Have you ever been spent time at a place of complete wonder? A special place touches the awe-inspired parts of your soul? A sight where you turn in circles mesmerized by the design that could not have been created by any human but only in the artistic imagination of God? That was my experience in Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a “slot” canyon located on a Navajo Reservation near Page, Arizona. Slot canyons are found all over the world but usually in areas that receive low rainfall. When Page has excessive rainfall in a short period of time, it creates flash floods. The excessive water cuts through the rock. In this case, the rock is made of Navajo Sandstone. Over time, a hole or “slot” is created in the top of the rock, falling deep into the canyon below.
Slot canyons often go unnoticed because the small entrance hole is misleading to what lies beneath. One of the signifying markers is the opening “slot” at the top of the rock is smaller than the canyon depth. The opening could be just a few feet wide but then plunge hundreds of feet to the canyon floor.
Imagine the water of a flash flood cascading down through a narrow opening and filling the canyon from the bottom up. The pressure from the fast rising water presses and sloshes against the sides of the sandstone walls causing erosion in the most unusual and colorful wave patterns. A photographer’s dream.
The canyon floor moves vertically depending on how much water has come in. The more rain, the more erosion causing more sand to be pulled from the walls and deposited on the ground, thus raising the floor level. The danger of drowning is serious during these storms since they can come with little warning and drop high levels of water in a short amount of time.
None-the-less, the results of mother nature are beyond breathtaking. The colors inside the canyon change as the sun moves through the sky giving each visitor a unique and special experience.
Antelope Canyon can be also be accessed by boat from Lake Powell. As you cruise the beautifully clear, turquoise water through the narrow cliff walls, you can only imagine what canyon paths remain hidden just beyond the rock surface.
Whether you visit by land or by sea, Antelope Canyon deserves the extra time and attention. You may just never be the same afterwards.
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.” Psalm 18:2-3
We grew up in the same town. We went to the same elementary, middle and high school. We did not run in the same crowds or have the same circle of friends. Thinking back, our paths really only crossed through the time commitment abyss of high school marching band and concert band. We graduated one year apart. The last time we remember being in the same place at the same time was when we were nineteen years old at a mutual friend’s wedding. And then we fell out of touch.
Nearly half-way through my backpacking journey, I happen to receive a Facebook friend request from Adam. I thought, “Oh how nice! It has been so long, I wonder how Adam is doing and what he is up to.” I had no idea Adam would become such a valuable person in this journey and now in my life.
Adam began to consistently follow me through my blog and Facebook. He liked nearly every photo and commented on most posts. He was always enthusiastic and encouraging no matter what the topic or destination. Eventually we chatted via private messenger, connecting as adults through our passion for travel.
When I decided to visit Phoenix, I sent Adam a message to let him know I was going to be in town and to see if he was available for coffee or dinner to catch up in person. Not only did he agree, he said, “We want you to come stay with us. We have plenty of space. If it is for one day or five days, you are welcome here!” Oh, if Adam and Paul only knew what was coming…
At the point when Adam offered, I did not have my arrangements figured out yet. I was still working on all of those fine details that comes with schedule coordination. The main reason I decided to visit Phoenix was for the number of family and friends who reside in the area. I also have a couple of friends who recently moved to Phoenix in the past year or so. I was excited to have the time and opportunity to visit with many relationships in addition to seeing the sights of Arizona.
Let’s be honest, texting and messaging conversations about adventures are one thing but what is it like to stay with an acquaintance friend that I have not seen in fifteen years? How many nights are considered appropriate? What if our lifestyles do not compliment each other? What if it is awkward or difficult? What if I am a burden instead of a blessing? What are their expectations from me? All of these questions swirled around in my brain following Adam’s hospitality offer. I had no answers for any of them.
As my schedule appeared to start smoothing out, Adam and I arranged for me to stay with him and Paul for a few days closer to the end of my time in Arizona. Adam was already getting started in planning some sights and adventures to take me on. We ended our conversation with Adam saying, “If anything changes and you need a place to stay, our door is open!” Thanks Adam, but I think I have it all sorted out…and shortly thereafter, MY plans started to unravel.
The day before I left for Phoenix, my first night’s accommodation fell through. Not knowing what else to do, I called Adam. “I know this is really short notice but could I stay with you tomorrow night? My plan fell through. It will only be for this first night.” Without hesitating, Adam said, “Absolutely! We are excited for you to come!” And so I did.
