Photography by Kayte Demont
This post was written in open format, snippets of my thoughts and feelings along the journey. Some parts might feel open-ended of incomplete – that was done intentionally. I feel that it symbolizes my ever-expanding thought process and all of the growing and searching that I still have left to do.
Sometimes I find life to be entirely overwhelming. Honestly, I usually feel like I have so much to do that I’d rather just shut down and ignore it all – living with an intense hope that it will all go away. But, if there’s anything that I’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that doing that just causes everything to pile up on an unmanageable, anxiety-inducing mess. Trust me, there comes a time where it becomes unavoidable. And so, I have learned to force myself to slow the fuck down and tackle it – or at least try my best.
That was the basis of my solo New Mexico road trip. Taking to the open road always proves to be a necessary and valuable time for reflection in my life. An opportunity to sort through my swirling thoughts and organize/ analyze them in my own way, all while being able to hold physical space for myself to do that. This was the first time that I had Lucy with me on the road and it was better than I could have expected. Lucy is a rescue from a kill shelter (I think part lab, part border collie), and before she came to me she had already had a previous owner and several foster experiences – not to mention two names and she had just turned 7 months. She’s come so far from her timid, terrified-of-everthing days. Now, she’s my smiley, cuddly, happy-go-lucky adventure pup who gladly hops in the back seat (especially now that she has her 4Knines seat cover that acts as a hammock). We were able to bond in ways I have been dreaming of and I’m so thankful that she’s in my life.
My mid 20’s have been an extremely intense time of change and transition, two things that have historically caused the stress-induced shutdowns. Lately, the pressure has gotten to be so much that it felt like my only option was to get away for a bit. I feel claustrophobic when I’m one place for too long. Stagnant, stale even. Dealing with these changes is marginally easier with the comfort of Lucy, but self-care is something I’ve been trying to prioritize.
I chose New Mexico for several reasons:
Taos + Santa Fe are widely known for their art and culture.
It’s reasonably close to Denver (I planned much better this time with what I learned from my Maine to Denver trip)
The Land of Enchantment felt like an awesome destination for me and Lucy and a great sell for my brand partners.
Let me tell you, the land of enchantment did not disappoint. First, Lucy and I piled into my car and made a spur of the moment pit stop on the sand dunes en route to New Mexico. I’d been before but had a lot of difficult memories associated with the experience. In the spirit of letting go, I decided to enjoy the dunes on my own terms and through a different lens. This symbolized peeling back the first layer of the emotional onion on this trip. Lucy was so well behaved. Excited but attentive and patient. We took our time frolicking in the sand, setting up the camera for some fun action shots, Lucy simultaneously enjoying the warm sand and refreshing snow. After we departed, I looked in my rearview mirror and felt a lot of tension ease as resentment lifted. It was as if I had reclaimed a part of myself again.
Once we arrived in Ranchos de Taos, I knew that it was about to be a reclusive few days. It was a welcomed feeling because not only had I been mentally feeling the stress, but my body was reactive physically to it – a sign that some rest was in order. While selecting my AirBnB’s for this trip, I was careful to choose homes where I would have the privacy as well as the scenery to take the shots that I needed. Taking photos of yourself with a tripod is already a ballsy move and this trip I wanted to make sure that I set myself up for success: Take all the integral photos at the houses and then everything else was almost a bonus (or I didn’t need a tripod to shoot it).
Side note: I’m proud of the way that I tackled this adventure. I believe that it’s a small embodiment of the growth that I’ve experienced over the last couple of years. It’s interesting, I have been so focused on getting my shit together and making it through the weeds that I’m frankly burnt out about dissecting and talking about my feelings. However, thanks to Heather, I have been forced (in the most loving and supportive way possible), to continue to open up and talk about my feelings. So, that is and continues to be my challenge: to keep being vulnerable, even when my mind is on analytical overdrive.
Back to the clarity that this trip brought me: The initial homestead in Ranchos de Taos was an off the beaten path adobe home. According to my gracious and lovely host Edwina, the house portion that I was staying in served as the town dance hall 300 years prior to my stay. I like to think that have an exceptional ability to read energy. However, nothing could have captured the energy of this casa without experiencing it. Once we arrived, both Lucy and I felt at home. Between the clay treated walls (a special technique applied by Edwina’s mother!) was a wood burning stove, a full kitchen overlooking the yard and chicken coop, as well as a supremely comfortable bed and living area. Attached to the original portion of the home was another futon and make-shift closet, as well as the main attraction: the bathroom.
