Escape of the Week: America via iPhoneography

If there is one thing I did to an excess while driving cross-country, it was taking photos.

Between my new camera and my iPhone, I logged thousands of photos.

Because the iPhone was easy to tote around, there were so many instances when I simply pulled it our from my purse (or from the arm rest when I was driving) and snapped pics.

I like to think these photos help show the beauty of the lesser traveled/boring drives through the heart of America. For even more photos, be sure to click the links.

Enjoy the “iphoneography!”

The journey begins in Las Vegas. Dave and I head north on I-15 to Zion. Our drive through Nevada is flat, with desert surrounding us and mountains in the far distance.

The drive north on I-15 past Las Vegas, Nevada

A quick 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas is one of the most spectacular spots I have ever visited — Zion National Park. Our first night, we grab dinner at the Bit & Spur, a cute Southwest restaurant with views of the fiery orange rocks from the patio.

The Bit and Spur at Zion National Park

The next day, we go and explore Zion. Walking from our moderately crappy motel, we hit the entrance to Zion on foot.

Walking in to Zion National Park in Utah

The entrance to Zion National Park in Utah

Pink blossoms hang from trees inside Zion National Park

Our next stop: Colorado.

We drive for 10 – plus hours. My eyes having a hard time to stay open as we go from high desert to the Mars-like landscape of barren red rock jutting out at different levels with the Rockies (or what I kept saying were the Rockies) in the distance.

Heading towards the Mars-like landscape in Moab, Utah

Finally, we cross Utah into Colorado and we get our first glimpse of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Driving on I-70 through the Colorado Rockies

Suddenly, I am awake. Thrilled to be in such a spectacular landscape.

I-70 through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

From Denver, we head back up to Keystone for a conference. While I wait for our conference to kick-off, I spend time wandering through the main street of the charming ski town of Breckenridge.

The resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado

In Keystone, we are treated to high altitude and a sunset to rival some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m sure that had something to do with the peak with little bursts of lingering snow set against the pine trees and pinks and blues of the sky.

The sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

I said “see you soon” to Dave in Keystone and then began the rest of my road trip with Erica. In the middle of the night, we drove from there to Denver, and in the morning we were off through the flat roads of Nebraska (and Colorado).

A photo from I-80 in Nebraska

Sunset off of I-80 in Nebraska

Eventually, we stopped in Omaha and enjoyed the awesomeness of the city and a dive bar tour.

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

The next day, we head out to Chicago via I-80 and Iowa. I’m surprised and delighted by what we see out of the window. It’s beautiful.

Driving on I-80 through Iowa

Driving through Iowa on I-80

Iowa from I-80

Of course, as we get closer to Chicago, traffic stops. Which gives me time to hang out the window and take some pics.

The Chicago skyline from a distance

A photo of the Chicago Theater in Downtown Chicago

Another look at the Downtown Chicago skyline

After Chicago, we headed south through Indiana …

Windmills in Indiana

… to Louisville. Of course, we took obligatory shots at Churchill Downs and of the charm in Downtown Louisville.

Downtown Louisville's main street

Our second night, we hit up Holy Grail, a church-turned-bar near my friend’s place.

The Holy Grail in Louisville, Kentucky

No visit to Louisville is complete without trying some bourbon!

A bourbon sampler in Louisville, Kentucky

After two weeks of driving cross-country, we finally headed to Maryland, stopping to see my brother first in Frostburg.

An old hotel on Frostburg, Maryland's main street

And then, eight hours later, we were to my house. And the next brief chapter of my life began.

Americas Blog Colorado Destinations Illinois Iowa Kentucky

On the open road …

It’s dark, but above me I can hear the pitter patter of little feet on the floor. Little voices delighting in the morning.

I roll over.

It’s too early. I’m too tired.

But, I’m awake. Awake. In Denver. Starting Day Four of my Life After Las Vegas.

Laying in bed at my aunt and uncle’s house in Colorado, it has yet to hit me the huge life change I have just endured. The decisions I have made. The hole in my heart.

None of these things have hit me yet, but I know I can feel something.

Movers empty the van

My last days in Vegas came and went with only a little fanfare. My going away party a few days before I left was calm, spent with some of the people in my life I love with all of my heart. The second-to-last night in town, I spent with my best friend and her family, watching a boxing match in the comfort of their home. And my last night in the life I have lived since 2010 was spent with Dave as we prepared for the start of our road trip exploring America and my life as an expat.