Adam and Paul welcomed me in with wide open arms. After hugs, introductions and dinner, we sat outside on the back patio. The weather was perfectly comfortable for shorts and a tank top. No mosquitos or gnats to bite us and no humidity to give that Wisconsin cold sweat at night. It was a beautiful night for chatter, laughter and a lovely glass of wine.
At one point, Paul decided it was late enough and time for bed. He said his “good nights” and retreated inside the house. Adam and I stayed outside talking and talking, never an awkward silence. Finally, one of us looked at the clock to notice it was four o’clock in the morning! Adam and I had stayed up all night talking like old friends.
Practicing with selfie stick with Adam
Paul helping me learn my new phone
Paul and Adam with new phone features
Lots of laughter with Adam and Paul
My intention was to head out the next day. But little by little, my accommodation plan continued to unravel. A great number of details I thought I had worked out, fell apart. And every time a plan fell, Adam said, “Good thing you are staying here with us. We love having you. You can stay here for as long as you want to.”
What is it about a person that causes them to generously open their door to a “seemingly” stranger and treat them like a treasured guest? After the first couple of days, they gave me a spare key to their home and said, “It is your home while you are here. Come and go as you want until you leave Arizona. Eat what you want. Lounge around as you want. We have no expectations but for you to enjoy staying with us.”
Adam had a few days off of work. Instead of staying home to relax, he and I took a road trip, heading south toward the old mining town of Bisbee. Along the way, we stopped at the beautiful Spanish Catholic Mission San Xavier del Bac.
Standing as the oldest European structure in all of Arizona, Mission San Xavier del Bac’s current building was completed in 1797 when Spain owned the land that is now called Arizona (the United States acquired the land in 1853 in the Gadsden Purchase). This building has seen its fair share of history changes over the years with Native American raids, Mexico acquiring the land when they were granted independence, United States acquiring the land from Mexico to Arizona breaking away from New Mexico to becoming a state of its own. All the while, this structure has continued to operate as a place of outreach and providing for the spiritual needs of its parishioners. I highly recommend stopping by for an hour to gaze at the Spanish Colonial exterior and to soak in the gorgeous artwork inside the church.
Curious to learn more? Follow the link to learn more information. http://www.sanxaviermission.org/Index.html
We continued heading south to Tombstone, Arizona. Back in the 1880’s, Tombstone was a silver mining boomtown crawling with miners, cowboys, bandits and all sorts of wild west shenanigans. Although the discovery of silver is what originally put the town on the map, it has gone down in history for the gunfight near the O.K. Corral involving Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and some renegade cowboys. For Hollywood’s recall of the story, watch the 1993 movie, Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Then I urge you to read some historical compilations for more accurate details surrounding the event.
As with many mining towns, once the town was purged of its natural resources, it nearly dried up into a ghost town. However, the historic district of Tombstone has been preserved as an example of a great American western frontier town. Visitors can walk the dirt streets along the wooden sidewalks or take a horse drawn wagon ride around the town. A number of the original buildings have been preserved and maintained as museums or operating businesses to give visitors a feel of historic Tombstone. Adam and I took in a reenactment of the famous gunfight which was comical and encouraged audience participation while providing historical details of the event.
Not knowing exactly what we were in for, Adam booked our one overnight at Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch. You guys, if you want a ranch experience, this is the place to go! The property mimics a street from historic Tombstone and is located just a few minutes outside of the town itself. The accommodations are hidden behind the false front doors of the jail, courthouse or trading post giving each room a personality all its own. They are beautifully decorated with elegant décor of the time period. The property offers a wide range of “ranch experiences” from horse riding to archery to various western card games. While we did not have time to take part in these activities, Adam and I had a great time looking at all the buildings, taking photos on the property, shooting some very poor games of pool in the saloon and simply enjoying the experience. The next morning, we savored a Cowboy breakfast at the chuck wagon which wound up being a fantastic spread of warm food made over an open campfire. This is one place I am excited to venture back to for a longer say. If this peaks your interest, take a look at the Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch’s website: http://www.tombstonemonumentranch.com/
When we reached our goal destination of Bisbee, Arizona, we were delighted to find far more than we anticipated.
