When Travel Community reached out to ask if I wanted to collaborate and do a guest post I was so excited! I love accounts like this that connect other travelers to each other, and also post high quality content. A little about me… I’m Lauren, a travel and lifestyle blogger based out of Chicago. I started this blog as a way to help people and learn more about myself and this ever growing world we are a part of. When asked to write about my favorite place, I thought I knew immediately. I was going to write about Bucerias, a small fishing town in Mexico that I fell in love with a couple months ago. As I sat down to write the post, my heart kept going back to a different spot. My favorite location is not some tropical beach countries away, it’s not a hidden location in the jungle, or a snow-capped mountain. Where my heart goes, is back to the Arizona desert.
I started spending time out west when my boyfriend of 4 years headed to Arizona State in Phoenix for college. I had never seen Arizona, and besides the Grand Canyon I had no idea what was there. As I stepped off the plane back in October of 2017 I knew this place was special. Phoenix is the perfect city for anyone, because there’s something for everyone. Catch a Phoenix Suns game, go look at the art on Roosevelt Row, or head up one of the many mountains in Phoenix for an urban hike with incredible views. Killer Mexican food, rich history, beautiful sunsets… need I say less?? My go-to Mexican in Phoenix would have to be Frank and Lupe’s, everything on the menu is amazing and the servers are always so kind and accommodating. Phoenix also has fun activities like the Desert Botanical Garden, the art museum, and outdoor festivals dedicated to food, art, and culture throughout the city.
As the year went on I kept coming back to Arizona, and every time I left loving it more and more. My favorite thing about Arizona is the endless amounts of nature in this state. I feel like I could hike every day for a year and wouldn’t even come CLOSE to finishing ¼th of them. Navigating Arizona is so easy, and it doesn’t take long at all to find a gorgeous place to get lost in. Drive an hour and 30 minutes out of Phoenix and find yourself in the mountainous desert wilderness of Sedona, which is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. This hippie town known for its hiking trails and strong energy also has plenty of to-die-for food, and local stores for you to window shop in after a day’s hike.
Another one of my favorite places in Arizona would have to be Page, Arizona. Page is right on the border of Arizona and Utah and is known for its main landmarks: Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. Even though this town is quite touristy, it’s honestly worth all the hype it gets. Horseshoe Bend, what used to be a local secret has now become a worldwide sensation. Thousands of people every day go to Page to stop and view the massive overlook. I’ve been a couple times now and yes there’s always plenty of people, but it never gets old. It’s like you forget how massive it is until you come back, then it leaves you in awestruck all over again. Another thing I have really enjoyed in Page is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This is right on Lake Powell, which only enhances its beauty. The red, white, and brown rock of Glen Canyon pair perfect with the blue-green waters of Lake Powell, it’s truly an unreal sight.
Monument Valley Tribal Park
If you want to experience a bit of history, there’s plenty of Native American reservations scattered throughout the state. One of my most loved memories in Arizona is the drive I took with my boyfriend through Monument Valley Tribal Park. This park is within the Navajo Indian Reservation and can be found at one of the most northern parts of the state. The park boasts gigantic sandstone buttes and mesas that rise hundreds of feet in the air, over time erosion worked its way through the rock and left us with these giant orange and red monuments. You can see the park a couple of ways: on your own in a 4×4, on a horseback trail, a guided tour by a Navajo Guide, or from above in a hot air balloon. We opted to do the drive in a stock Toyota 4-Runner and it worked out perfect. The 17-mile road took us about 2 hours to complete with all the stops we made for photos. After you finish the drive make sure to take a look in your rear-view mirror as you can see the road that Forest Gump ran down.
Lastly what I love the most is how welcomed my boyfriend and I have been in the time we’ve both spent here. It’s not unusual to sit and talk to a fellow hiker or tag along with them on a trail. People here are genuinely friendly with (mostly) no hidden motives, and I have always felt like I had a spot in this place. Though the desert is harsh and unforgiving at times it forges some amazing people that have a genuine desire to keep the planet and the people on it happy and healthy. The people I’ve encountered here live slower, and they enjoy life which is no surprise for a place where it always feels like summer. Maybe it’s the fact that my person lives there, but for me Arizona has always felt like home.
By Lauren Russell from @laurgetslost