A Spiritual Experience with Rocks

Question: Would you rather live the rest of your life…

A. Beside the Ocean;  B. In the midst of a mountain range;  C. In the middle of a deep dense forest, D. Or in the middle of a desert?

Now obviously it would be wonderful if they all intertwine, and you can have everything, or at least a combination – but if we had to choose, it’s interesting to see how people would respond.  It’s one of my favorite questions to ask people, because it allows us to think about how we connect with nature.

I’m an ocean girl myself being from the Westcoast, but I also have a strong affinity with rocks.  Any kind of rock, any interesting geologic landscape.  I guess it couldn’t be avoided – my dad was a geography teacher, and as a young child, any time we would go on road trips our family would play “Name that Rock”.  We would have to identify the rock type as igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic.. super fun right?!

But those things stick with you. We arrived in Joshua Tree last week and my mind was blown again with the colour of the red rocks against the bright blue sky.  We hiked to Devil’s Bridge — well worth it for the view, and the gorgeous rock formations.

Devil's BridgeAfter 3 days in Sedona we headed up to the Grand Canyon since Daryl had never been.  We drove down Desert View Highway, one of the most gorgeous drives I’ve ever done, and through the park just as the sun was beginning to set on the canyon.  We stayed in the park that night and went out to see the stars once everything was dark.  We stood on the edge of the canyon at a look-out that hours before had been filled with people clamouring for the best shot, Ipads in hand, and now it was empty.  Just us, the rocks, and the Milky Way.

grand canyon

My sister lives in LA, and the west coast was calling, so from the Grand Canyon we headed west, along Route 66, and through the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree.  We were exhausted after 7 hours of driving, questioning whether this trip had been too ambitious for two tired teachers.  But then we were reminded that Joshua Tree catches you by surprise.. It reels you in, the piles of rocks, the scraggly trees, the bright blue skies. The weird, but oddly enjoyable vibe of 29 Palms, and the vast desert that seems to extend forever.

Joshua Tree

We finally made it to the coast, and are now relaxing on the beach with the waves crashing around us… but after a week in the desert I can hear my father’s voice in my ear reminding me that sedimentary rocks have lots to offer because they help create beautiful landscapes.  And I am reminded that a U.S. road trip can take your breath away in a second.

So where would you rather spend the rest of your life?  The ocean, the forest, the mountains or the desert…. they each can make a great argument.  And those rocks can grab you.



Re: the Latin prefix with the meaning ‘again’ to indicate repetition, or with the meaning ‘back’ to indicate backward motion.

We are back! After a lengthy hiatus from writing, Daryl and I have returned to the blogosphere. It’s only fitting that we begin writing again on vacation in Sedona, Arizona – one of my most favorite places to return to.

The next question is – where have you been for the past 8 months?  I wish that I could respond with an elaborate and impressive explanation like “we were inventing this amazing thing that you can’t live without!”, or “we were doing volunteer work in an impoverished country where we had no electricity and we were too busy helping local people.”

But those would be lies.

Yes, we were working and living our regular everyday lives, and we kept talking about writing a new post but then an episode of Elementary would start and I would say “but Johnny Lee Miller is so witty and well-dressed and I just really need to see what this episode is about.”  So then a couple more months passed.

And then we returned to Europe after a 10 year hiatus (traipsing around Rome on Spring Break with high school students in tow does NOT count as a vacation), and we really really should have written while we were there. After all, we went to a beer spa in Czech Republic, and danced around at medieval celebrations in Slovakia – events that were well worth a post, but we complained that the internet was too slow.

Two more months passed.

And our last big excuse was that we decided to get married. Yah!  It was amazing – a brief fervour of excitement and planning where all of my allotted internet time was devoted to Pinterest and Wedding blogs.  If there’s anything that’s going to kill your creative energy it’s the pressure associated with reading Wedding blogs.  Fucking overwhelming.  I never knew that I was into crafting, but the pressure that comes with planning a wedding just gets to you.  Your brain starts tricking you by saying “of course I need wild flower bouquets arranged whimsically in mason jars along the aisle. It’s obviously a wedding necessity.”

