As I sit in front of my computer, tea luke-warm and photos uploading on the screen, the familiar mix of sadness and excitement comes over me in waves. A few days ago I returned from a trip to Phoenix, AZ to spend time with Celeste on her first break of the school year. We hit the ground running- as we usually do- by leaving nearly immediately for a roadtrip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had finally managed to plan a trip during Canon’s Balloon Fiesta, a destination we had dreamed of before we ever started these roadtrips five years ago.
We made it to the park that evening as it started to get dark and heard murmurs amongst the crowd that the balloons would not be launching that night. We stuffed our faces with carnival food before heading back to camp outside of town. The next attempted launch was early the next morning. We crawled out of the tent before 4:00 am, fumbling in the dark to pack up the tent and get on the road. (I am still amazed I was was able to move my body before 7am) The balloons didn’t take off that morning, but they did light up the morning, warming us with flames shooting into the air in every direction. They also did a ‘static viewing’ where we were able to see all of the balloons on the ground, all around us. Honestly, that was so amazing in itself that I wasn’t disappointed at all. The colors, the different balloons, and crowd- it all created an excitement in the air that was electric and contagious. As we walked the entire field admiring every single balloon in our site, we promised to come back next year for a few days, in my van home. More on that later.
We headed back to Phoenix later that morning and stopped in Sedona. We followed the rain all the way there, and ate hot dogs (the worlds greatest from the Black Cow Cafe. Again. Hot dog in a baguette. Get it while your there) while Sedona drizzled outside the cafe window. We took some time to explore before heading back to crash in bed after a long couple of days.
We learned a few things: Go to the Balloon Fiesta with patience and time, book your campsite/hotel well in advance, arrive as early as you can manage (uber if you can), and dress warm!(!) We were lucky to have our hiking gear on hand to bundle up that morning.
In the five years since we have learned that our dreams to travel could be fulfilled with a tank of gas and a tent, each of us has barely stayed in one place for long. Together we have seen numerous national parks, monuments, lakes, trails, cities and small towns. We have handled danger eloquently, tackled many dirt roads with patience, and slept through many cold and stormy nights in strange places. We have both also travelled as much as possible separate, visiting other countries and travelling with new friends. I have learned so much about myself in this time, and have felt empowered and unstoppable on my best days. I had no idea that road-trips would deliver so many gifts beyond pretty landscapes and quality time. I had no idea that they would change the course of my path- pointing me in a direction far from the paths I thought were in front of me when I began my first year at college. There is something really magical about life on the road- the freedom, the courage, the constant challenge of newness pushing you out of your comfort zone. It is exactly what I never knew I needed.
Photographer on the road