Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

In planning out the end of my trip (which I did maybe three months ago), I wanted to avoid feeling the title of this post (but could always deal with sounding like Slimshady, cause he’s pretty fly). For so many travellers, going home is really jarring. I can understand this feeling. Going from meeting new people every day, learning new things and seeing new places constantly to being at home where things feel relatively consistent and familiar, with only a couple of layovers in between these two extremes, would be really shocking to the system. I worked it out so as to avoid (as best I can) that huge shock in going back home. I didn’t want to go straight from a farm in Bali back home. New buildings are there every time I come home, but that nostalgic feeling of home is largely the same. I wanted to avoid that slap in the face that your travels are over.

So my elegant solution to this was to ease myself back into Unionville (my hometown), just as I eased myself into Asia. I started my trip by making my way across Canada first and then spending 2 months volunteering at a wildlife rescue centre. I waded into travel and now I’m wading out again, through Mexico and Arizona.

Mexico didn’t turn out to be the wade back into normal life I thought it would be, it was more of a climb up an ocean drop off, but that was actually fine. After two and a half weeks of elegance, class and so much stress on what I should wear to basically every single thing (who knew Mexico was such a fancy place eh), I went to Arizona. 

From Mexico, I flew to Guadalajara (where I sat at an old school retro diner in the airport playing the best tunes ever – I didn’t even order, I just sat and sang along to Marvin Gaye and his fellow Motown artists), and then to Phoenix. We had a Hugh Grant-Love Actually-Heathrow airport moment when I landed in Phoenix. I threw my bag on the ground, hugged my sister, mom and Phil (my step dad) separately, then together, then separately again. And we were all crying. One of the airport information staff came up to us and said we were the best family airport reunion he’d seen all day. 

Yes, I’m standing on my tiptoes. Yes, they are squinching down. Yes, I got the short end of the genetics stick (on this side of the family, I am not the shortest – believe it or not – on my dad’s side). 

After our Huffington Post-worthy reunion, we went to lunch where my mom and Phil jokingly inquired about whether or not I had smuggled my creepy, crawly friends with me to Arizona from Asia. I laughed and made jokes back, then they went, “no, seriously… Do we need to quarantine your stuff before you come into the house?”. Realistically I couldn’t be mad or even surprised at the question. I have had my fair share (and honestly, probably someone else’s share as well) of bug issues in Asia. I set their minds (and will set yours) at rest; I do not have bedbugs anymore. Though Rey (my Mexican friend) made lots of jokes about his place having bedbugs. I did not appreciate his humour. And Rey’s friend Andres signed my Canada hat “Don’t let the bedbugs bite”. Where’s the quietly weeping but also laughing emoji… Anyway, hopefully this marks the end of the Rachel versus bugs saga (I feel like I’ve said that already), but I’ll keep you posted if I make any more creepy, crawly friends. I think I’ve made enough for now. 

I’ve sunk easily back into Sedona lifestyle. We hike pretty well every day, climb mountains and down canyons (not the Grand one, though they are pretty grand), soak up the sun, eat guacamole and drink beer in the hot tub in the evenings while watching the sun set on the rim in the distance. Hard to complain.

Our first few days were a lot of rain, which was weird given that we’re in a desert. I wasn’t complaining. There’s something very cozy about rainy days, and I was trudging my way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (oi, Russian lit can be slow moving). One day, after our easy morning hike, Phil and I decided we needed to try to get up to the top of the hill outside our house.

I would consider myself an altitude junkie. My favourite hikes are straight up to the top of a mountain and then back down again. If there’s a higher point, there’s a part of me that needs to get up there. So this hill right outside our window, constantly in view, has been a goal of mine since we got this place 4 years ago. My mom was convinced there wasn’t a path up to the top. Psh. Paths? Where we’re going, we don’t need paths. So Phil and I took inspiration from Doc Brown (Back to the Future, for those who missed my reference) and forged our own trail up a dry wash and through a vacant lot, carefully avoiding neighbours’ property. This is Arizona after all, where guns are everywhere and personal space is cherished. We got to the top of the mound in the photo (after a couple of climbs and marker-making breaks) and called my mom, waving and I was shouting “I told you so!”. Turns out that wasn’t actually the top, so we kept going, intersecting animal trails and following the tracks of other adventurers within the community who had clearly tried this before. At the top, we could see all of West Sedona.

We turned to take a look at the local airport mesa and saw this:

We still had to get back down the mountain of skeet and cliff faces and find our way back without getting lost. So that was enough lingering at the top. 

Though we had made some cairns to mark where we had come up, we were largely relying on following our own footprints back down the mound. We were basically wilderness explorers, and I was loving it. Phil was hurrying me along, really aware of the impending rain. 

