by Sofia Tome
here are places in the world that call to your soul, inexplicably. You head there with a feeling that you will leave more complete than when arrived. For me, that place has been the Southwest.
I’d spent 2 years exploring the large state of Texas, but I wanted more. Upon my arrival in Phoenix, I began to seek what I’d been waiting for all of these years. On my last day in the city, I met Trina. She was a beautiful, Navajo woman who immediately engaged me in a deep conversation about her culture. It was through this lens that my journey began. It was a trip filled with signs; they were at every turn – some that screamed out and others that whispered – they were obvious in a way that they can only be when one is truly present.
Looking back, the start of the trip was auspicious. Just a week before, I’d heard from a friend, who proceeded to tell me about her home in Arizona and gave me incredible travel tips.
By recommendation, we stayed at the Saguaro in Scottsdale. I picked up my cousin from the airport after spending 3 days in Phoenix, and we headed straight to Scottsdale. The Saguaro was an oasis in the middle of the desert – colorful, with rainbow-colored halls and a friendly staff. We settled in our room and bee-lined to Distrito, excited for some Mexican cuisine. A few margaritas and some tacos later, it was time to experience a desert sunset. We headed west, surrounded by strip malls and neon signs, psychic readers offering their talents – we drove and drove, eventually making our way back to the room, having missed the sunset completely.
Thursday morning, sold on the idea of visiting a ghost town, we trekked to Apache Junction. Down dirt roads and through reservations, we drove on a mission. When we finally arrived, what we found was more movie set than ghost town. Our hopes were saved only by the desert roads, the sight of the mountains ahead, and The Doors on the radio. Another friend met us that afternoon – our crew was complete and the first order of business was a desert sunset. We were hell-bent on catching this one, on what would be our last night in Arizona. This time we headed to Cave Creek determined to experience the raw Southwest.
As we wound through the hidden back roads, the sky’s colors began to change. We caught a glimpse of the sun and immediately parked the car on the side of the road. For a few minutes, we were silent. Taking in the desert landscape, on a backdrop of reds and oranges, purples and blues, our mission was accomplished – and we were hooked!
We spent the next morning scouring pawn shops for turquoise jewelry to bring back from our travels. Satisfied with our loot, we began the next leg of our journey. The drive to California was a long one.
Stuck on a highway for miles and miles, we rocked out to some classics and gazed at the mountains right outside of our windows. Palm Springs was a sight to see on the 4th of July. As locals and visitors clad in American Flag-inspired outfits began their morning over coffee and pancakes, we started on our adventure to Salvation Mountain. As an art school student studying Folk Art, I’d dreamed of this day for year and years. When we arrived, I was blown away.
Our trip ended in a whirlwind. LA for one day was quite a feat. On the morning of our departure, we concluded our visit with an Eggslut sandwich and a pampering session at Olive & June. As I sat there getting my manicure, flanked by Jackie and another girl – she struck up a conversation. Turned out, she was from New Jersey, just a town over from the High School I attended. We even had a few mutual friends. Again, the feeling washed over me. It was a trippy trip, after all.