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The Hidden Gems of Arizona

I have been traveling a lot–thanks to this blog and one of my very thoughtful and kind readers.And I realise that my other readers have been deprived as a result. I also realise that I really should be writing about my travels and the wonderful adventures that I find myself taking. After all, if my greatest dream is to be a travel writer…So here I am. I’m not going to bombard you by putting everything together in one extremely long and winding blog. (I hope.) I just feel like I need to write to you about the beauty that is Sedona, Arizona. I told my family, all my close friends, and my Instagram followers already, but I’ve saved the best for last! (Yes, I’m trying to make it up to you, can you tell?)I booked a last minute trip to Arizona last month after taking about a month off traveling to save a little. (The trips before that consisted of Jamaica, Trinidad, and NY, and a few other islands in the Caribbean. Fell in love with Curacao. But anyway, off topic). When I told people in the eleventh hour that I was going to Ariz. of course they all thought “Arizona? What the hell is in Arizona?”

Raw beauty, that’s what. Allow me to introduce you.

Now, I would say I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves (and trust me, there are plenty more where those came from) but that really wouldn’t do the trip justice.

I was only there from Friday to Sunday, which unfortunately didn’t give me enough time to head up to Havasu, where I’d have to hike and camp for three days to get to the waterfall. I left work Friday evening and headed straight for the airport to catch the 5-hour flight. I got to Phoenix, which is a three-hour time difference from Miami, at 11 p.m. There, I met up with an old friend of mine who had been there for the week for work. We went to Applebee’s to eat before taking the two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona, which was to be the final destination.

Sitting in Applebee’s, I’d be lying if I told you I felt anything but utter comfort and welcome from the locals. I know it’s terribly cliché to say “everyone was so nice and friendly”, but really.  It was the middle of the night and the usuals had casually taken their spots at the bar; not quite drunk yet, but feeling good and giving all the travel advice that could fit into the one-hour session.

Above all, they said, Sedona was apparently the place to be.

The drive there after that super-spicy meal wasn’t quite as easy as the conversation in between bites at the restaurant. But thankfully, after what felt like forever, I made it. By this time it was around 4 a.m. The place I was to stay was a Gypsy Dome in someone’s front yard. (AirBnB baby!) The host had left the Gypsy door and her main house door open since she knew I’d be getting in way after she had gone to bed, and the dome didn’t yet have a shower. It gave me a feeling of both love and horror knowing that there are people who leave their homes open to strangers, and trust that you won’t do any harm and will pay them for the stay after-the-fact. But when I got inside and saw all the high-energy crystals, and realised how much it smelt like the yoga studio where I did Reiki a few weeks ago, I knew the vibration was right and I would wake up the next morning alive.

That I did.

Even though there was some kind of bird at the window behind the bed that spent the entire night making noise in my ears, I was so excited to finally be awake so I could see what the place looked like in the daytime. Luckily I had not run into any bobcats or rattlesnakes in the darkness the night before (I guess the noisy Owl was the compromise). When I stepped out in the morning, to the cool 60-degree weather, and the absolutely gorgeous foliage, rocks, and red dirt, I knew I was going to fall in love.

Shortly after waking, I finally met the owner of the house and her husband and we talked about how they live in a postcard.

After a cup of tea, she showed me around outside and encouraged me to add a rock to their friendship circle next to the dome. I also saw where they planned to put a Jacuzzi, and met the couple who were staying in the airstream on the other side of their house. Then they lent me a bicycle and I went riding through the neighbourhood. Did I already mention they live in a postcard? The houses looked like they came out of the Flintstones, but in a more modern and awe-inspiring kind of way. If you close your eyes and picture what a Native-American-inspired house in the middle of the desert would look like, you’d probably come very close to the reality. As I rode around the only thing I could think was “this world is so beautiful.”

There’s literally a world full of scenery out there just waiting to be admired.

