In March, my boyfriend and I broke up. We had been together for nearly 3 years and although I know in reality that isn't an astounding amount of time, as a 22 year old in my first love it feels like a lifetime.
I assume many of you have been through a break-up before. That and falling in love are some of the most talked about subjects in society and media. I had no real capacity for understanding just how hard a break-up can be until I went through it myself. Without getting into too much detail, the breakup was a mutual decision, which I think causes most people to qualify it; as if it's not as hard, or somehow less sad. I am happy that it was amicable and I still have immense respect and love for him, as I hope he does for me, however I cannot stop myself from wondering just how long it will take me to heal. I feel like I may never, fully.
*I hesitate to write such private and personal things in a format where I normally would not share these details - I want to be able to focus on my travel, photography, and professional work - not my break-up. But somehow I felt it was important to be honest and real about where I was/am in my life*
BUT. I am not here to tell you my sob story. I'm here to tell you about my adventures on the west coast with my new best travel gal, Michaela Emerson. My point in telling you everything above was simply so you can understand the IMPECCABLE timing of this trip and how necessary if felt to go away and experience something new.
The idea for this trip was conceived maybe 6 months ago over coffee when Michaela said “I’ve always had this dream of traveling through California, while camping in National Forests on the way to Portland. But I don’t know who would do that with me.” and I said, “Me.” She didn’t think I would really do it, but let me tell ya: when it comes to travel- this girl commits.
We begin the process by meeting at Starbucks every few weeks and mapping out our route. Which National Parks do we wanna visit? Which cities do we stay in for a shower every now and then? Just how many PB&J's can we eat? How long is this thing gonna take? And of course, how long are our jobs gonna let us escape for?
We had mapped out our ultimate dream trip and continued to wonder if we would actually be able to make this a reality. We were. Instead of boring you with the specificities of planning (saving money, painstakingly booking airbnbs, reserving campgrounds, gathering gear, preparing food etc), I’ll show you the highlight reel.
stop number one...
Having never been there before, we couldn't find the best part of the park. You know, the part with all the Joshua Trees?? But, we did find a gorgeous secluded area for a picnic. Our trip was off to a great start.
This picnic was the first of many, as well as the first of many pre-packed sandwiches. We played the only music downloaded on our phones: the free U2 album that everyone but us seems upset about (love you U2). After eating, Michaela showed off her headstand skills because when you're in a place as cool as Joshua Tree - yoga is a must.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
stop number two...
To be honest, we had kind of arbitrarily picked Sequoia as one of our stops because of it's geographical convenience on our route. Thank god we did because it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever had the pleasure of staying. When we were making reservations it had been so booked up that our only option was for a group campsite, which happened to be the sweetest hiccup in our plans. Because it was a site meant for 17 people we had nearly no neighbors, a gorgeous area right next to a creek, and a porta-pottie all to ourselves (;
The next morning we were greeted with a gorgeous sunrise and after packing up all our gear, Michaela began the day with some yoga, while I quietly sipped on some spectacular instant iced coffee.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
stop number three...
Ok you guys...this one takes the cake. I mean are you effing kidding me??? Never in my life (ok except maybe for Macchu Picchu...) have I been in the presence of views like this. Everywhere I turned Mama Nature had worked some insane magic. We stayed two nights in Yosemite and it was almost otherworldly.
Our campsite was in Lower Pines in Yosemite Valley. On day one we set up camp, did a little wandering, made ourselves some dinner, and relaxed by the campfire (which btw, my fires are better than Michaela's - spread the word).
Day two is where the real adventuring began. We spent the morning choosing which epic hike we wanted to go on. It took some contemplation because we only had this one day and there are so many hikes that sound incredible. We settled on a 6 mile hike that would take us all the up to the top one of Yosemite's many gorgeous waterfalls. It was meant to be a somewhat difficult hike with some slick, wet, uphill hiking involved. We made the decision to leave our cameras behind that day for a few reasons: one, to give ourselves the chance to fully immerse ourselves in this experience, and two, because we didn't want our cameras getting destroyed haha. But I did take some photos and video on my phone of course! I've never been on a more rewarding hike in my life. When we finally reached the top, we took a much-deserved cat-nap. 10/10 would recommend.
^photos taken on my iphone
Also a fun little side note: on the morning of day two in Yosemite, a Park Ranger came over to our site to let us know there was a female bear right near our campsite and gave us a friendly lecture on how we need to be keeping our campsite clean and where to keep food etc so that neither we or the bear gets hurt. Poor Michaela is DEATHLY afraid of bears. So while I was having the time of my life, beyond excited about how close we were to a bear, she was just squirming with fear.
stop number four...
Portland was "technically" our final destination, even though in reality every stop felt like it's own destination. We stayed in Portland the longest and had the most relaxation time for sure. We pulled out our camera's a little less and let ourselves live a little. We hit all the important touristy stuff in the first day: Voodoo Doughnuts, the "Keep Portland Weird" mural, and Powell's book store. But what did we spend most of our time doing??? THRIFTING. We would both marry thrift shopping if we could.