Over drinks at the dive bar across from my house, he and I sat together, talking travel.

Absent was the large amount of pain I was feeling about my decision to leave this world. But, the next morning, as the movers hauled my material possessions out of the condo I rent and into storage, as I dropped my cats at their new home, the tears fell freely. Dripping down my face, drying in the desert sun.

This is pain. This is change. This is life.

But then, as quickly as those tears seared their way down my cheeks, they disappeared.

At my last meal in Las Vegas, sitting at the bar at the local wing joint, Dave turned to me.

“This is the start of your new life,” he said.

How can tears fall when there is something so joyous beginning?

Even now, three full days into life post-Las Vegas, I have yet to really cry. The adventure we’ve been on the past few days has been spectacular.

We’ve wandered through Zion National Park, just outside of St. George, Utah.

The entrance to Zion National Park in Utah

During our visit to Zion, we stayed at the “budget” motel, Terrace Brooke Lodge. For a mere $83 (plus tax) a night, we got two beds, slow (and often times non-existent wifi) and quite possibly the worst free breakfast I’ve ever had (including the 60 plus hostels I have stayed at). But, it was fun!

Nighttime at Terrace Brooke Lodge

Aside from the lodging, Springdale, which touches the entrance to Zion, is filled with beautiful restaurants that let guests enjoy the surroundings with huge patios. We checked out Bit & Spur and Oscar’s. Both were great, albeit pricey.

Bit and Spur reflects the stunning Zion

The view from Oscar's

We’ve driven through desolate (and still beautiful) parts of the desert southwest in Utah, complete with obligatory stop in Salinas for Denny’s at 10 a.m with an old friend (it’s the last stop before hitting Colorado, some 100-plus miles beyond).

Denny's

We’ve even cruised through the Rockies.

The Colorado Rockies

Yes, there are times when my heart feels that tinge of pain. When I long to have my cats snuggle in the crook of my arm and fall asleep together. When I realize I don’t have a bed, a home, a life in America anymore.

Then, I remember this is the start of the next amazing adventure. That I am seeing America. That I am going to Thailand. That I am living my life according to my own set of rules.

And that, my friends, is an awesome thing.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Colorado Nevada Utah

Exploring America

So, what does one do after making the decision to leave America and become an expat?

Plan an epic, massive, awesome road trip.

That’s right.

My time as a Las Vegan is coming to a bittersweet end in a mere few days (the movers come Monday, June 11). Then, I’m off on a cross-country road trip adventure before I head to Thailand and Elephant Nature Park.

Who is coming along for the ride?

First, Dave, of What’s Dave Doing, will be joining me.

He arrives Sunday to Las Vegas and gets to deal with an emotional D for a few days. (Yes, I feel bad but he has promised alcohol to take the sting of leaving my cats and driving north on 15.)

Where are we going?

No trip through the gorgeous southwest is complete without a stop in Utah at one of the stunning national parks. For this journey, we are parking it for two nights in Zion.

I’ve lived in the area for a total of five-plus years, so Zion isn’t new to me. But, it is to Dave! While I’m not going to be doing any death defying Angel’s Landing adventures, I do plan on re-visiting this gorgeous enclave of nature … and chilling by our hotel’s pool for a bit.

Then, we’re off to Colorado and TBEX — with a stopover to chill out in Denver and possibly drink some Fat Tire.

After getting some travel blogger conference time in, Dave and I will part ways and the passenger seat will open up to one of my favorite travel bloggers in the universe, Erica from Over Yonderlust.

#WinosontheRoad

Like Dave, we’ve never actually met in person, but through e-mail and phone conversations, I know I already adore the girl.

After Colorado, we are heading to Omaha (someplace in middle America, you’re welcome), then Chicago to see one of my best travel girls, Katie, and to make sure Erica crosses off “eating a hot dog” in the Windy City from her bucket list.

From Chicago, we are going to bop on down to Louisville, Kentucky to spend a few days with a good friend of mine, don fascinators and check out the Churchill Downs and even embark on a little bourbon tour.

Then, we’re in the home stretch and headed to Maryland to drop off my car, go sailing with my dad and raise a glass in our nation’s capitol.

What does this mean for the site? Well, for the next few weeks, as I pack, move and road trip it, there will be some guest posts to entertain. Then, once I’m back in the 301, it will be back to a more normal routine again! And, likely, tales of our epic adventures!