Our wedding did get off without a hitch though, and I have to say the following morning was one of the most liberating moments of my life because I knew that I would never have to look at Pinterest or a wedding blog ever again.  Oh, I was happy that we got married, but really, I was more grateful about being able to say goodbye to Martha Stewart.  Show me a picture of a crepe paper origami garland and I will start to have a panic attack.

And now here we are.. December 26th, and finally returning to the keyboard again.  The sun is setting on the GORGEOUS Red Rocks I can see from the picture windows of our hotel room, and I am at peace.  Daryl is laying on a lounge chair on our private deck wearing a fancy robe… absolutely decadent.  I look over and notice that he is not looking at the scenery but rather is playing Candy Crush on his phone and this reminds me that traveling as a married couple is about romance 100% of the time.

We promise to be more disciplined this time.  Because writing is cathartic, and necessary.  A life without a creative outlet just isn’t a life I”m interested in living.

Already thinking about the next post.


How I Went To the Spa and Ended Up At the Grand Canyon


There’s a lot of debate over Solo Travel – especially amongst women.  Is it dangerous? Is it lonely?  Does it mean that I’m pathetic because I can’t find anyone to go with me?

Not that I’m immune from these thoughts, but I am one of those people that does enjoy traveling alone.  In the past, I have traveled on my own for months at a time, and while it is lonely at times, it’s something that I enjoy forcing myself to do on a regular basis because…well,  it’s uncomfortable.  It takes me a couple days to get into the rhythm, but I’m quickly reminded that there are immense benefits.  I can allow myself to be indulgent – eat candy, stay inside, and sleep all day long with zero guilt.  I can choose my own itinerary.  I can sit in a cafe and read for 5 hours.  But the most important thing though, is gettting a rest from having to compromise in all your decisions.  So refreshing.

And so that’s how I ended up in Scottsdale, Arizona, in a room with 2 giant Queen beds, completely on my own. I’m sure some of you are saying “Alana, that’s not really a solo adventure.. I’ve traveled through the Sahara Desert on a camel for 6 months living with the locals.”  And I would say you’re right.  But I would also say that visiting a Republican state that loves guns, anti-immigration laws, Fox News and Nancy Grace is also an adventure for a girl from Vancouver, Canada.  Just a different kind.

So why Arizona you ask?  Expedia told me it was cheap, and the Westin was having a sell-out on their hotel rooms.  Need I say more?   The Westin, if you don’t know, has this Heavenly Bed upgrade which is exactly as advertised.  I was first introduced to it at a conference several years ago…. the bed at the hotel was so comfortable that I chose to play hooky and relax amongst the 8 pillows and extravagant white linens while watching crappy day-time television.  It was pure bliss.  So… obviously Arizona seemed like the place to go.  After all, how hot could it get in the beginning of July?

I arrived at the hotel and promptly took myself out for a fancy dinner at a Cuban restaurant.  I sat at the bar, ordered delicious cocktails and flirted with my server Jose, because after all, isn’t that the fun of traveling alone?  I went to bed early because each drink cost 12 dollars and I’m a bit cheap, and then woke up in the morning to beautiful sunshine.

I headed out to the pool, and started my first Solo Independent morning.  I’m not used to 39 degrees (103 Farenheit for you Americans), and so this was a bit uncomfortable.  That might have been mostly because I could only lie on the recliner on my back, since solo-sunscreen application proved to be a bit difficult.

By 1 pm it was a bit much, so I decided to go to the ice cream bar.  Guilt free.  I contemplated buying an extra one for my pretend vacation partner.  Not realizing that the effects of sunstroke were about to smack me in the face, I was a bit embarrassed when I got super nauseous and had to sit down collapse against the cold metal of the ice cream bar to rest.  Luckily the place was pretty empty and the 19 year old kid working there was very busy on his Facebook, so it wasn’t really that awkward.  I managed to push through (since I”m an independent solo woman), and passed out on the Heavenly bed to rest.

