I did something I'd never done before last month. I flew to Arizona. By myself. It was my first time on a plane and everything (thankfully) was smooth and easy. I spent a week there just taking in the area, never straying more than 3 hours from where I was staying.
Arizona has its own beauty that you just don't see on the east coast of the United States. I would go back in a heartbeat. Actually, I want to go back. So what did I do while I was there? Well, I went to visit family so we didn't do anything too crazy. We visited the local museum, an aquarium, the LDS Mesa temple, and a wildlife preserve called Out of Africa.
I arrived on a Sunday and was a bit tired so my first day was pretty low key. Besides catching up with family, my day consisted of them driving me around and showing off the landscape. It didn't take long for me to practically fall in love with a lot of the architecture on the nicer homes (which I don't have pictures of unfortunately). The flat rooftops were completely different from what I was used to seeing and I loved the change.
The sunsets in Arizona are gorgeous. I wasn't able to get a photo of one, but the sky lights up in an incredible orange-red color and it is just marvelous to behold. I would love to go back and try to capture one.
It was difficult to get good pictures inside the museum and aquarium, but they were both a lot of fun. The dinosaur area of the museum had a neat little set up with dinosaur machines that would move and they had various dinosaur sounds going off periodically. It was definitely tailored to a younger audience, but it was still pretty neat. This was the first time I'd been inside a museum that I can actually remember. The gift shop was pretty nice though and I was able to get a pair of earrings and a necklace made by a Native American tribe (the jewelry is beautiful).
The aquarium wasn't anything spectacular. Again, it was tailored to a much younger audience, but there were some neat things there. I don't think I'd ever been to one before, so this trip was filled with a lot of firsts for me.
On my third day, we traveled about 2.5-3 hours north of where I was staying and spent the day at Out of Africa on the VIP tour (which I personally think is the only way to do it). Our guide was the owner of the wildlife park, and was a pretty a good tour host; the animals definitely recognized him (although, he was prone to go off on tangents at times, which to be honest, didn't bother me too much).
We were incredibly close to the animals and the entire experience left me with a greater appreciation for these amazing creatures. You could tell that the owner had a lot of respect for the animals as well and the enclosures (while not as big as they would be if the animals were in the wild) were pretty large. The animals looked taken care of and, as some would put it, happy.
From what I understand, Out of Africa takes in animals that for one reason or another can't be released back into the wild. For some of the big cats, that meant they were once illegal pets (an all too common story for such majestic creatures).
I've always had a huge appreciation and love for big cats, but being at Out of Africa... you just can't appreciate how big and powerful these animals are until you see them just four feet from you. There is nothing like it and there were often two fences between me and them. I can only imagine what it's like to see them in the wild without anything but open space between us. They are much larger than they look.
(This white tiger is Chalet. Isn't she beautiful? It's a shame she can't live out her life in the wild.)
While seeing these animals was such an amazing experience, you can't help but wish such powerful and wild creatures could be released back into their natural habitats. It's sad to think that that life was stolen from them. On the semi-bright side, there was such a stark difference between the animals here and animals I've seen in the zoo. When you go to a zoo, the enclosures are so much smaller (these photos really don't show how large the enclosures are) and the animals just don't look as... alive I suppose. But here they looked healthier and just better overall.
The last day I was there, we went to a Renaissance Festival (which was actually the original reason why I was invited to visit). I don't have any photos from it, but that was a lot of fun too. The only thing I would do differently: bring more cash for souvenirs (*sigh* bank problems before a trip are not helpful).
Now, the seven days I was there were pretty packed but not too much (we did have plans to go see giant butterflies but they fell through). We took time to relax and had a few nights in, which was fun. Arizona is a beautiful place and the desert definitely has its own beauty. I definitely want to go there again and see the Grand Canyon (and anything else I can find that's interesting). Would I do it the same way again? Sure, but I think this would also be a great trip to have with a group of friends.
I've always wanted to travel and going to Arizona was the first step towards that. Ever since I've returned from my trip, I've wanted to go see places I've never seen more than I did before. Of course, I can't go on vacation a month after returning from one, so I've been looking around to see what local treasures I may find.
Traveling has changed me - not in a huge way. By no means would I say this was a huge, life-changing trip, but it did change how willing I am to do new things. I want to explore new places more than before. There is so much out there and I want to see things beyond my hometown and workplace. I don't know when I'll be able to travel again, but I'm going to do it again, that much I'm sure of. One way or another.