Want to follow along on the journey? Be sure to check out #winosontheroad on Twitter, Instagram and our blogs.

Have you done a cross-country road trip through America? Any places we should stop along the way? Leave a comment below and share your story!

 

30 Life Crisis

Hello, universe

“Mom!!” I scream into my phone as I drive away from Red Mountain Resort under the sinking Utah sun. “Something has happened!”

“Are you OK? What is it? Where are you?”

Entirely breathless, I launch into the past two days at Red Mountain. The desperation. The reiki. The shamanic healing.

“And now … something is different. I can’t even begin to explain it,” I marvel in utter disbelief on the quick change my life has suddenly made.

It’s only been 20 minutes, but I’m high. There is no sad in me anymore.

The sadness, the pain, the hatred, which reared its ugly head and began to drag me down, down, down, has disappeared.

My heart is racing. My shoulders are relaxed. There is this sense of peace I have never felt before that moves through my veins, beats with each pump of blood in my heart.

Suddenly, I am OK.

“Wow,” Mom says after I’ve explained what has just happened to me. “Ride this, D. Ride it as long as you can. But, if you start to feel sad again, don’t get discouraged. Remember this moment and how you feel.”

I promise her I will, and then I drive back in to Las Vegas.

There’s a point when coming into the city I used to loathe: a spot on I-15 when the desert gives way to the resort-laden Las Vegas skyline.

Tonight, as I drive in against a thick black, starless sky, and the bright lights of hotels glimmering in the distance, I don’t feel anything but total elation.

This is my chance to make my life right. This is my chance to love where I am. To love who I am … and I DO.

For the first time in months, I fall asleep and sleep through the night. And, in the morning, I wake up feeling the same high as the day before. I am energized. I have a bounce in my step. I stand in the mirror, trying to think a negative thought about me. But, something happens. I can’t. I don’t cringe. I don’t see something ugly. I see a girl who has finally found her way, finally made those demons who sat on her shoulder whispering into her ear every insecurity in the world have nothing to whisper.

It’s as if a spell has been cast on me.

I am incapable of feeling bad for myself. I am incapable of hating myself. I look in the mirror and I smile … and it is genuine.

I. Am. Happy. Healed.

And, I know what needs to be done with my life.

When I met with the shaman, she had explained to me the need to put my desires out into the universe, to let the world know what I want.

So, on this gorgeous Sunday morning, glowing from the weekend, I put the following out:

I want to quit my job.

I want to travel.

I want to work with elephants.

And then, as if on cue, the universe takes notice.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Nevada Utah

Awake my soul: the story of shamanic healing

Self. Birth. Transformation. Relationships.

Those four cards stare at me on the animal hide table in the little room of Betina Lindsey, the shaman at Red Mountain Resort.

“Well, this fits,” she says.

I close my eyes. I can only hope she’s right.

Betina is my last resort. She is my little glimmer of hope that, with this shamanic healing session, I can somehow overcome the sadness that has been eeking the energy out of me, leaving me so empty. So exhausted. So dead inside.

When I walk into her office, an old hotel room converted into a place of comfort, complete with crystals, photos of shamans, spiritual paintings and more, I try to let go of the preconceived notions of what I am about to do.

I’ve never been into any of this stuff. The cards. The crystals. It was only yesterday, with my reiki session and utter lack of energy, that I realized there was something out of balance with my body. That my chakras were clogged. I didn’t even know what a chakra was until yesterday when Cynthia told me mine were basically blocked.

The smell of sage permeates the air as she guides me to the little chair which sits in front of a table covered with a golden animal hide.

“Let me get a reading on you,” she says. “Sit and close your eyes.”

I do.

After a moment, she speaks. “You are too accommodating.”

Yes. Yes, I can be that.

“You are at a point in your life where you are on a plank. You can’t walk back, but you also can’t move forward. You don’t believe in yourself enough. You won’t take that jump.”

My eyes well up with tears.

Yes. I am paralyzed. I can’t move because I have nothing but hatred for myself. I can’t stand who I am. I can’t stand the person I have become since I returned from my travels. This is not the life I want. And yet, I can’t break free from it. I can’t heal myself. 

I reach for a tissue and wipe my eyes as she begins to place cards on the tiny table.

She uses six decks of various cards, including tarot.