After the short yet somehow strenuous bike ride, I headed into the town to go check out Chocolá Tree. It’s a vegan spot in Sedona that was highly recommended by the host, and with good reason. Not only was the food delicious and flavourful, but the atmosphere was equally as pleasant. There were inside seats and there was a backyard of seats, set up to look like someone’s home. Out in the back you could see their little garden of herbs and other plants as well as listen to live music from a local talent. There was also, naturally, a fountain, a swing, and a bar built around one of the central trees. Everything about it made me feel like I could fall asleep there and no one would complain. (I even got to charge my phone inside).

After that fresh and necessary meal, my friend and I headed over to the scenic route where we could look at, hike, and take pictures of the red rocks. I’ll admit I wasn’t too crazy about the hiking initially because I was too cold to be comfortable. But eventually, I put my big girl panties on and headed up the mountain, where I was able to get some absolutely stunning photos of the Arizona landscape. The drive continued, and took us up to a ghost town, another place that was recommended by our friend at Applebee’s.

Jerome is a great vantage point upon which to catch some aerial photos of the desert. And there was plenty more to do there than we had time for, as my friend had to catch a flight later that night. That list of things includes a ghost tour of the once heavily-populated copper mining town. (It has reduced to about 450 inhabitants, a decline that began at the end of the mining era, but is also a protected city with some buildings that are hundreds of years old.) I’m already planning a trip back to Arizona, and Jerome is on my list. We did manage to squeeze in a visit to a local wine shop where we did some wine tasting and I allowed my taste buds to dance to the tune of a decadent ginger wine. We have “ginger wine” in Jamaica, but it is nothing quite as sapid and light.

It was so sapid, in fact, that we bought a bottle and vowed to find a sushi place back in Phoenix where we could drink it. Ginger wine and sushi sounded like the perfect mix. We ended up at Cherry Blossom, just down the road from where I would spend the night–the CamelBackpackers Hostel.

After taking my friend to the airport, I headed to the hostel and was so pleased with what I saw. The host, Ali, invited me to do Sunrise yoga on the roof with him at 6 a.m. And I would have, had my alarm gone off like I set it. I ended up waking up about 40 minutes too late. But I did manage to get some last ditch photos of the sunrise.

Can we take a moment to talk about the hostel though? I know when most people think of hostels they think it’s some kind of hole in the wall place filled with germs and psychos. But from my experience, I have to say that the people who stay in hostels are some of the most amazing people you will meet. They are often the most grounded, the most conscious, and the most generous people who actually remind us that there are good souls left in the world. And we don’t always have to separate ourselves from one another with these imagined divisionary constructs.

I don’t mean for that to sound like a speech, but I think it is important to praise humanity when possible. Lord knows I can come on here every day and complain about how the world is going to shit. So allow me to be great here.

At any rate, I actually found myself thinking two things during the hostel stay that Saturday night: is it a requirement for hostels to only have amazing people? Why is this place so incredibly spotless?

The last minute room I got was one with four bunk beds. I didn’t share the room with seven other people though, as two beds were empty. The CamelBackpackers hostel is basically a three-bedroom house, set up as such. The living room and kitchen felt like home, and the bathroom connected to my room was insanely clean. Everyone respected each others’ space and time. The beds were surprisingly really comfortable. They each even had their own little fans. I couldn’t even dream up a complaint if I wanted to.

Before leaving there, I got a food recommendation from Ali, who also baked some really yummy oatmeal cookies, to check out an Ethiopian place in the Phoenix arts district just down the road called Roosevelt Row. I drove and walked around there a little and saw young hipsters everywhere, including a few who were planting outside of “the Growhouse”. The Ethiopian spot was a little out of the area, but it was well worth the drive. It’s hard enough finding vegetarian spots, but ethnic ones? Forget about it. I went and ordered a vegetarian platter with injera and ate it like natives do. Then, I had to call the trip short and head to the airport to return the renty and board my plane. But I did take a to-go box with the rest of my lentils and injera to enjoy on the long plane ride home.

Apparently everything is hotter in Arizona, including the food. Good thing I didn’t go there in the summer. My experience may not have been quite as pleasant.

Until next time–and there will be a next time.


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