Another side note: You'll notice I've written "10/10" once so far in this blog post - you also hear it in the video to the right. Somewhere along the way - I don't know when- the phrase "TEN OUT OF TEN" became a hilarious inside joke for us. I think overall this trip was so incredible that we just had to keep describing things as a 10/10 experience. It progressed in an obnoxious way, as most inside jokes do, but it's a phrase we both now refuse to give up.
^photos taken on my iphone
We both walked away from our thrifting thanking god that we drove and could stuff our hauls into the car instead of having to fit it all onto a plane!
The other wonderful thing about Portland, was that the extra time we had there gave us the opportunity to breathe a bit and let lose. We went out every night (sorry mom and dad!) and experienced different bars, scenes, and people. It brought us closer together and gave us some new perspective on social adventuring.
^two grainy iphone selfies from the nights we went out
We spent our very last day in Portland picnic-ing in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We picked up some breakfast and coffee from a hole-in-the-wall vegan shop, picked a place to lay our trusty blanket, blasted some early 2000s hits and had a grand old time. There were some geese hanging around us that I thought were hilarious and Michaela clearly did not. And, I got asked out by a very nice and respectful construction worker - which was was a pleasant surprise since they are known to simply whistle. All in all, it was a blast and a half.
stop number five...
Both Michaela and I had been to San Francisco before, so there wasn't really a whole lot on our list. We were staying in Concord and and had to take a train into San Francisco for the day - which is always exciting when you live in AZ and never commute by train. We decided to walk towards Pier 39 and we ended up spending most of our day meandering around in that area. We shared a margarita at a killer mexican food place with an incredible waterfront view, poked around in the Musée Mécanique (a super rad antique penny arcade unlike any place I've ever been), and drank some Starbucks on the foggy Embarcadero Waterfront beach.
At the penny arcade they have antique photobooths that seem ultra complicated to use and take a full 5 minutes to print the photos. When the strips come out they are wet to the touch and smell like rotten eggs! I couldn't manage to take a single good photo apparently.
< taken on my iphone
We had contemplated going to the Ice Cream Museum in San Fran, but due to low funds and the tauntingly long walk, we decided against it. The next day we found out that Lily Collins had decided to visit the museum that same day and now we can't stop kicking ourselves for not going.
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
stop number six...
Death Valley was an interesting experience. We had planned on camping there as our final night of the trip before a 9 hour drive back to AZ.
Driving into Death Valley, we lost service approximately 2 hours before the entrance. We had a picture of the map that we could follow and were able to make it to the one and only convenience store in the park; a convenience store that also happens to have a few campgrounds open for reservation as well. They actually called it a 'resort,' which we found rather humorous. This was the only camping stop along our trip that we had not booked in advance because we had heard that finding a campground is fairly easy and rarely is a reservation truly necessary. With that in mind, we thought it would be nice to wander a bit and have the freedom to find our own area.
When we got there, however, we couldn't seem to get a direct answer from the store clerk about where other campsites are since we had no service and no maps- instead we somehow ended up paying for a campground in their 'resort' area. It was one of those scenarios where when we left we were looking at each other asking, "what just happened?" It was kind of hilarious, but also unsettling. When we drove across the road to our campground we suddenly both got the chills. Michaela was having some major anxiety about it because this had not gone as planned and to be honest, our would-be neighbors for the night did not seem the friendliest, or at least our kind of crowd.
We decided that we weren't going to camp there that night. It was a gut feeling and now, I think, if/when we go back we will have more of a plan in place and a campground reserved in advance. Instead, we drove back towards the center of a giant valley where we knew our way out, we parked the car, and we watched the sunset. The wind in Death Valley was insane! It was constant, strong, and loud as all get-out. I am so happy we ended up spending a little time here, because despite getting the heebie-geebies, Death Valley is the most hauntingly beautiful place I've ever been.
We had to frantically find a place to stay the night we didn't camp in Death Valley. We had already driven 9.5 hours that day to get to the park in the first place, and then after another 3 hours of driving we were able to crash with Michaela's friend in LA (Thank you Elisa!!!). Rather than immediately hitting the road the next morning, we took a little detour to Seal Beach. It was a quick stop, but a crazy cool and calming way to end our trip. I would probably call it a 10/10.
that's all folks
Not to be melodramatic, but this trip was life-changing for me. Somehow it gave me all I needed to take control of aspects of my life that I had previously felt no control over.
We couldn't imagine having to go home, after two weeks of pure bliss.
Thank you so much for going on this journey with me - I will be posting some more blog posts soon with some other fun aspects of our trip. I'm thinking of doing one about all the thrifts in Portland - i.e. all the places we loved and the ones we didn't, who had the best deals, our best hauls etc. I could also do a post about the entire planning process if anyone is interested in how one might go about the logistics a trip this long and with so many destinations. If any of these ideas interest you in the least, please let me know in the comments!
Thank you all.
p.s. you can follow my lovely travel gal Michaela on instagram @michaelaemerson