Hi. I’m Denise Castelvi Gamboa.
I share my name with Dionysia, the Greek god of wine, pleasure and joy. This is an amazing name to live up to except for the fact that I am (tragically) allergic to wine. To compensate, I’ve decided to focus extra hard on the pleasure and the joy. This, by the way, has been my most successful pick-up line to date. That and the fact that I am extremely double jointed.
I’m a recovering over-achiever, technophile, vagabond with a camera.
My mother’s last name is Italian, my father’s Portuguese. I’m neither. I was born in the Philippines, raised in the city of the Greatest Show on Earth, joined the rat race as a cranky ol’ Londoner and now usually reside in California. I say usually because I’m currently experimenting with the graceful art of homelessness mobile living.
I spent my early childhood in and around Manila, chasing chickens and pumping water-wells at my grandparents’ home in the province on the weekends, and schooling in an all-girl Catholic academy ran by nuns on the weekdays. Soon after nursery school, my equally vagabonding parents moved my brother and I to the greener pasteurs of beautiful Canada. I experienced my first snow in Toronto in 1989 in borrowed Alf boots and a hand-me-down coat. There, I learned to exert myself in proper English before moving to Calgary one year later.
In addition to the pleasant weather (a balmy -45 celsius in February) and friendly people, Calgary was the perfect place to grow up. We dug snow tunnels in the winters and flew kites in the summers. To save on babysitting costs, my parents left my brother and I to fend for ourselves after school and from the age of 6 all the way to high school, no one tried to abduct us, we ran rampant in the streets till sunset and we managed on more than one occasion to barely save the house from burning down (there were many a WD40 experiments executed in the backyard).
A childhood as wide open as ours is likely the reason why I’m always looking to jump off the next high structure, board the next airplane, get lost on the next unbeaten path. The world is as wide open today as it was when I was 5. This kind of perspective leads many of my friends to believe that I’m naive and idealistic. I consider myself blessed with rose-tinted glasses.
Growing up the daughter of immigrants gave me a neurotic need to over achieve. Sports, honour roll, valedictorian, International Baccalaureate. None of it and all of it mattered in the end. The love of a few good mentors, a passion for business and technology, and a few lucky internships later and I found myself amongthe best in the Silicon Valley. Suddenly I wasn’t the geekiest girl in the room.
In 2009 I quit my job to travel, write, and work on my own projects. The open road was calling and I finally found the courage to answer yes. Since then I’ve done my fair share of Eat Pray Love girl travel in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. I managed to survive a month-long African safari without killing anyone, have learned a few comprehensible pieces of Castellano and serendipitously met people who’ve become both friends and business partners. Currently, I work and play at SmugMug.
They say that the thing we fear most has the greatest power to change us. I can attest that this, in fact, is true. In love, in art, in business: being bold means having faith, even when the road is dark and there are no sign posts.
This blog is an account of this journey: the experiences during my working life in London, the vagabonding thereafter and the many opportunities that have opened up since. Mostly, it’s a collection of all the little and big lessons I’ve learned along the way about entrepreneurship, relationships, inspiration and the courage it takes to live authentically.
Oh, and yes, it’s also a home for my travel photographs.