Arizona & The Grand Canyon: A Traveler’s Spirit Awakens

June, 2008: My trip to Arizona & the Grand Canyon! This should really be considered my first travel blog that anyone should read. One thing I’m trying to do as I write these is to tell the whole story that feeds into my desire to travel and there’s no better example of where to start than here.

But I can’t start at the Grand Canyon. This trip & what lead to it marks a major turning point in my life. This moment marks a time in my life where I went through some pretty drastic changes in a very short period of time.

In October of 2007 I had just suffered my first major heartbreak. My girlfriend of four plus years had just broken up with me and moved on to her ex-boyfriend before me right away. I had family and friends that both knew of this before me and had said nothing. Some even friended her new boyfriend on Facebook. I was angry, sad and crushed. What I perceived as someone who was my other half had just left. I felt incomplete, depressed & worthless. This would lead to a lot of suicidal ideation and even a close suicide attempt that even now I rather not write further about because of how the details could negatively affect those close to me. I’ll never forget how worthless and empty I felt. To top this off I was gaining weight fast. I started going out and drinking more with friends. I got up to a whopping 230 pounds.

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The picture above was even before the breakup when I got even bigger. ‘Ugh, gross’ is the thought that comes to my mind. In so many ways I did not like myself as a person. I wasn’t in a place to receive anything good in my life and knowing how I was back at the age of 21 I had a lot of lessons to learn on accepting my ownership in making my own life better.

Thanksgiving week, just after ‘attempt’ & my birthday on the 19th of November, my brother Joe would introduce me to his new girlfriend. He always did this and I was always excited to meet whomever it was. This time that was not the case. I figured, “Whatever, he’ll probably dump this one like all the others.” (Yes this random side note about my brother will become more important later.)  So I’m falling down further and further into depression, weight gain, and laziness. I start getting behind homework and papers. Things weren’t good. How could someone I loved so much do this to me and how could some family & friends of mine so easily stab me in the back? Finally, one night I get an email from my ex. I don’t remember what exactly she said but all I remember was a long list of how horrible of a person I am. It basically was just her venting to me about how much I suck. Then it happened…

For once during this whole experience, my spirit was lit on fire. Now to this day I know I wasn’t the best boyfriend. What I do know is all the ways I showed I cared. I remember thinking about how could all the good things go completely unrecognized like it didn’t matter. I read this email around 2 a.m. and I didn’t sleep until midway through the next day. What did I do before I slept? I wrote 15 pages into a research paper for my Mexican Archaeology class and I worked out hard! I finally had worked out. I had become lazy & filled up with ‘happy fat’ during the relationship and ‘beer fat sadness’ after. Her email was the spark that I needed. So I decided that I would stop drinking & work out every day. I would run 3 or more miles, drink a glass of water and eat an apple three times a day and work out often. I started doing martial arts more and I was committed to being a happier & better person. This time it wasn’t for anyone else. This was for me. I grew up dealing with a lot of social anxiety and so the approval of others always seemed to be too great of importance. This time I didn’t care. In 8 weeks I had lost 25 lbs. In 12 weeks I had lost 45!!! I went from 230 to 185. Something kept me from committing suicide that lonely night in November and though I didn’t know what it was at the time, I finally felt like that better things were coming my way.

Sure enough I’d meet another girlfriend. (another long relationship with another wonderful woman & yes I have nothing but love for everyone I’ve ever dated. No matter how much anyone has hurt me I rather recognize them for all the good qualities that I admired while I was with them. Even this ex that I just spoke of is now a good friend of mine.) Before meeting my new girlfriend, as I was becoming a better version of myself, I had committed to myself that I’d travel every year. Growing up I never had the attention span for books that I was ‘required’ to read. I b.s.’d my way through school, even grad school to some extent with how much I ‘read.’ Here’s the truth, I probably at best read 5% of what I was ever supposed to read through all my academic years. However, what I did read was National Geographic magazines. My papa would take me to the library and I loved picking up Nat Geo’s & reading about all different people, cultures and places to see in this world. These magazines didn’t need to be read front to back. I could jump around and let the reading come to me in the ways that interested me to what probably is some level of ADHD. Come to think of it, I wonder how many people just like me even read all the way through any of my blog posts. If my writing style is enough to keep my own brain engaged then I’m willing to bet it should be engaging for others, right? Always feel free to comment how you feel about my writing style. Anyways, speaking of ADHD, I reached out to an old grade school friend, Brittany, who had moved down to Arizona with her family. I had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon and asked her if she would like to join. Months later I’d arrive.

