Picking up from where I left off last time, here are a few more of the lessons I learned in the process of moving to Oregon. I apologize in advance for the overwhelming amount of Grand Canyon pictures, but it was unavoidable.
- The Grand Canyon is beyond words amazing. I knew this intellectually. I knew this to the extent that I chose to stop for an extra night in Arizona for the sole purpose of seeing the Grand Canyon. I knew this enough that I could not even wait until the next day to see it and drove there almost as soon as I checked into my hotel. But nothing could have prepared me for that first breathtaking moment, standing on the edge of an incomprehensibly large canyon wholly in awe of the colors and the textures and the utter awesomeness of it.
And that was just the beginning. Before the end of the day, I had savored every moment of a spectacular sunset. The next morning I woke up at 3 am to ensure I made it back to the Grand Canyon in time for the sunrise. Despite the early (oh, so early) hour, it was truly one of the most memorable and magnificent mornings of my life – each moment more exquisite than the one before, the skies an ever-changing arrangement of color as the stillness of darkness slowly intensified into the magical light of early morning. Although I had enjoyed the sunset of the previous day, the quiet, uncrowded early morning was by far my preference. As if having a most extraordinary morning were not enough, I then experienced the canyon in a whole new way as I hiked a portion of the Bright Angel Trail. Even as I slowly made my way up the trail (as they say – hiking down is a choice, hiking up is not; and it is both hot and steep), I could not help but appreciate the enormous complexity of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I would pause and just touch the surprisingly cool walls of the canyon, awed by the history written upon and in them. This day was one of the great ones.
- Sydney is a man magnet. So, maybe I already kind of knew this, but I appreciated her cute guy attracting skills even more as I made my way across the country alone. Being rather introverted, it is sometimes difficult for me to meet new people or to feel confident talking to someone I do not know that well. Enter Sydney. Thanks to her, I had no difficulty having interesting conversations or finding someone to talk to other than a hotel front desk clerk or a waiter. As an added bonus, many of the above mentioned people whom I met happened to be good-looking and have accents. I knew I brought her along for a reason. Although, to be fair, she really is a people magnet more generally, but man magnet was more alliterative. Plus, cute guys with accents…
- I learned what a desert really is. And what it is is Nevada. Having never been to anywhere in the state other than Las Vegas, I never grasped how truly desolate much of the rest of Nevada is. It was almost a surreal experience driving through so much nothingness. Between Vegas and Reno, there was the occasional small town (and by small I mean maybe 100 people and a couple of donkeys).
Each time I passed one, I would uneasily wonder what life would be like in such a place – isolated from most of the world and seemingly far from modern conveniences. And yet, such isolation made a place like Tonopah, Nevada possible. I had added this as a stop because it was a relatively convenient stopping point between the Grand Canyon and Oregon and because, as I researched my trip, I found that this old silver mining town (for that was the only reason the town ever existed) is considered one of the best places in the US to see the stars, largely due to its isolation from pretty much everything else. As soon as I verified that there was a pet friendly hotel other than the Clown Motel (which was somehow even more unimaginably creepy in person), I knew I had to stop there. I was still reeling a bit from my day at the Grand Canyon, so it would take a bit to impress me at this point. Regardless, I drove out into the desert, because a single woman driving out into the desert at night in one of the darkest places in the US is always a great idea. I am so glad I did. I sat on the front of my car in the cool desert air almost unable to believe my eyes. As my eyes adjusted to a whole new level of darkness, I could see literally thousands of stars. Thousands. And the Milky Way. The Milky freaking Way. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time (seriously – are you picturing how completely ridiculous I must have looked at that moment?). The immensity was beautiful and humbling.
- I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. More than anything else, I think this was what I learned during the trip. I can move to Oregon, I can drive across the country, I can talk to people I have never met, I can deal with challenging and unexpected situations, I can finally be a psychologist. The list goes on and on and includes some things I never could have imagined myself doing a year ago, or even six months ago. But I have done them. Not because they were easy or unscary or because I thought myself capable of them, because most of these things were hard and terrifying and seemingly impossible. Instead of waiting to be sure of myself, I jumped in with both feet and no life raft and figured it out as I went along. I am still figuring it out. But I have learned that I do not have to have it all figured out in order to move forward. That is a lesson I always want to remember.