A Time to Cherish on the Open Road

DRIVING ON THE OPEN ROAD is meditative. Especially in the American Southwest, where the vast rust-colored land and painted mountains blend with the pale blue sky and provide a sense of freedom, out there, and within your heart.

On a road trip, the hours in the car are a time to appreciate the world as it passes by. Thoughts come and go like cars on the highway — here a second then gone, a memory which drifts with the desert breeze.

This past week, my dad, my brothers and I took an RV from our hometown Los Angeles through Flagstaff Arizona, up to Zion National Park in Utah.

The trip was a reminder to cherish the journey, every damn second of it.

In truth, it doesn’t matter what you have planned. Sometimes it’s best to stray from what you expect.

The serendipitous misadventures which arise, the good, the bad, and the ugly are what life is all about.

The reward — those moments of deep conversation or genuine heartfelt laughter with friends and family; the early mornings watching the sunrise over otherworldly mountains or late nights under the stars — make it all worthwhile.

Life is day by day for all of us. I commend my dad for taking the opportunity to spend time with my brothers and me getting down and dirty in the heat of summer.

We don’t know how next week, next month or next year will look. Get out there, throw caution to the wind, and practice the art of being.

We knew there would be breakdowns on the road. We were right; both we and the RV had our flashes of vulnerability.

Little did we know, our first stop that week was setting records as the hottest place on the planet: Lake Havasu, Arizona.

From 117 degree days to over 100 degrees at night, we drove right into the eye of the storm. The heat was inhuman.

Driving in the RV sounded like being in a metal kitchen during an earthquake.

Plates and kitchenware rattled, cabinets flew open and slammed shut, the whole thing rocked and made it impossible to talk to one another without yelling.

Time to start rolling with the punches.

At about midday, day one, I went to the freezer to secure a fresh ice-bag for the cooler.

Upon opening, an unexpected bag of coffee exploded and showered me along with my entire bag underneath with finely ground coffee beans like a fresh layer of snow.

We made it out of Havasu suffering only one major casualty. With the heat up to 110 by 9 am, we had to hightail it out of there asap.

After spending the night at a hotel due to unworkable air conditioning in the RV, our pillows didn’t make the cut. We all mistakingly left them.

Rolled up towels and jackets would suffice— c’est la vie.

An afternoon summer rain fell in Flagstaff.

The air was incredibly refreshing and the pine trees gave the gusts a sweet, spicy smell.

The earth turned into a muddy red clay.

We left for Sedona on the second day, about an hour south from Flagstaff through the Coconino National Forest.

 Sedona is a magical city that feels ingrained in the planet, nestled in the red rocks and windy rivers of Arizona.

The warm red clay is ubiquitous and looks like Mars, although the pine trees and cacti are so lush and green that it feels like no other place but home.

We planned to check out the main tourist attraction Slide Rock, but after seeing the horde of people trying to get in, it was time for another audible.

We pulled the RV into a roadside deli to pick up some lunch and discuss the next move. The owner told us about another hike in Sedona, as if she had a secret to dish out to select visitors.

One of the greatest aspects of traveling is hearing from locals what they love about their home. It never hurts to ask, and when you do, it opens up possibilities you can’t find strictly from online research.

Time after time, as business owners told us about hikes and restaurants and places we should check out, it was apparent how much joy the place brought them.

They couldn’t help but get excited; their enthusiasm shined from their hearts. When you talk to people, you don’t only find the real good stuff to do — you connect with another human being and learn about who they are and what they find beautiful about the world.

That’s the true reason to travel.

Walking through the mountains of Sedona, I connected to the earth and the sky and felt a profound sense of peace.

Nature inspires as strongly as the warmth of the sun.

I often hung back to take pictures and embrace my thoughts as they came and went. The sky would evolve into puffy plumes of white and grey which showed signs of oncoming rain.

There’s an energy that comes from the movement of the clouds and the stillness of the plants.

This natural force ignited a fire in my soul and made me think of what it means to be me, what it means to be somebody, and what it means to be happy.

I continue to find that these experiences, looking into the sky and wondering, are like therapy.

We need that space to question what we love and what makes our life worthwhile.

Out in the desert, my heart confirmed that this is what I love — moving and exploring, getting lost in a place that has seen all kinds of people, people like me, wondering which path to choose.

We had beers in the cold river at the end of the hike. Bliss.

At night, we sat under the evergreen pines looking up at the stars and reveled in the smell of rain and night’s chill. The stars connect us all, yet we see them individually.

We attach our meanings to the stars as we look up at them and feel something. Out there in a fold-up beach chair in the dirt next to my brothers and dad, the shimmering stars told me we could get through anything.

The stars are always there protecting us, alone or together.

To be in the wild to honor the night makes us human; the night and the stars are a connection not only to others now but to our ancestors and cultures and different people who have come and gone.

The lights in the sky shimmer — they give us hope.

As we made our way through northern Arizona into southwestern Utah, the world became dark and lush. Towering mountains enveloped us as if in a prehistoric age as we entered the Zion Valley.

Millions of years ago, the entire valley was underwater in some form. The layered colors of the sheer rock faces depict the different ages of growth and decay, as if the valley is alive and continues to change.

It’s inspiring to see people using this season to appreciate our planet, no matter our circumstances. We couldn’t do every hike, eat indoors, or go anywhere without a mask. That’s life right now.

You move on and make the best of the situation.

It was fascinating talking with others about how they’re handling this pandemic. It’s affecting us at our different stages in life, but what I felt and what I saw is that we will move forward together.

Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park, Utah

We need the simplicity of nature in our lives, now more than ever, to realize what’s important. We can get through anything, but what I continually learn from trips like this is how we handle the journey.

Life will do everything it can to throw us off what we believe is our path. Often, however, this could be the best possible thing to happen.

 It takes courage to move with grace through our highs and lows personally, and as a planet.

It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be. But when you take what you’re given and adjust, when you smile through the pain and take one more step, when you surrender and laugh, it does more than feeds your soul.

It inspires others.

I’m already gearing up for the next trip, wherever it may lead. I can’t wait to see what goes wrong.

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