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To this day it’s still crazy to me at how much weight I lost so quick. Though I did a lot to make me happier on the outside, there was still so much on the inside that needed to grow. And although I don’t regret my life, I do wish I had taken more time to be single and find further strength and resiliency within myself. See having someone else around sure is nice. They support you when you’re down. They make you happy in so many ways, but the key to happiness isn’t through anyone else but only yourself. One example I always tell people about is Robin Williams. Watching his interviews on t.v. I always knew that he was deeply depressed. He cared so much to make others smile and millions of people around the world adored him. Still, that wasn’t enough to keep him from ending his life. Ultimately, through however much anxiety & depression you can experience, you have to fight through it to make things better on your own. (and in a HEALTHY way) Back to why I brought up meeting my brother’s new girlfriend. Turns out that would become his wife and they’d have a beautiful daughter. My niece and god daughter wasn’t even conceived the night I nearly ended my life. To this day, despite all the travels I’ve ever done and all the beautiful places I’ve ever seen, holding her for the first time on the day she was born is the ultimate highlight of my life. That makes anything and everything worth going through.

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As I look at this travel blog that I first thought would be more about Arizona and the beauty of the Grand Canyon, I can’t help but see it staring me straight in the face that the start of my travels was to bring something different and better to my life. Venturing to the unknown would bring me so much strength & so many stories. This would happen time and time again for the future to come, always leading me towards something greater within myself. When you travel you may see the most beautiful places this world has to offer. What you don’t realize is that you’ll find qualities within yourself you never knew you had and qualities that you are meant to have only if you’re brave enough to take some risks.

During this trip with my friend Brittany, I would jump 50 feet off a cliff at Slide Rock State Park. I’d see the beautiful Red Rock Sandstone at Sedona and then I’d arrive at the Grand Canyon. There I would stand on cliff edges that were hundreds if not thousands of feet above anything below. When I saw the Grand Canyon I was in awe of how anything this vast and beautiful could exist in the world. I’d stare at this image for hours.

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I could see clouds and their shadows moving over the endless canyon miles away. I would just sit and look mindfully. When I encounter a beautiful place that stops me in my place I always think to myself, “I am really here and this is what you are really seeing. Don’t forget this moment no matter what.” To be honest I just caught myself staring at this picture I just pasted in here. I remember sitting on the edge of a cliff with my legs dangling over the canyon. I would hear birds zip through the canyon where you’d here a distinct cutting through the wind. And the wind… I could hear the wind coming from far away funneling through the canyon. Nothing else in the world mattered at this moment. As I was truly mindful and present, all my worries about the past and concerns about the future were gone. This place, its beauty, its feel, its sounds, the fresh air, all of it gives you no other choice than to be captured within its wonder. From this moment on, I would become addicted to traveling. I’d learn that this world has to offer so many untold places that leave you speechless. For my own and everyone’s mental health that is still reading this… Go out and travel! Depression with it’s ‘dwelling on the past’ & anxiety with it’s ‘concerns of the future’ have no place in your soul when you experience such moments of wonder like this in your life. Find moments that take your breath away that you EXPERIENCE. For my own good I travel not to get away from my problems but to come closer to my true self. When you are closer to being who you’re meant to be, you handle difficult situations in the ways they were meant to be handled. No one else can make your life meaningful except for you. You create meaning through all the actions that you take. Go venture out and experience something new, see something wonderful and come away with an improved version of who you are. You may find that you even meet people just like you along the way who are there for some of the same reasons. Now here’s a slideshow of some pictures that I hope can motivate you enough to get yourself going. Stop making excuses. Quit saying you don’t have the time or money. I never did either.

You’ll die not taking your money with you wishing you’d have spent more time doing things like this anyways. So let go, get out there & live…

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