Then, she does the reading.

Everything she culls from the reading is accurate. Spot. On.

“You don’t like yourself. You won’t be able to do anything until you do.”

I sit and blink.

I’ve been trying to like myself. I’ve been trying to get over this. It’s taken me months, and instead of feeling better, all of those things I have kept bottled up and now have discovered weigh on me more than they did when I was blissfully unaware.

“You won’t move on, you won’t be in a relationship, you won’t have anything until you are able to honor your inner child. You have to find some way to love who you are.”

I don’t know how to do that.

Again, I feel the tears burn. I want to explain to her how hard I have been working. How frustrated I have become. How all I want to do is run. To escape. To go sit with elephants in Thailand and be relived of thinking about myself for a few wonderful moments.

She leaves one card face down on the table as she escorts me to another area in the room.

“Here,” she says, lifting up a plate full of different crystals and rocks. “Pick a stone that speaks to you.”

I reach for the amethyst.

“Now, I want you to take one thing you want to get rid of from your body and focus all of your energy on it. Send it from your body into the stone.”

I squeeze my eyes closed as hard as I can, forcing the one thing I want out of my body more than anything else: the self-hatred.

As she chants, I imagine that feeling of disgust moving its way from my heart, from my mind, through my veins and out my fingertips and into this tiny rock which has become hot in my palm.

Leave my body. Get out. Never come back. 

Then, Betina gently guides me to another area in the room where a bear hide covers the floor.

“Lay down,” she instructs.

I oblige, letting my head sink into the soft fur. She begins placing stones on different points on my body — the places where my (not flowing) chakras are.

“Now, I want you to close your eyes and imagine you are with Little Diana. She’s four or five years old. Imagine being with her. And I want you to sit with her, talk with her, tell her she is beautiful, that you love her, and then I want you to take her with you on a journey through your life. Take her with you to the beautiful places you have seen. Show her all of the amazing things you have experienced. Honor her. Let her know she is with you, always.”

Then, she begins to chant in a language I don’t understand. While she chants and uses the crystal bowls, I find Little Diana.

I see her perfectly. She’s wearing a little blue dress, blonde hair with short bangs. A little nose. Big, brown eyes. Little D is sitting in her bunny wall-papered room on beige carpet. I find her and kneel down to sit with her.

She looks at me and smiles.

I know you.

I smile back and take her hand.

“Hi,” I whisper to her. “How are you?”

She says nothing.

The mournful sound of bowls echos in my ears.

Hand clenched in mind, I touch her soft little face.

“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to her. “I am so, so sorry. I stopped thinking about you somewhere in my life. I got sidetracked. I got angry. I got sad. Really, really sad.”

Little D’s grip tightens in my hand.

I breathe deep as Betina softly chants.

“I love you. You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are strong. You are everything you ever wanted to be. And, I am sorry for not honoring you a long time ago. I am sorry for not telling you these things.”

Then, as the music from Betina gets louder, I move from my old bedroom with my old self to Portugal.

Little D and I sit together on the golden sand of Lagos, as the sun sinks into the Atlantic Ocean.

“See, look where you are. On the other side of the world!” I say to Little D.

Then, we are in Spain, listening to flamenco music. We are watching F-1 from the stands in Valencia. We are trekking for gorillas. We are sitting on the roof deck of a riad in Morocco, watching as the buildings glow pink and listening to the call for prayer echo throughout the ancient walls. Together, she and I walk with elephants.

At some point, the tunes from the bowl turn into bells in my mind. And, now, the bells signify the death of a part of me. I can feel it leave my body as I take Little D around the world with me.

The hatred flows right out of me.

And, something else comes in. A feeling of calm. Of peace. Of love for myself.

As Betina finishes, I cough. “Sorry,” I murmur.

“It’s normal,” she explains. “You are getting rid of what you need to get rid of.”

I stand up slowly.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel … different.”

She stands me in the center of the room and does a Native American prayer with me, turning me towards different spirit worlds, blessing me. Then, we move back to the table where the last card lays.

I flip it over.

Commitment.

“You know what this means?” She asks me.

We both do.

I hug her and walk back out into the Utah afternoon.

An entirely different person.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Utah

The (in)exchange of energies

Cynthia taps on my chest.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I can feel those taps reverberate through my body. I can hear the sounds echo in my ears.

Hollow. I feel hollow.

