Travel

Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

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Indeed, an Instagrammer’s dream, this vast land is made up of a mix of Joshua trees and dramatic rock formations. This oasis of sorts, transports you into what (in my mind) would look like another dimension. There is this eerie feeling to this colossal landscape. It is peaceful, it is lonely, it is unbothered by the city chaos we are surrounded by.

Visiting all 59 U.S. national parks is for sure an item I’d love to check off of my world travel bucket list. So far, I have been fortunate enough to explore Yellowstone, drive through Zion and camp in Yosemite. For the longest time, I had been wanting to take a trip to Joshua Tree, especially considering how close it is to Los Angeles.

This past weekend, my bestie and I were feeling mentally worn out from the week and felt this getaway would be the perfect remedy (& we were right).  Expected highs were 114°– 117 ° so we planned on arriving mid-afternoon to try to beat the heat. But boy, were we wrong here, we arrived at 3pm and it was still 115°! Luckily, we had a full cooler stocked with water, foot-long subs, superb air conditioning, and tons of snacks to keep us fueled. There is an entrance fee of $25 but for some reason there was not an attendant on duty so everyone enjoyed their stay fo’ free (yaas).

We made our first stop at the visitor center (Black Rock Campground) to get assistance in mapping out the certain landmarks we wanted to hit along our drive. This seemingly endless span of land offers a plethora of routes and pullouts you can choose from. But if you plan to make this a day trip, I’d suggest confining your sightseeing to the main park roads.

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Due to the extremely high/dry temperature, we decided to take a more scenic route vs hiking our way through. I did bring my pup but I would only suggest this if you are planning a scenic visit (at least in these temps).

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Start at the North Entrance (Twentynine Palms). This area reminded me of Radiator Springs shown in Disney’s “Cars.” Again, untouched and beautifully lonely. Only about 15 minutes into our visit, a Coyote approached our car. So, do travel with caution.

As the sun set, we took some beautiful shots.

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We decided to set-up shop at the east side of the park for stargazing. We opened the hatch of our truck and laid out. Slowly but surely, a crowd of people began to form with their telescopes and professional cameras. Little did we know, it was prime season for Milky Way viewing. We met some awesome people and together watched the sky light up. By 9-10pm the sky was litttttt. I had never seen so many stars at once in my life…it was magical. Our friendly neighbors agreed with me in that out of all the national parks we have visited, Joshua Tree offered the best celestial show.

Whether you are looking for a weekend escape or a quick turn-around trip, 10/10 would recommend Joshua Tree. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and become one with mother nature and her starlight.

Travel

The Willingness to Explore Unfamiliar Terrains

 

Whether it may be intellectual or land, we must be willing to explore new terrain.

Roma. O, Roma. La Città Eterna. The zest of this city made me feel so full. In fact, Italy was by far my favorite European country out of the eight I visited. From Venice -> Cinque Terre-> Florence -> Tuscany ->Amalfi Coast-> down to Sicily… Italy is simply a dream. The language, scenery, cuisine, literally EVERYTHING was as if I was living in a postcard. It has almost been two years since my travels abroad and I’ve never felt more nostalgic.

Once we arrived, culture shock hit us like a ton of bricks. But as time passed, I finally felt at ease. I would notice how much more welcoming the locals were with me as my time there proceeded. On my walks to school (4 miles altogether), I would develop rapport with the local market/cafe/restaurant owners. Closer to the end of my experience, I was greeted by name, a few times a day by these individuals. This by far was the most satisfying feeling. I felt as if I was not just considered another turisti Americani but instead recognized as if I were a local. I tried to immerse myself in the culture, the best I could… so this was everything to me. I actually envisioned myself one day settling down in Rome, as I wholeheartedly fell in love with the culture. There were days I would walk past the Roman Forum or Colosseum and feel as if I was transported back in time but then I’d blink and feel the whiff of air zooming past as nuns made way on their Vespas.

Lately, I’ve been finding my days very monotonous, daydreaming at work, ready for adventure…craving something new. As the days have passed, I’ve invested actual thought into the possibility of moving back to Rome for a year or so.

I feel it’s time to push my boundaries yet again and expand my universe. I want to feel as whole as I did while abroad. Becoming familiar with the unfamiliar, that’s the feeling I yearn.

Part of me wonders if this is just another one of my wild ideas, but then again, is it? At this point in my life, I don’t necessarily have anything holding me back. I still have the liberty to pick up and go. This is something that has been eating at me for a while and I feel it’s only right to act on it. I encourage any young adult/post-grad to consider the same. If the idea scares you, it’s probably something you should do!

 

Travel

Why I Studied Abroad

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Prior to making the decision to study abroad, I rarely traveled. Traveling around the world was something my parents’ planned for post-retirement. They believed and instilled in me, “Work hard now and enjoy later…” but transitioning into college, I found this ideology problematic. I met so many peers who shared stories like: being housed by a family in Peru, or living in a jungle in Thailand for a week, or even being blessed by the Pope at the Vatican.

This excited the suppressed wanderlust in me.  I had been blessed with so much at this point in my life but I always felt this void. One of which, I could not describe. When the Education Abroad Program was presented to me, I thought, “How fucking amazing would that be to finally travel but nooo, I can’t afford this.” As the deadline grew closer, I began to really reflect on this opportunity. I believe traveling is a dream every person on this earth has at some point, but realistically, it’s only attainable for few. I began to take my parents for example, life got in the way before they could reap the fruits of their labor. My dad’s illness began a few years before his retirement, ultimately preventing any travel.

Seeing this upset first hand, I had a new perspective. If I passed up on this opportunity of a lifetime, I would always wonder, “what if?” I did not want to live like that. I finally told myself: I’m still young, healthy enough to do this, and I had so much yet to discover, so many new places, cultures, and above all…myself.

I was extremely curious if it was in fact traveling that would make me feel whole.

I remember reading this saying: “Travel far enough, you meet yourself” 🌎

Soon after, I was convinced…I needed this adventure. To me, this was not only an opportunity to enjoy another part of the world. I wanted to use this time for quite the opposite, really. I wanted to be uncomfortable, test my limits, and eventually become familiar with the unfamiliar. I always relied on my family to help me out in shitty situations but “When in Rome,” I would have none other but myself to figure it all out.

I decided on Rome, Italy. It had been a fantasy of mine to visit, ever since I first watched Mary-Kate & Ashley’s – When in Rome, The Lizzy McGuire Movie, and Under the Tuscan Sun, (HA!) Italy’s cultural richness intrigued me.

I will write about my actual time abroad in a later post but what I will conclude with is that the decision to study/live abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I felt the most alive in those 4 months than I ever have. This trip gave me life, it changed my life, and most importantly, it was the healthiest thing I could have done for myself. Don’t let the fear of the unknown, or job responsibilities, or your financial situation stop you from traveling. Money will come and go but your health and the ability to just pick up and go while we are still young…won’t always be there. If the opportunity arises, do yourself a favor and buy that plane ticket!