Similar to Tombstone, the town of Bisbee struck gold, silver, lead and copper in the 1880’s which brought a flood of people to the area looking for work. In fact, the city became home to over 20,000 people which made it one of the largest and most culturally diverse cities between San Francisco and St. Louis at the time. Over nearly a century, Bisbee experienced a fluctuating population correlating with the ups and downs of the mining industry. As the mining era came to a close during the 1970’s, mining families left the town in search of stable work and free-spirited artists began to move in. Thanks to the hilly terrain, preserved homes and rustic feel, Bisbee has starred in a number of motions pictures. Most interestingly, it also has been used in films to depict early years in San Francisco. Today, the town has taken great care to preserve and restore the downtown buildings in order to maintain the historical integrity of the mining town while filling them with the newer wave of artistry and boutique style shops. Adam and I were delighted that the we took the time to visit Bisbee. Our only regret was not having close toed shoes along to be able to take the tour of Copper Queen Mine.
In my previous post, I talked about what I learned from my friend Becky, who was spontaneous to say, “How long will you be there? I am coming.” And she did.
On the flip side, I also learned a new depth in the heart of generosity from Adam and Paul who opened up their home. They did not think about how they could be put out. They did not get upset as my plans kept falling through. They gave me a spare key and said, “Come. Stay. You are always welcome here.” Hospitality at its finest.
You see, that is the kind of friend I want to be. I want to be the one who says, “How long are you there? I am coming.” I also want to be the friend who says, “Come and stay with me. My door is always open to you.”
My time with Adam and Paul was blessed. They had no idea my plans would be changing so drastically when they offered for me to stay at their house. But God knew. He knew the right people for me in the right moment. I feel blessed to have had the unexpected opportunity to spend with them. In two and a half weeks, we went from seemingly strangers to acquaintances to friends to the feeling of family.
Interested in travel blogs? Adam and Paul also travel around the globe. They claim to “live boring at home so they can take grand adventures!” Adam includes his beautiful photography with the blog. Visit the website for the photos, stay for the story at http://www.asldestinations.com.
Look for opportunity to bless someone, even if it does not seem “ideal”. Who do you appreciate more, the one who blesses out of their abundance or the one who blesses out of all that they have? In any given opportunity, we get to be either of those people! Sometimes we have abundance and sometimes we have just enough but when we have generous hearts, blessings will return to us because we gave anyway.
“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” I Peter 4:7-9
I learned that trekking with little planning takes more effort for me than following a pre-set path for a couple of reasons. First, the constant details. I am more of what I would call, a big picture person. Fine details become an overwhelming annoyance. When the details do not work out in the way I hope, my emotion can turn to frustration. Second, I was living in the past, present and future, all at the same time…And it was a struggle. I was processing the big picture of the most recent leg of the journey, trying to enjoy engaging in the present experiences and attempting to plan the details of my future steps. It was a difficult balance.
Much of my time in Africa was spent in the continuous thought of “Where or what comes next?” With the limited Wi-Fi, I researched locations, looked up a variety of destinations and browsed more tour options. Before leaving on the camping tour to Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls, I had decided to try to make it to Madagascar. I am intrigued by Madagascar – the Baobab trees look like something from a Dr. Seuss book, the variety of exotic animals only found there and the vast fusion of immigrants in the twentieth century has led to a uniquely diverse culture all their own.
As I researched, I could not find consistent information regarding safety of solo travel. I could not find consistent information regarding road condition quality. I could not find consistent information regarding cost and security of hostels versus hotels. Eventually, I decided to look into joining a tour group. I found a great tour that looked like everything I wanted and it appeared to be in my price range. I sent a request for additional information and final cost breakdown. After several weeks of back and forth emailing with the tour representative, the price came back nearly double what had been advertised due to hidden costs. I was now at the crossroads of decision.
Side Note: If you plan to travel with a tour group, make sure you understand what is included in the quoted price. Some companies try to get away with advertising an activity but do not include the admission fee in their pricing. Basically, they offer the transportation to the activity but if you want to go inside, now you have to pay out of your pocket. Solo travelers will almost always pay a higher price because they are not sharing the cost of a room. This is not, I repeat NOT a punishment to the solo traveler, it is simply the savings for splitting the room cost. Most advertised prices you see with tour companies are based on two people sharing a room. Make sure you ask A LOT of questions before making your decision.
