A quick introductory note: I openly struggle with anxiety and perfectionism (recovering perfectionist, in the words of Brene Brown). I know that I am not alone. I also know that my struggle and voicing my journey has helped many people. It helps to be the voice for those that cannot and to help someone realise that there is help/hope and that we are not alone. Also, I am a researcher, with a focus on mental health so it is easier for me to get people help, if they ask. Either way, I have been a great support and voice.
How Arizona changed my life, in facing my fears (false evidence that appears real):
I had never gone on vacation alone before, let alone travel to another country alone. I’m afraid to go on my own, a single woman travelling in the middle of no where. Yes, I am in my 30’s, but still, my anxiety. I don’t know how dangerous people are there and what if my rental car goes down? What if there is no cell signal or roaming? These were a few of the excuses that I gave to myself when my friend backed out of a planned trip to Arizona. However, I needed a break, a spiritual break. I was going through A LOT: over-worked, burnt out, tired, recovering from a bad break-up (another story) and needed to get away. My American friend/colleague told me about Sedona, it was a retreat, and encouraged me to “see the Grand Canyon at least once in your life.”
Long story short, I faced my on-going struggle with anxiety and faced my fears over travelling alone in the desert. I had to eliminate the non-existent “The hills have eyes” scenario and meeting one of America’s active serial killers on the road.
Let’s face it, Sedona is catered for Women’s yoga/retreat trips and many travellers from around the world. Arizona may have it’s issues, but is relatively safe for major tourist attractions – Especially, since I was going during Spring Break and Spring Training (baseball), so many families would be on the road with me. OK, so I had my therapist talk me through it, but still, I got it…there are good/bad places everywhere, just stay vigilant.
So, I planned my Phoenix/Sedona/Grand Canyon (Arizona) trip. The rental car and luxury hotels to rest in, because why not? I deserve it, after my crazy long work hours, heartache, plus my friend that backed out kindly let me use their travel points (which were going to expire anyways) and I used my travel card points.
First, getting over travelling alone was huge for me. Second, getting over driving in Arizona with scary state police was huge too (AZ police was headed by a well-known Trump supporter – I’m brown and “pass” for many different races, usually people in America are just confused by me (then again, in my multicultural “bubble” people often can’t place me and ask “what are you?”, seriously), so I was just extra scared in my own head). Also, the presidential candidates at the time both visited Arizona days before and during my trip & I was a bit nervous. Basically: Going alone with my big ball of anxiety was HUGE for me. I was cheating a bit though, my colleague who suggested Sedona lives in Phoenix, so knowing she was not too far in case of an emergency made it easier.
Can I say that I was scared over nothing and felt really silly about it? Well, I did. Phoenix was wonderful and the landscape reminded me of where the Roadrunner and Wile e coyote chased one another in the “Bugs Bunny” cartoon I grew up watching. Really, the landscape looked like a cartoon to me or a “land” in Disney World.
While in Phoenix, I went to the Botanical Gardens where even stranger flora and fauna and birds were observed. Aside from nature, to my surprise, the giant mall I explored was exactly like the mall I consider my haunt back at home (turns out both malls are under the same management and they kept a similar look). Well, I won’t get into Phoenix too much, except the people were helpful and friendly. I loved it. Also, I was surprised that there was some diversity, not a lot, but some. Mind you, Phoenix was more diverse than I anticipated, but of course I can’t compare it to the multicultural “bubble” I live in. Either way, I love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, even through observation – It’s the researcher in me.
Leaving Phoenix, my 2 hour drive to Sedona was a surprisingly beautiful one. The drive went from cartoon landscapes full of cacti to vibrantly coloured mountains with actual trees. I was told, you know you are leaving Phoenix once you start to see trees. As you start to see the trees, you also see beautiful and seemingly out of this world mountains. My mountain comparison before this experience: minor ones at home, median ones in Montreal, strange ones in Las Vegas, breath-taking ones in Southern California, and magnificent ones in Vancouver (ignoring my Rockies visual as I fly across the States).
You can basically see the red rocks before you get into Sedona – It was like a martian landscape to me. I had seen a fictional martian landscape once… during my trip to Epcot in Disney World, on the ride “Mission – Space” – Side Note: I don’t recommend anyone drink alcohol and go on that Mars ride in Disney World. Not a good idea.