The next morning, fully recovered and pretty sure that my sun burn was just temporary, I had another great day at the pool. I bought a super ugly giant sun hat and rocked it because I remembered that no one knew me or cared what I looked like.  Solo travel was looking up again.

After 4 days of swimming in the pool and pretending to work out in the Spa (the TVs attached to the machines were really difficult to watch if you moved quickly), I had fully embraced my vacation.  I didn’t have to ask anyone what they wanted to eat, I stopped shaving my legs and washing my hair since there was no one to impress (except Jose), and I was having as many naps as I wanted without feeling lazy or ashamed.  I was a bit bored though, so decided to rent a car and go on a road trip.

I took off in a giant Buick rental car with room for 4 sets of golf clubs early the next morning, and headed north to Sedona.   Who knew that Arizona held some of the most beautiful scenery in the world?  My mind was blown.  Driving into Sedona and seeing the incredible Red Rocks was breath-taking.


After taking about 80 images of rock formations for my geography students, I saw a sign for Helicopter Tours.  Of course!  This was easily justified because of the fact that I was being a virtuous and independent woman, and I subsequently booked myself into a 20 minute helicopter ride for an enormous amount of money.

The helicopter had no doors, and so you could lean right out to take pictures, and it was simply the seat belt that held you in.  I was in Rock Heaven (which does exist for you skeptics).  Here are some of the beautiful mesas and buttes that I saw.

When we landed it was only about noon and so I decided to just keep going… the Grand Canyon looked close on the map, and so I figured – why not?  I  headed off, and as the elevation changed, so did the weather.  Dark storms clouds emerged from nowhere, and the fields became dramatic.  I took some artsy photos out the window as I was driving.


By mid-afternoon I arrived at the Grand Canyon, one of the places I’ve most wanted to see, and it fulfilled its namesake in all its entirety.  I wandered around, called my father on my cell – the only other person I know that loves rocks as much as me – and then simply turned back.

grand 5grand6

Being alone, I had to take a self-portrait to prove that I was actually there, as it felt important to have at least one photograph with a person in it.


It kind of looks like one of those silly and vain profile pictures that people take of themselves, but that was just because I was having trouble getting my whole face into the frame with the glare of the sun.

Traveling out the east exit of the Grand Canyon took me on a road that was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  Once you leave the park, the canyon continues for miles, winding its way through the earth like a giant gash inflicted by a giant sword.  There are homes on the edge of the canyon, some without even electricity, completely isolated.   The wind picked up, and I contemplated what it must be like to live on the edge of such a dramatic and extreme landscape.

I made it back to the hotel after 12 hours of driving – one of the best random road trips of my life.  While it seemed ridiculous to have spent such a short time in two spectacular places, it was also just one of those things that happened…

I got into my giant spa tub, relaxed, and then called Daryl and got mad at him for not having called me while I was on my Solo Adventure Trip.  He replied “I thought you said to not call you because you were being independent?” and I stated “I know that’s what I said, but you were supposed to know I didn’t actually mean that.”   After I cleared up that confusion, the loneliness passed, and I reminded myself of the good things about the past week.  That actually, I was very very happy, and while I missed my family, I did adore traveling alone because it makes me feel brave…even if it’s just in the smallest way.

Do I wish that I could have shared the Grand Canyon with Daryl, or someone else that I loved?  Of course. But, when you are alone, you become more in tune with your emotions and your thoughts.  This focus leads to an intensity of emotions that isn’t always felt when traveling with others.  When you play the role of a stranger, alone in a foreign land, your sense of what it means to be alive, is simply very different.

And you also don’t have to share the wonderful free toiletries that they leave in the hotel room.