The day after finding out about the doubled cost, I was crabby. My camping tour was going on a game drive that day and I was in no mood for it. I wound up sleeping the majority of the time to curb my inner turmoil. I did not want anyone in my group to take the brunt of my frustration as I battled through making this decision. I certainly had the time to visit Madagascar. I had the money but the amount they were asking would have taken a large chunk out of my savings. Plus, additional spending always occurs on tours for food, snacks, drinks, extra excursions and so on. And I still had to pay for flights to get to the starting point. Madagascar has been on my “bucket list” for a number of years, this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had to ask myself a series of questions. Is visiting Madagascar worth going into debt if I had to? If I do not go to Madagascar, where will I go? What is the responsible risk in this situation?
I decided I did not want to wind up in debt at the end of this entire journey. I decided I had worked too hard to save money ahead of time. I did not want to have to work just as hard to catch up after returning home, especially when I did not know how long it would be until I started receiving a paycheck again. I felt like I had exhausted Africa for now and to start an entirely new adventure was going to be costly. In emotional agony, I decided to return to the United States with money to float for a little bit if need be so I did not have to financially start over from scratch.
Side note: It is my personal opinion that travel and adventure is worth every penny spent. However, travel is a luxury. It is a reward for hard work. It is completely worth saving money in advance to enjoy the fullness of a vacation. It is never worth going into debt for. In a society of “I want it now, I’ll pay for it later,” it is not worth the weight of the aftermath. We all have places we can cut back in our spending in order to save ahead. The trip is far more enjoyable you are not trying to pay if off five years later.
When I was looking at returning to the United States, I browsed around some options of things to visit before going home. I decided I wanted warm weather and a sandy beach for a week. I figured the beach would be a great place to recuperate from jet lag, emotional lag and mental lag before being overwhelmed by friends and family. After investigating a few different locations, I settled on Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
I want to give a huge shout out to my parents. Since I was limited on internet access, they willingly helped me find a hotel just north of Fort Lauderdale. Plus, my dad gave me his built up hotel points to get a much reduced rate AND they offered to pay half of the remaining amount which allowed me to enjoy an affordable accommodation only a block from the Deerfield Beach. Thank you Dad and Mom for your generosity to me in Florida and several other areas of my journey.
If you plan to take an extended trip away from the United States, I recommend building in some intentional time to re-enter the country. Enough studies have been done on “reverse culture shock” that I do not feel the need to go into it. I am not an expert but it is real. I think we all experience it differently depending on how much time away, where we visited (Think Ireland vs Somalia) and our own unique personalities.
For me, the grocery store was overwhelming. Do not get me wrong, I am not a fan of grocery shopping anyway but our grocery stores have SO MANY options. Not only do we have many options for flavors but we have to choose from multiple brands as well. Now, I do not drink Kool-Aid but during my first visit to the grocery store in Florida, I stood in the Kool-Aid aisle simply staring at the rows upon rows of little colored packets. No other country I have visited has as many options as we do in the United States.
Aside from the grocery store experience, Deerfield Beach was a great place to get re-acquainted to the United States. Since South Africa is seven hours ahead of the East Coast, I found myself getting tired somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon due to jet lag. By being intentional about setting aside this time in Florida for getting over such things, I did not have to push through those tired stages. I could simply take a nap. Within three or four days, I was adapted to the new time schedule.
When my dear friend from home found out I was in Florida, she texted to ask how long I would be there. When I told her I only had about five days left, she said, “Okay, I am going to look into tickets. I will send you my flight schedule when it is finalized.” And she did. Becky flew down to spend a day and a half with me. We had a great time touring the museum and swimming at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, laying on the beach, eating seafood, people watching, talking and laughing.
I learned a lot from Becky in this experience. Contrary to how it may look, I struggle to be spontaneous. I like planned spontaneity. I like time set aside to be spontaneous. My mind has a difficult time transitioning away from what is already “planned,” especially when it comes to time and/or money. Here is what I learned from Becky: Never miss a great opportunity to be responsibly spontaneous. She and I have been close friends for a number of years. She did not debate whether it would be worth meeting up with me. She did not care that the time spent would be short. She did not choose to save her few hundred dollars for some other day. She simply said, “How long will you be there? I am coming.” That is the kind of friend I want to be. I want to be someone who is willing to spontaneously drop everything and say, “I am coming.” Thank you Becky. I love and value your friendship more than you know.
Laying on the beach, enjoying sunshine and warm water in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Museum and lap swimming at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
My time in Florida was short. I did not galavant around looking for crazy adventure. I used the opportunity to adjust to the time zones and American culture. And of course to have long awaited chips and salsa.