Once I arrived in the unique little place that is Sedona, surrounded by red rocks and mountains everywhere, the first thing I noticed near my hotel was the McDonald’s. Only me, only I would notice the McDonald’s – well, instead of the golden arches they are a pretty aqua colour – So, as I waited for my hotel to be ready, I immediately went to McDonald’s. At McDonald’s I grabbed a tea and sat outside to take pictures for my friends (yes, I bring back such tall tales for my friends). It’s sad or funny, but my friends are equally strange and fascinated by the “different” McDonald’s – McDonald’s is always golden, in any country you visit…mostly. Turns out from my research, Sedona made McDonald’s arches be aqua coloured to compliment the landscape. The aqua does look nice, so I can’t complain.
The other thing I noticed about Sedona was that I was allergic to everything (I do not have bad allergies). It was still lovely while being stuffy and on a relaxing retreat. During my time in Sedona, I did all of the typical tourist things, with a few things on my own (spa, yes please), I did it all except partaking in activities with the re-born Atlantian pyramid crystal people. Sorry, I’m open-minded, but not that open-minded. I also avoided the touristy yoga tours – I love yoga, especially hot yoga, but I wasn’t interested in the tours I saw. I’m sure some are great, but they seemed a bit kitschy to me (Yogi Bear anyone?).
While in Sedona, I drove up to the Grand Canyon (about 2 hour drive) – That drive was beyond breath-taking. The diversity of the mountain ranges and landscapes you experience is amazing. I was scared driving on the roads winding around the mountains, but my God the views were beautiful. I just took it all in and was thankful for the experience. I didn’t stop to take any pictures, because I figured someone out there probably has professional pictures, if I so choose to Google. The drive to the Grand Canyon was pleasantly smooth, but I was still allergic to something there too – but that didn’t stop me from going on my bike tour (breathing outta my mouth, so attractive).
The Grand Canyon is a bit like nature’s Las Vegas (to me), because everything appears closer and smaller than it actually is. You do not fully grasp or “see” the grand size of the place until you spot a river or look across and see people, then, you realise the magnitude of what you are looking at (a picture that I took is the main image of my blog). At the Grand Canyon, you understand why the Natives found this location sacred, because there is a spirit or majesty to the place. I felt calm and at peace – full silence.
As I mentioned at the start of this long-ass post, I was going through a lot at the time. I was going through so much personally and professionally, so my main objective at the Grand Canyon was to take a page out of the native handbook of sacred spirit. I wanted to say a prayer or meditate with intent at the Grand Canyon. My prayer was to let go, forgive, and heal. It is kind of nice to “throw” something away from your mind’s eye while at the Grand Canyon – Again, a place held sacred and honoured with spirituality for thousands of years. If countless generations of humans congregated at the canyon at different times throughout history, then the place is full of positive energy (if you believe this, I believe in intent). If a place has such spiritual intent and meaning for people (whether it be a prayer or awestruck wonder and love of the natural landscape), I thought it would be worth the try to bounce off of that energy and aim to heal. Maybe I would honour the energy or it was just good psychologically, who knows? I do know that I refused to throw any real objects or paper down into the Grand Canyon, as others often do, because I had just seen a documentary on the Condors (I did not want to impact their habitat especially). A personal and internal prayer was performed at the grandest place of all in North America, at the Grand Canyon. I agree with my American friend/colleague, I recommend seeing the Grand Canyon once in your lifetime, if you can.
What my Arizona trip did for me:
In the end, I am no longer afraid of being alone. I am no longer afraid to travel alone or drive alone. This trip probably helped me live alone too. You grow and get ultra spiritual during the rest period of being alone, or at least I have. I am free. I met great people along the way and will probably meet others as I continue on facing my fears along my journey.
I’m not going to lie, everyday isn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it’s always a day that I’m grateful for. Everyday is another along my journey…my rebirth and cycle. Side note: I’ve noticed my growth and progression is cyclical, not linear, which is another topic and more in-tune with my birth-culture (I think I just invented a word, but in-tune with the culture of my parents and their country). All in all, I look back and realise the changes that have since occurred from my Arizona trip – In retrospect, I think it was just the beginning of my new chapter. I think my release and prayer at the Grand Canyon has had grand consequences. Let’s see what happens next…