Let me tell you, this bathroom was the most glorious, luscious bathroom that I’ve ever had the pleasure of occupying. Not only were the walls perfectly, albeit haphazardly, concocted clay and broken glass, but there was also mosaic and tile inlays that made it unclear if it had happened that way on purpose, or if it was a happy accident. What made the bathroom so captivating was the garden that surrounded the tub. Upon initial inspection, it appeared that the only option was to take a bath amongst the succulents and the shrubs (which frankly would’ve been fine). But, there was a tucked away shower curtain hung on hidden nails that turned the indoor greenhouse into an aromatic time warp of bliss. Truly, this entire house felt as if I had resided there in another life.
Especially after the immense stress and pressure that I’d been feeling pre-trip, the lack of wifi was a welcome disconnect from reality. To my glee, I found the I had unexpectedly created a solo retreat, filled with yoga, photography, good eating and puppy bonding. Lucy and I are so similar and she is so in tune with my energy that it felt doubly satisfying to notice her stress level significantly decrease as mine did too.
Sante Fe brought a different vibe. Thankfully it was not so abrupt of a change that I felt whiplashed but it was definitely a noticeable, gradual change as I drove from Taos amidst what I had learned to be quintessential New Mexican landscape. Round 2 AirBnB was on a llama ranch about 35 minutes outside of Sante Fe proper. There was an entire field for Lucy to explore as well as a fenced dog run. My studio casita was the smallest of about four family residences on the property. According to the listing, it had once served as the library and office. Now, it is a hotel-style efficiency with all of the adobe charm I was looking for. This time though, equipped with Tv and wifi.
After settling into my new home, I did a day trip out to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Resort. Thanks to their marketing team, I was able to enjoy an hour soak in a private pool that overlooked gorgeous rock formations, equipped with its own fireplace. I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of amazing experiences through blogging and photography but this one makes my top 5 list. As I sat in the natural, healing waters of Ojo, I felt an immense sense of pride. Although life has dealt me some pretty challenging hands over the last few years, I was still able to create a trip for myself that not only refilled my creative cup but sustained the pitcher financially for me too. To top it all off, I was gifted an incredible experience in a place so far from where I started. The gratitude was and continues to be very real.
On Meow Wolf: I could write an entire blog post about Meow Wolf but there is already so much written about this immersive art experience. So, in the spirit of brevity (and so that you can one day experience it and formulate your own opinion), I will just say this:
In 2013 I attended Electric Forest and it was my first ever festival. At the end of it, I felt as if this insane weight had lifted off of me and I saw another, more colorful, vibrant and liberating way to experience life and truly live it. It also sparked an intense personal transformation that started with my outward style and permeated to my core which has led me to where I am today. Anyways, I knew based on what I had seen on social media that Meow Wolf was a visual delight, a welcomed stimulus overload of creativity and artistic explosion. What I didn’t anticipate was the level of detail and the scale of Meow Wolf.
I was happy I went alone for my first time (although I can’t wait to bring Heather back!). Much like my tendencies at festivals, I like to explore and wander at my own pace, letting my intuition and curiosity uncover the path and dictate the journey. There were people of all ages, each experiencing the world in their own ways. My favorite viewpoint that I saw was, somewhat unsurprisingly, from a girl who was more no than 5 years old. Her unbridled creative expression and untarnished ability to see things in all their glory (and childish innocence) are how I strive to view the world.
Meow Wolf reinvigorated my inner creativity and reminded me how important it was to stay the course, follow my passions and create something different.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned from this adventure but the feelings have stayed with me. If you have ever wanted to road trip or to explore on your own, I urge you to pull the trigger and just go for it! You will learn things about yourself that you never thought were there and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone are essential to healthy growth.
Thank you to my incredible brand partners on this trip! Taos Mountain Energy Bar is a company out of New Mexico that’s changing the game with their ingredients, not to mention I love their branding. Super Massive Shop consistently brings innovation and creativity to their threads and provided me with wardrobe for this trip. 4knines gave us an awesome seat liner that helped keep my car clean and also made Lucy feel much more secure on the road. Without these sponsors, this trip would not have been possible so please visit their websites and give them a follow!