Journey Out West. How my 7-week solo trip changed my life for the better!
In Spring of 2020, I submitted a write-up to the Austin Young Chamber for a series called Hello From the Other Side, a member submission that gave insight to life during the Covid “lockdown”. After I finished writing it, I stepped outside on my back porch to soak up the beautiful weather and reflect on my writing.
One of the questions I was asked was about my dreams for the future, once we were safe to leave the confines of our homes and rejoin society. In my response, I shared my dream of traveling out west.
“What are you waiting for?” I thought to myself. “You’ve always mustered up the courage to do the things you’ve dreamed of.”
I started to ponder all of the things that could go right and all of the things that could go wrong; as I did, a beautiful bluebird landed on the rail of my deck. Mesmerized and careful not to spook it, I watched intently until it flew away.
Afterwards, I picked up my phone and I googled the meaning of the bluebird. Here’s what it said:
“Linking heaven and earth, the Bluejay accesses each for greater power and knowledge and follows through on all things. ‘Look for my signs. I’ll show you the way’- Signs from the Afterlife.
Fast forward to several weeks later… I was ready! I loaded my car with one large suitcase filled with things from bathing suits to my winter coat for the colder regions. I nervously cleaned the entire house, packed a cooler filled with my favorite cold brew; and two hours after my desired leave time, I headed to Marfa, Texas for my first stop. This was the hardest leg of the trip due to anticipatory anxiety and fear of the unknown.
After seven hours of driving, I arrived at El Cosmico for the night. I walked into my “camper”, and I fell asleep almost immediately. It was only 7 p.m., but I was exhausted by both the 7-hour drive and, even more so, by the strength it took for me to take this leap into the unknown.
Three hours later, I woke from my nap with that foggy “where am I?’ feeling. Groggily, I reached for the light on my phone and walked to the door of my camper. Maggie followed.
I stepped outside on my front wooden porch, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: The stars were so close and incredibly bright I felt as if I could reach up and touch them. I gazed heavenward, doing a complete 360 as the warm desert breeze kissed my skin. It felt like a dream– just me, Maggie and the stars.
The next morning I woke up, showered outdoors on my front porch (yes they have outdoor showers!), packed up my large suitcase and departed for Santa Fe. This portion of the drive was one of my favorites throughout the trip.
Once in Santa Fe, we soaked up all of our favorite things: Mexican takeout from Tomasitas; dining in the national forest with a blanket for Maggie and me, listening to music in the park and watching the locals dance; mom and pop restaurants that we discovered on our walk; eggs for me and eggs for Maggie.
Because I had already traveled before to Santa Fe, the sights were familiar and our time was full of ease. After that came the unknown!
On our last day in Santa Fe, I wanted to purchase postcards to mail to some of my closest friends and their kids. I walked into a gift shop in the downtown square and asked the salesman if he had any for sale. “I don’t,” he responded, ”but you can have this one that someone left behind.” He handed me a random post card. I looked down and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was an image of a bluebird amongst the stars with its wings spread over the moon.
I paused and held the postcard close to me for what felt like a solid minute. I thanked the gentleman for this gift and went on my way. The bluebird showed up again and again throughout my journey, and each time it reminded me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I couldn’t help but appreciate this sign from the universe.
I kept that postcard over my visor for the entire trip and continued on my way.
It would take an entire book for me to report back what this trip meant to me, and to fit it all into one blog post would cheapen the depths of each experience. But I will share this: This trip was empowering. I never felt “alone” throughout my entire 7-week journey. I had conversations on the regular with strangers who departed as friends. I met a couple at breakfast in Livingston who I kept in touch with throughout the remainder of my trip. I listened intently to a woman who was petting Maggie in Glacier National Park tell me that she and her husband sold their 4k square foot home and bought an RV so they can travel through this beautiful country. She said you couldn’t pay her millions of dollars to go back to that house.
I traveled through eight states (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, back to NM and home to Texas), and visited nine national parks (Rocky National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.)
I went rafting in Utah and Montana, fly fishing in Estes Park and Whitefish and read books along rivers in between. I have never felt more connected to myself, nature and the universe than I did during this time. In Moab, I met up with a friend of mine from the Austin Young Chamber; we rafted the Colorado River together and dined at a famous restaurant, Sunset Grill.
After we parted ways, I met up with another group of friends from Austin who were departing on an 8-day rafting trip. I spent two days with them exploring Moab and then camped in Canyonlands the night before their departure. I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the full moon shine over the canyon. I thanked God often, continually in awe of my surroundings. Next to dogs, nature is truly our greatest treasure on earth.
There were a few challenges along the way, too. My bathroom almost flooded in Estes Park when the faucet ripped off as I went to start the shower. Every hotel room was booked solid in Flagstaff and within a 3-hour range as I arrived so I had to drive to Phoenix to find a place to sleep for a few hours. Additionally, I had the courage to confront a situation that I thought I would never have the strength to address, healing myself from past family trauma and conditioning.n the process, I left unnecessary baggage behind that was never mine to carry in the first place.
My greatest takeaway was this: In the years since moving to Texas, I had not only mastered the art of “standing on my own two feet”, I’d also proved to myself that I had the strength to accomplish anything that I put my mind to.
But more importantly, throughout the entire process I learned that I love being in my own company. I love the life that I built for myself and the person I’ve become along the way. I wasn’t just surviving on my own– I was thriving and soaking up every ounce of my journey. This far exceeded the expectation that I had set out for myself when I moved to Texas, and for that I am forever thankful.
Stay tuned for future posts as I dive deeper into my Journey Out West, including my itinerary, tips for a successful trip and how to navigate working from the road.