The Heart of the Desert

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Like all the rest of all these outdoorsy folks who live within one of the country’s most outdoorsy states, I absolutely tremble at the sound of a good road trip. I mean, who doesn’t? When I’ve got the wind in my hair, I feel unstoppable. As my sunglasses-covered eyes are ablaze with the wonders all around me—my heart pounding with the thrill of adventure, and at risk of stopping due to the sugary fountain drinks that are powering me through some extra-long driving stints—-oh, the places I’ll go! I never miss a chance to load up everything into that little Honda Civic of mine and scurry along to the nearest hidden camping spots: especially the less frequented deserts. 

With every campsite arrival and respective gear download, I feel that I’ve completed a ritual that’s absolutely been worth the wait. Of course, the journey itself is a ritual, too: deciding which albums and podcasts to listen to, selecting the proper snacks to munch on, and picking out the proper layers that I can peel off intermittently depending on the temperature outside. I have spent countless hours ruminating on the most effective traveling techniques, including the perfect packing methods and driving regimens. The following is a truncated list, or rather a distillation, of all the best tips that my fellow vagabonds—the explorers, the hikers, the hunters, the mountain men, the nomads, the roamers, and the travelers—have regularly utilized in order to better seek out the hidden wonders of the natural world. I want to live life to the fullest by exploring the hidden corners of the desert, so I follow these principles to get to where I want to go, get there safely, and for as long as I possibly can.

1. Traveling Light

As a native Utahn, descended from some of the region’s immigrant settlers, the historical tradition of traveling by handcart had always loomed large in my family’s collective consciousness. As a child, I even had to push a few around for a youth group activity. Even with that experience, I could hardly imagine having to load everything I’d owned into a cart that I’d then have to pull by hand. Considering how much I’d owned a few years ago, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to have pulled it. All those years ago, those handcart activities taught me an important lesson: that I’d owned entirely too much. I needed to lighten my load. I first whittled down my inventory of all of my gear to only items that I’d absolutely need, and then added a few reasonable “luxury items” onto that gear list—I mean, I’m a minimalist, not a survivalist. I feel so much freedom whenever I can just grab a single backpack, and head out for a simple overnight in the woods. When I head out to a nearby desert, I travel lightly, simply, and comfortably—and my planning helps me travel faster. I pick my gear and my clothing wisely: with good food, warm blankies, and pillows for napping in mind, as I make my way to the middle of nowhere. 

2. Healthy Trails

I keep myself healthy while I’m out on the road: after all, I can’t enjoy smelling the flowers if my nose is stuffed up. If I’m doing more than four or five hours of driving in a day, I know that I need to put myself through a structured workout to correct my posture after my car seat has warped it yet again. I pull out a camping tarp, place my yoga mat on top of that, and give myself a sunset session to preserve my muscular health.

3. Just Breathe

I breathe mindfully while on the road. I’ve learned that travel in most any car—besides the luxury vehicles that I can’t afford due to my luxuriously nomadic lifestyle—-is taxing on my body. I mitigate the effects by breathing consciously while I travel, and I don’t let the bumps dictate my breaths. 

4. Resting Right

Even present breaths can’t protect my body entirely from getting beat up as I travel, so I make sure to balance my physical activities with physical therapy. I choose my rest stops wisely, and while I’m there, I practice meditation so that my rest is purposeful. The more determined I am to heal my body during my exquisite snatches of sleep, the more likely I will. I also never travel when I’m sick: especially in these trying times, it’s important to not only protect myself, but others as well.

5. The Stomach Wants What it Wants

Sometimes, the best method for enjoying a getaway into the middle of nowhere, is to spend a little time in the middle of somewhere. Even though I love staring up at the desert stars with nary a soul around me, every now and then I pick a spot that’s within an hour’s drive or so into a nice town—I spend a little money on an incomparable meal at a nice restaurant instead of making a meal by the campfire, then finish the night off in “solitary.” It helps me appreciate the getaway from the real world even more. 


Days of extended travel might feel arduous, but I try not to let them devolve into pain. By following these precepts, I vagabond with verve, and I plan on getting away for “getaways” for as long as I can. 


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