What do you do when you’re in Arizona and have the day off? You go to the Grand Canyon!
This week Abe and I made the trip up Highway 89, through the quaint town of Williams on Route 66, and headed to the Grand Canyon National Park. This was a trip four years in the making for me and the visit was definitely sentimental.
My freshman year at the University of Missouri I attended a lecture by Joan Brock, a woman who unexpectedly lost all of her sight at age 32 – while working at a school for the blind! She was witty and smart, but more importantly, she was incredibly inspiring. She talked about living life and overcoming obstacles.
One anecdote from her speech that still sticks with me is when she talked about working with the school children. Having been able to see for the first half of her life, and now being able to personally relate to the disability of blindness, they would often ask her to describe things, such as the Grand Canyon. Joan described her gratitude for having been able to see things like the Grand Canyon and having truly lived her life fully.
The Grand Canyon. Here I was, 18 and sitting in the audience thinking to myself, “I have not seen the Grand Canyon. She’s right – I need to do things while I can and not wait around!”
This speech was about four weeks before my freshman spring break. Determined and inspired by Joan, I decided that I wasn’t just going home to lounge around for 9 days, I was going to do something I had never done before!
Of course the first thing I wanted to do was visit the Grand Canyon, but after a quick Google search I realized that a 20+ hour drive and camping just wasn’t for me. (I wasn’t as outdoorsy back then – now you could definitely sign me up for that one!) So I started thinking of other places and landed on Washington D.C. Our nation’s capitol and I had never been there!
Now, this was four weeks before spring break and who was I going to go with? Everyone had plans for Panama City or South Padre! I ended up roping my international friend Michelle into coming and my, now good friend, Emily – a girl I had only hung out with a few times. We booked the plane tickets and the hotel with just two weeks before break!
D.C. turned out to be incredible. We went to the National Mall (bucket list: run on it!). We got to see the Vietnam Wall Memorial (very special to me because my dad is a Marine Vietnam Veteran). We went to the spy museum and did the interactive adventure. We took the Metro and explored! Here I was with two girls who I didn’t know that well and having an absolute blast!
Even the trip home was an adventure. We were 2.5 hours into our three hour flight from Newark and the pilot comes on to say that we have to turn back and fly all the way back to the East Coast because KC was frozen over! (Not that there aren’t 100 different airports between KC and Newark, but we flew all the way back!) Now Emily’s parents offered to put us up in a hotel, but I said “No, no, no!” There was one thing that everyone has to do at some point in their life – sleep overnight in an airport! And we did, on the eve of my 19th birthday – camped out in the terminal, we stayed up, chatted with other stranded families, made friends with some of the TSA, and saw what life really is like to live in an airport!
That spring break trip to Washington D.C. kickstarted my love of travel and adventure! I had such a blast I was determined to always do something incredible over spring break. That being said, I spent my next birthday also stranded in an airport. I was flying home from a trip to San Diego and had booked my flights wrong – my own fault, I know! I wasn’t about to spend the entire day in the airport, so I figured out the San Diego Trolley system and spent the day galavanting across San Diego. Balboa Park, the Natural History Museum, Point Loma – it’s impressive how much you can see even when you’re lugging a suitcase along with you.
I really owe that one lecture to a pretty big mentality shift for me. I don’t know that I would be where I am today – driving the Wienermobile across the country, spending each week in a new hotel in a new city, constantly meeting new people. Not only did it change my perspective, but it also gave me some good material – I told the airport slumber party story in my interview for the job to show my flexibility!
So this week I did it – I saw the Grand Canyon!
In that moment I just absorbed how unbelievably grateful I am for this opportunity and how lucky I am to be on this journey.
Check it off the bucketlist – I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and back!