Chapter 3: I am prepared for real life.
A bold idea came to my mind: I wanted to experience spontaneous things to maximize adventure in my life, to see where I would end up without planning it all out. So I decided not to book any places to sleep to start my recent adventure. The unknown and uncertainty of where I would be spending the night on my trip did not scare me at all; it made it more exciting. I was curious to see what life would give me, without a specific destination after I carried 30 pounds of backpack with gear, hiking from my rental car. I only had my adventurous spirit to guide me. Although some people thought I was crazy, to travel solo and into so many unknown and remote places without an overnight plan for every night, I think sometimes we need to be more adventurous, open minded, flexible and go with the flow. We can learn so much by simply enjoying what life chooses to give us.
In fact, I made an excellent decision: during the final 9 days and 8 nights of my backpacking adventure, I spent numerous nights in the wilderness, camping in different places, experiencing amazing and tough things, high and lows – all exciting – and it was difficult, worrisome, scary, fearful, exhausting and heartbreaking, but it also was transformative, and it all gave me a reborn feeling, and revealed to me completely so much about myself and life. I found I am stronger and braver than I thought myself in the past.
Now I am happy to present to you some sleeping locations from Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.
Night 1 (March 17th): Slept in a RV Park in Kanab, Utah
I drove to Kanab, Utah from Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. When I arrived, it was dark already. I found an RV Park (Hitch-N-Post RV Park) randomly and parked my car there. All places nearby were closed, so I decided to sleep in my car. For me, a RV Park for one night was ideal, as at least it was a safe area. I ate simple freeze-dried food that night. It was my first time to sleep in a car, but I slept like a baby, as I was so tired, and looked forward to new adventures the next day.
Night 2 (March 18th): Slept on Lone Rock Beach, Utah
After my White Pocket, Arizona tour, I made a spontaneous decision: I gave up my last chance for the wave walk-in lottery the next day, and instead drove to the lone rock beach to see the view of Lake Powell. The lone rock is one of the few spots where you can drive directly to the water’s edge and camp on the shoreline. When I got there it was dark already: I could not see anything, I only knew that I was at the beach. I set up my tent in the dark, and slept on the beach under the stars. I woke the next morning to see golden and red light illuminating Lone Rock at sunrise. Wow! I was glad that I made this spontaneous decision: it was one of the amazing places I have ever slept.
Night 3 (March 19th): Slept on the cliff at Alstrom Point, Utah
I camped and slept in my tent on the cliff at Alstrom Point (Utah), facing an unreal view there, but this time I was not alone. I was with my new adventurous friends I had just met. I rolled in my sleeping bag to see endless stars, and although it was windy overnight, I still felt happy because so many magical things happened there. I could not ask for more. My birthday was celebrated there. Although I did not sleep very deeply that night, I had a special feeling there. I awoke to see one of most stunning sunrises in my life.
Night 4 (March 20th): Slept in a car outside Goblin Valley State Park, Utah with wild wind and sand
I arrived at Goblin Valley State Park in the afternoon. At first, I thought I could find a perfect spot to camp on my official birthday night. However, the most unexpected thing was how crazy and wild the wind became, blowing hard with so much sand, like a sandstorm, so strong it could almost blow me over and I could not set up the tent. At the end, I decided to sleep in my car again. Even in my car, I could still feel how crazy windy it was outside with so much blowing sand. The sound was very loud, the first time I slept outside with such intense windy and sandy conditions. I was still brave to face it and slept in my car alone until the next day.
When I woke up, I saw the sun appear on the horizon, but this experience I will never forget. This was one of the first times to really know myself, to know I can be very brave even in a rough situation.
Night 5 (March 21st): Slept on the grass around cool old buses and falling snow
A cool and authentic place I found has different colorful old buses. I decided to camp nearby, on the grass under a tree, with these old buses around me. But it was snowing and freezing, around 18 degrees. I boiled water with my portable stove to keep warm, rolled up in my sleeping bag. When I woke the next morning, snow covered my tent. In freezing temperatures, I packed up my tent. My hands were totally numb from the cold.
Night 6 (March 22nd): Slept in a car in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona, Arizona
I arrived in Sedona (Arizona) in the afternoon. I thought I could find BLM land or an outdoor campground to camp, however, I drove back and forth around Sedona until it was dark and could not find a place, the worst-case scenario. I decided to park my car outside of a local restaurant and slept there, in downtown Sedona, overnight. During the night, I woke up many times, worried my car was going to be towed or something might happen. This was the worst night of my trip because I was so worried and exhausted, sleeping in a parking lot alone. But I told myself that I would face and overcome this problem, and although worried and afraid, my heart beat with a secret promise to myself. The next day, I left all these worries behind like the dust, and I was back on the road again.
Night 7 (March 23rd): Slept in a desert around Superstition Mountain and Cactus, Arizona
I made a spontaneous decision again, leaving Sedona earlier than planned, and I went to Superstition Mountain, Arizona, instead. Here, there were different types of cactus and mountains quietly around me. I slept with heavy rain and the sound of rain. But I witnessed the sunrise reflected on the mountain and cactus, giving me a feeling of being reborn.
Night 8 (March 24th): Slept in BLM land outside of Joshua Tree National Park, California
The last night of this trip, I sat in my tent under a tree and saw the soft sun set quietly until all of it had gone down. I looked back on these eight nights I had experienced, and I felt I had gone through a long journey in my life, but it gave me a special experience and life lesson: I am actually braver than I thought, and I can face difficult situations alone, too.
Far from home, these unusual places became my home for a night. I’ve come to realize that no matter where I fall asleep, my passion is still there completely. I am on my own journey with my inner voice leading me, no matter how broken I am at the end of the day, no matter if I can find a perfect place to camp and sleep, no matter if I have a fancy meal, or stay in a fancy hotel or resort, I am reborn the next morning. I set up again, I run again, I move forward to meet the next opportunity and start a new adventure again.
It is similar to life. Life is not always prefect, and good things do not always happen, things do not always go according to plan. You have to rough it a little. This is real life, and we should accept good things, but at the same time we should allow and accept the worst things can happen too, as high and lows are all part of life.
While I drove to the airport to return home, I thought back on these eight locations where I spent each night. I want to say to myself: thanks for these incredible experiences, as they showed myself that I am braver than I knew, and they helped me to build character and prepare me for anything that life will throw at me in the future. Thanks to this trip, I know I can face different situations alone. I can tell myself, “Stephy, you are very confident and strong, you saw real life: it is not always a fairy tale, you should allow and face good things and bad things. I know you can do it: you are prepared for a real life, Dear Stephy.”
Now, I bring this wisdom and courage to fly and start my next adventure!