We were outrunning the incoming storm. As we slid down the mountain and climbed back down the cliff face, we heard thunder that was uncomfortably close. As we came near the dry wash where we started, it began sprinkling rain. When we got to the road back to our house, the sky unleashed buckets of rain on us. So Phil and I walked back to our house in the pouring rain, looking like drowned rats. One ecstatic rat, one grumpy rat. As Phil walked quickly and with his head down, I skipped along and asked him, “Isn’t this so fun?” (I don’t know what it is, I love getting caught in the rain, it has some romantic slot in my brain I think), and Phil responded, “Um, no, not really”. We got back and dripped all over the floor as we told my mom where we went and how we got up there, and Phil said, “It’s always an adventure with you”. 

We did more adventuring over the two weeks I’ve now been here, though less bushwhacking. My sister’s friend joined us for a week and we did some fun hikes and went to see Antelope Canyon, one of THE things to see in the world. On the way back from Antelope Canyon, we saw Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe shaped curve in the canyon created by the Colorado River. With the blue and green water, this is an absolutely stunning view.

And this is Antelope Canyon

We did some fun local hikes and played with the trail names

(Twin Buttes, but will forever be known now as the Twin Butts)

Just over the mound Phil and I climbed (that has now been christened Mount Rachel – ALSO, we play tons of Bananagrams here and I managed to put together the word christened, amazing right), is a popular tourist viewpoint and vortex. Vortexes are points of high energy (it’s actually a measurable thing, not just a harness-that-inner-qi thing), and given that Sedona is a new-age spiritual place, these are a must see in Sedona. 

For a couple of days, we were joined by my friend Yaneeka and her boyfriend Tom (in the above photo). With Phil, we did the hike that leads to one of my top 5 views in the whole world (yeah, high praise). It’s basically the Stairmaster for 2 hours to the top, then we eat lunch while admiring how tiny these monuments are that looked huge from where we started, and then have an hour and a half thigh workout back down lest we destroy our knees. 

This is Yaneeka and I about halfway up Bear Mountain

This is the top. Yeah, the world the just looks so small from up here

Clinging to the edge of the world 

When we got back to the bottom, Tom searched his pockets for the keys to their rental car, then searched his backpack, searched his pockets again, and searched the backpack again. He looked up sheepishly at Yaneeka and she reminded him she had told him to put the keys in the backpack when he took them out of his pocket at the top of the mountain. Phil sat down in the shadow of a truck in the parking lot and said, “You didn’t leave them up there, did you?” I burst out laughing (because in crazy situations where you have only one solution and it sucks, you either laugh or cry, so you might as well laugh), which then broke his little game and his face cracked. He pulled the keys out of his backpack and we drove home to a hot tub, beer and tacos (after seeing the vortex). 

A good chunk of my time here in Sedona has been in the kitchen. I realized in Bali just how much I missed cooking when I basically shoved everyone out of the kitchen on my first night on the farm so I could make dinner. We cooked a little bit in Mexico (I learned how to make real quesadillas (tortilla and cheese, Rey thought it was crazy when I put refried beans in mine)), but here I’ve been doing a lot more of it. One day we made these eggplant Parmesan bites that I saw a recipe for on Facebook. They were so good. I also made my first pie all by myself (while my mom did newspaper puzzles nearby and helped me when I needed), apple crumble pie for Mother’s Day. I made my own crust, and it actually worked out surprisingly well. I tend to have little patience for delicate, fussy things.

Look how darn tootin good that looks 

This was for Mother’s Day, after we woke up and joined my mom and Phil’s Sedona friends for a long morning hike (beginning at 7 am). These friends have a particularly eclectic mix of dogs:

 Puppy, a goofy golden retriever who seems vaguely unaware of how large he is – Zelda, a husky princess – Stella, half husky, half wolf (literally) – and Sam, half golden retriever, half coyote. Sam looks like a king, he is bar none the most regal dog I have ever met. No offense to Goober Face (my family golden retriever, who is by no means regal – no, that’s not really his name, but that’s what I call him because he’s just so goobery and silly). 

So I think I’ve done a pretty good job easing myself back into reality. I’ve eased back into Western life in Mexico (going out to bars and restaurants with tipping, using toilets that actually have toilet paper and not what is essentially a water gun, and dressing better than band t-shirts, cut-off jean shorts and dirty chucks), back into family life in Arizona (remembering what peaceful silence feels like, coordinating my day with someone else’s and making family dinners), so now I just need to ease back into Unionville life and see people I haven’t seen in ages. Hopefully it won’t be so shocking, but if I could get on a plane 7 months ago heading off into the complete unknown without a mental breakdown, I’m sure I can make it back home without panicking. 

Until Next Time,

Rachel Coulter

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