefited his wellbeing he shared that hiking and reaching places many cannot by hopping into his jeep allows him to "get away from everyone and get lost in nature. I always try to camp when I can to make the drive worth it."

Discussing the important topics of being a member of both the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities in the outdoors, Jon expressed, "I don't think many people realize that traveling, exploring, camping, backpacking etc. is a privilege. It's no secret that wealthier families are white, which means more disposable income for gear, flights, and the leisure to take unpaid time off for travel. With money aside- there is a lack of diversity and inclusivity with outdoor marketing, recreation companies, and government national parks. The staff of most of these companies and park rangers are white and English speaking. If they want diversity & inclusion- they need to start with their team. Additionally, we have to take a look at history. LGBTQ+, minorities, and women do not feel safe in secluded places and in small numbers. Recently, Ahmaud Arbery was shot while jogging in his own neighborhood. There is a lack of safety and security that is felt and unaddressed by the industry. I consider myself a very outdoorsy person, but I would be lying if I said that every time I have gone camping, gear shopping, or hiking that there are far less people out there who look like me."

We also asked Jon how the PRIDE community and his experience as a Wild Keeper complement each other or overlap. He said, "both give me purpose. Both allow me to get involved with things I am passionate about- the environment and LGBTQ+ rights. I am just one human trying to make a difference and I truly believe that small actions have a bigger impact than we realize. I think if everyone had a similar mentality our world would be a better tomorrow. If one of my actions can inspire, motivate, or change just one person- that is enough for me to keep going."

Read more about Jon and the PRIDE community he founded below! 

KNW: Which would you pick: Forests, Mountains or Desert?
Jon: Mountains

KNW: What is your favorite thing about being a Wild Keeper?
J: This WKA program not only got me active again, but it also gave me a community and positive outlet that fueled a passion to preserve our planet. I love learning, meeting, and in turn, educating others about the outdoors. It was such an amazing experience that I renewed my ambassadorship this year!

KNW: What has picking up trash outdoors done for you? (shifted perspective, opened your eyes to, etc?)
J: Every since I became a Wild Keeper, I can't help my zero in on trash... EVERYWHERE. It was shocking how much trash is floating around. I was shocked to see how many people are blind to it and simply walk over and even around it.

KNW: Roughly how many pounds do you think you've picked up since you became a Wild Keeper?
J: Oh boy! That a tough one. I don't want to undersell or over-inflate. I will say- "too much to count!"

KNW: What goals do you have for this year? (or beyond?)
J: "Be Better!" Short simple and applies to every aspect of my life. I want to be a better boyfriend, a better friend, a better brother, a better coworker, a better social justice advocate, a better nature enthusiast.. in summary- a better human being.

KNW: When did you found the PRIDE community at Carvana?
J: Carvana PRIDE has officially been up and running for about one year now. We always had some energy and momentum from our LGBTQ+ employees and allies before that. With the help of other passionate coworkers- we created a mission statement, goals, actions and established a leadership structure to cultivate and sustain these efforts.

KNW: What led you to wanting to create this community? 
J: I joined Carvana back in 2018. One of the first questions I asked was, "do we have a PRIDE committee?" Again- a lot of grassroots efforts were already in place, someone just needed to take it to the next level. Being empowered to create something so amazing is what makes Carvana so great. This PRIDE community was created by employees for employees.

KNW: What has the experience been like for you to lead this community?
J: Oh man... my experience has been amazing! I come from some big corporations where things like Pride have already been established and well-oiled machines. Being able to lead these efforts, roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty has been rewarding. Stressful at times, but I have such an amazing leadership team and engaged members that I wouldn't trade it for anything. I hope to pass the torch someday.

 If you want to follow along with Jon and all of his adventures and wild keeping, you can find him here!