I Went on a Life-Changing Adventure and All You Get is This Blog Post
One day, I laughed so hard and full of carefree joy that I nearly peed my pants.
One day, I sobbed with such intensity that I hyperventilated and choked out "can't breathe" to an empty wooded path, fearful the bears would hear me and think I'd be a good dinner.
One day, I woke up in a raised glamping tent in Utah.
One day, I went to sleep in Arizona after a day full of a bus ride and a helicopter tour.
I used to think traveling throughout the US was the boring kind of travel. That the only good travel was travel to new countries to add them to a growing list to prove that I'm worth something. That I'm interesting. That I have a story to tell.
But after Covid struck last year and derailed my Contiki trip to Argentina & Brazil, and then I failed to renew my passport in time for the replacement trip to Greece this August, I started looking up US-based trips. I found some really awesome options — travels through cities in the Southwest, through Southern US, through California.
None of them worked out timing-wise, though, so with a shrug and a "I'm sure it'll be...okay," I signed up for the National Parks Plus tour.
"Okay" is the freaking understatement of the YEAR. This trip was more than okay. This trip was EVERYTHING. This trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, an exploration of land I never dreamed existed in this country, a meeting of new friends, a trial that helped me grow as a person both in my soul and my body.
I'm going to try and be semi-coherent as I write this post, but I'm also tearing up a bit. Let's break it down, shall we?
Emotions, sights, friendships.
Spoiler: I felt them all. Part of it is because I was medication-less on the trip, due to a pharmacy snafu and my own human error. Part of it is because what can I say, I am an emotional wreck 110 percent of the time. It's how I roll.
On our second day (Wed, Aug. 11, 2021), we went to Zion National Park for a long day of hiking and seeing the sights. We were trekking through The Narrows, which is...a ridiculously long hike that's at least 60 percent river-walking, and the exertion + sun + emotion of it all set my heart to pounding. Which triggered a little panic attack. I sat on a rock in the shade and pulled out a notebook I'd bought just for that day, used a bright blue gel pen to wonder why I'm so broken.
It's been the eternal question of my life: why is my mind such a wreck?
Here's the answer, at least the one I found time after time on this trip: I'm not a wreck. I'm a human. We're all a little broken in a thousand different ways, and we're all beautiful because of it in our own ways. There's not a perfect soul on this Earth, there's no one who's never felt a little loss, a little heartbroken, a little desperate.
Holy. Cow. Where do I even begin??? We visited four states — Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona. I...don't know if I'd ever been to any of them before? I know I didn't think they were hot stuff before.
I was wrong. First of all, they're literally desert states so the heat is...sometimes unbearable.
But jokes aside, they are gorgeous. I was blown away by the beauty of nature. On the first day on our coach, as we drove into Utah, I would not shut up about how impressed I was with the red rocks and how I somehow managed not to expect them.
On day 1, we set foot on Bryce Canyon National Park and I walked around in a state of utter breathlessness partially brought on by the hike but mostly inspired by the beauty of my surroundings.
About a week later in Page, Arizona, we sat in a helicopter and as soon as we lifted off I started tearing up. It was gorgeous all around and I hadn't even left the runway!
We spent a whole day in Yellowstone National Park where I got to witness Old Faithful's eruption, wander around the Grand Prismatic Spring, smell the disgusting sulfurous stench of the Mud Volcano/Dragon's Mouth, and pose in front of a waterfall that I kind of wished to lose myself in.
I rode a horse. I rode in the back of a converted pickup truck that may as well have been a rollercoaster. I spent close to 50 hours on a big ol' bus. I slept in tents, in a lodge, in hotel rooms in the middle of nowhere.
I saw things I've only ever dreamed about before. I fell in love with the country of my birth's landscape once more.
This trip? It changed my life. Press play on the video below and give it some time cause the beginning isn't impressive but the end is 1000 percent worth the watch!
I was so. stinking. lucky that the 22 other travelers (plus our driver & trip manager) were the understanding, caring people they were. They reminded me that there is goodness on Earth. They reminded me that love is unconditional and offered to the newest of strangers. They gave of their physical belongings (sunscreen, for one) and of their emotional stores and of their hearts — their laughter, their tears, their burdens, their joys.
Saying good-bye? It was only nine days, but those were some of the toughest good-byes I've ever said.
I miss these people I got to know on the trip that broke me and remade me stronger than I was before. Love you guys.