“OK,” she says softly, powering up the massage table to a sitting position. “How stressed are you?” she asks, her gentle eyes full of concern.

I bite my lip. I fight the tears I know want to spill out at that question.

I’m beyond stressed. I’m clawing at rocks 10 feet below the ground and can’t come up for air.

“Oh, I’m pretty stressed,” I remark. Then, I panic. “Oh my god, did I give you bad energy?”

After a 50-minute Reiki treatment at Red Mountain Resort, my practitioner smiles calmly.

“You are very stressed. There were some points during your treatment where I tried to find energy, and nothing was there. That tapping? It was me trying to stir something in you …”

“And nothing happened?” I ask, my eyes closing. My heart sinking. I know the answer. There’s nothing inside of me anymore.

I can’t go through life like this any longer.

“You need to get this stress out of your life. You need to give yourself permission to remove whatever it is that is causing you this stress out of your life. It’s not good for you.”

I can’t. Not yet.

I don’t explain my situation, the fact that I am at a career cross-road — I have a part-time job that attempts to pay the bills, plus all of my freelance travel writing that is going into the online piggy bank I have created.

I don’t tell her my struggles with depression throughout my entire life. The struggles I am currently facing as I try to come to terms with so many things that involve changing the way I think, the way I live my life, the dreams I have.

Instead, I simply ask: “What can I do?”

She explains I would benefit from lymphatic drainage. That this light touching procedure will help ease my stress and relax my body.

Then, she warns me. “If you keep this up, you won’t live past 50 or 60. You can’t live your life this stressed out. It isn’t healthy for you. It impacts every part of your life.”

Again, I nearly cry.

If she only knew.

She wraps her arms around me, sending some positive energy into my body, then says goodbye.

“Tonight, don’t write. Just go sit outside and look at the stars in the sky and relax.”

I promise her I will, then I head back out into the starry Utah night. A world away from Las Vegas.

Solitude, standing.

For two days, I am situated at Red Mountain Resort, a gorgeous slice of outdoor heaven about two hours from Vegas, nearby St. George in the tiny town of Ivins, Utah.

And, by tiny, I mean tiny. Compared to Las Vegas’ huge population, Ivins only has 5,000 residents.

After I grab a healthy dinner in the resort’s restaurant, I head back to my suite (a gorgeous 1,100-square-foot villa), throw on my swim suit, and head out into the chilly night.

I sink into the bubbling hot tub and look up towards the darkness.

Above me, clusters of stars, some so tiny I can’t barely see but know by the soft glow, they exist, twinkle.

Relax, D. Breathe, D. Life doesn’t have to be so hard. You don’t have to be so stressed out.You don’t have to put yourself through this.

I focus on the stars, trying to clear my mind.

During my reiki, Cynthia instructed me to go to my safe place to clear my mind. Until that moment, I’d never had a safe place. I didn’t even know where to start.

“What’s yours?” I had asked.

She told me, and then I tried to find mine. After a few moments of debate, I settled on Thailand and the elephants. As she lightly touched me, moved her hands above my body, I imagined myself sitting next to Faa Mai, singing “Que Sera, Sera” and petting Medo on my last day at Elephant Nature Park.

But under the stars? I can’t clear my mind. All I keep thinking is there is something so inherently wrong with me. I can’t unwind. I can’t relax. I can’t just be. And, now, it’s slowly killing me.

I crawl into my king bed that night and close my eyes. I try to quiet my brain, but instead it chides me for being absolutely emotionally and physically exhausted. There is no sleep.

I remind myself tomorrow is a new day, a day of promises, of hope, in this beautiful place. And, a meeting with a shaman for some spiritual advising and sound healing.

At this point, I’m game for anything. I just want to find my happiness again. Even if it means letting my preconceived notions wither away and embracing something entirely different from the norm.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Utah

Daily Wanderlust: Love in the desert

I’ve been talking a lot lately about the beauty of America’s desert southwest. Maybe it’s because I am trying to soak up as much as I can before I embark on the next journey.

Regardless, I’ve been going through photos of late and find myself staring at the untouched beauty in Utah, the reds and blues of the Hoover Dam and the deep orange hues found in the Valley of Fire.

Another beautiful spot to visit near Las Vegas? Red Rock Canyon. The outcropping of red rocks from the sand-colored mountains and the mint green brush makes for some seriously remarkable scenery. That, and the cacti.

Destinations