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Deserting to the Desert

Since elementary school, I thought the desert was the most dismal place on earth. Deadly isolation with dead plants rolling around in a deadly heat. What’s worse than death and heat?

It was June 29th 2015, on the roof of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, when things turned around. I was chatting with a with a girl about my sentiments towards the desert. And that I’d like them to change. I was spending a month down in Southern California traveling and camping. She painted for me a beautiful picture of what the desert was like, and I realized how narrow-minded I had become. So I asked her to recommend a place that might change my mind. After pointing me towards some hot springs, I ignored her prodding and didn’t go.

But, as a traveler, the fact that I brushed her off was bothersome. The more I thought about my dislike of the desert, the more it began to haunt me. Which felt impossible, considering I had no reason to feel such a way. Maybe because all I’ve known in my life is winter, mountains, rain, and snow. My growing love made escaping to the desert the most illogically logical thing to do.

And so, I traveled. Through long weathered roads, I descended 282 feet below sea level, climbed over the Panamint range, then made my camp with views of the “old greyback” mountain. Having grown up in a slow, small town tucked under the Rockies, my arrival at this simple stripped down life of ghost towns dwellers, their scratchy voices, remnants of lives past, and the familiar smell of Mr. Jack Daniels was a welcome one. In this world of no rules or limitations, I felt oddly at home amidst the juxtaposition of desolate flatlands and elevated peaks.

You are my worst enemy and my oasis.
You swallowed me in your dry waves,
Left my body wet, yet parched.

In the end — or where I am right now, on a sailboat off the coast of Barcelona — I can’t help but feel the desert’s draw. The reason for its allure escapes me, but it’s there. Perhaps it’s the extremity of climate. Or it’s simply a fresh new spring fling that will fall away quickly. Or, simpler yet, the hedonic treadmill of life. What I know is that a connection like this is rare. The quiet, free, wild, untamed, spirit of the desert awoke a part of me that I didn’t know. And I will ride that feeling until it ends. And the next wave when it arrives. Each person should find this for themselves.

Who’s to say, really?