Often life takes us in the weirdest of directions. Sitting on the verge of insanity in some stranger’s apartment or stuck on a elevator. Like, what? Where am I, how did I get here?
My parents, wonderful people, are lifelong gamblers, it serves them. On my 21st birthday they wanted to take me to their wonderland… Las Vegas. As a thrifty college student part time pizza delivery guy, I graciously accepted the opportunity to have a free trip. At this point in my life, I had a wonderful group of newly minted friends, and I was learning the magic of being close to men emotionally without getting terrified (yes, it was a thing).
Needless to say, things were good, I was in warm weather in March. Upon arriving at a casino for the first time, I was greeted ever so generously by security asking for my ID. Proudly I handed it over, looking no more than 14 years old. “You are going to need a handstamp, son.” the MGM Grand employee said to me. “Alright cool, sounds great”.
What followed was not only a handstamp, but a wristband (seems redundant), and being asked to also hand over my ID to every pit boss when near table games. Upon being donned in my “Yes this guy is actually 21” uniform, I stood behind my father as he played blackjack, trying to learn what I could. Within two hands, the pit boss did the international sign for “ID please”, which coincidentally also looks like he was trying to zoom in on reality, perhaps mistaking it for a touch screen. My father barked at him “he’s my son and he’s 21″… nice. For whatever reason, after some time, I was told that I would not be able to be in the casino, I guess I am just that F’n youthful… again, thanks mom and dad.
At this point I had been very patient, and also I wasn’t so sure that I liked anything about this town that happened indoors. So I let loose with all of the grace you would expect from an Aquarian with a Virgo moon from Baltimore city being told he didn’t belong where he rightfully did. Needless to say, I said some pointed words that I can’t remember exactly. Perhaps pertaining to the overall quality of the gentleman’s character.
As I was ushered out of the Casino where, mind you, I was staying, I had a thought. That thought was “fuck this place!”. So I went for a long walk on an overly stimulating stretch of concrete known as the Vegas Strip.
After I had cooled down a bit, I came across a booth touting different travel and adventure opportunities. Hoover Dam, no thanks. Tour of Old Vegas, umm I don’t think so. Fly to the Grand Canyon, sure, why not, get me out of this place.
By 8AM the next morning I was on a bus to the airport, then a small plane with mostly windows for floors. How in the world did I end up here? I was mystified, I was enlivened, I didn’t even care about the fact that I had forgot to pack a lunch.
When the plane landed, I took a small bus to the South Rim village. The driver said, we will be back to pick up in 7 hours. “Jeez, whatever will I do with 7 hours” I didn’t think to myself. I immediately walked towards where I saw people and mule exiting the canyon and began walking in. As it turns out, it was the Bright Angel Trail. If you walk it long enough, you will end up at the North Rim.
I journeyed down icy paths with sheer drop on both sides, just wanting to go further and further, to reach the bottom. When I finally caught myself, I was almost 3000 feet down in elevation (to Indian Gardens), which means 3000 feet back up and a bus to catch.
It was almost as if I was lifted out of the canyon by angels. Moments and flashes of brilliant color blended into an exhausted and well worn physical vessel. Mind you, prior to this experience, I had never visited a national park. I hadn’t been hiking besides trails in small city parks in Baltimore. This changed me forever.
I realized how big the world was, and how small I was in comparison. Within a few months I planned a trip to hike on the Appalachian trail and traveled to Shenandoah to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains where I found my deepest and greatest love, the Earth. A few years later I took my partner there on a road trip across the country, and visited places that again and again changed my life.
I never wanted to go to Las Vegas, I just wanted a free trip. I didn’t feel welcome or safe there, but that was a good thing. There were many moments where I wondered why and how I ended up where I was, but this magical journey shaped me into the tree and cactus hugger that I am today.
I now live in the Grand Canyon state of Arizona, just past my 36th birthday. The sun shines on me and I explore the canyons and wilderness like a small boy discovering… well, nature!
Regardless of the situation in which you may find yourself, remember that it is holy and it is shaping you for what is to come in the future. You can’t ever know how long it will go or even if it will ever end. One thing is for sure, every experience is a golden experience, and it is only your lack of self love that can take that away.
Xx Enjoy every moment, be there for You xX
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