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Ultimate Southwest Road Trip: 3 Powerful Things I Learned

Karl and I are escaping the winter for a week and heading somewhere warmer. Any guesses?

Anticipating our next getaway has had me reminiscing about our summer adventure to the Southwest last June...

We went out west with very little plans. We booked our flights and rented a car, and just drove. Through Colorado and Utah. Into Nevada and Arizona. We put in a lot of miles during the nine days, roughly two thousand. Many hours of podcasts, songs, conversations, and silence. We talked about our marriage, our dreams, who we’ve become and hope to still be. We shared arguments and kisses. We disagreed and compromised, and “I was thinking the same exact thing!” We drove through canyons and mountains, pass speed limits and beneath stars. We slept in our tent and cheap roadside motels with sketchy neon signs. Hiked for the greatest of views, washed our clothes in sinks, and lived on trail mix. It was an amazing adventure together.


On our first day in Colorado, my very first time to the beautiful state, we spent the day hiking, walking downtown, and catching up with our longtime friend Ariel. He lives in Colorado Springs and we loved that we were able to connect with him during our vacation. It was the perfect way to begin our road-trip! He also helped us map out our drive into Utah to maximize all the scenic routes.

One hundred percent believe the scenic routes are always the best routes!

And we loved Colorado so much from just driving through our first day, we decided to come back and camp our last two nights of the trip there. We googled for vacant campsites, and drove up a mountain with no shoulder for about 25 miles and found the cutest camp with my favorite view to wake up to.

I was blown away by it each morning. For the early part of this year my mornings were a battle, it’s when my depression was its lowest. If words could describe, it’s like I would wake up to this feeling of a bag of bricks waiting for me to carry through the day. Within minutes of waking my eyes, I would already feel defeated. There were many hard starts to my days. But these few days we were camping in Colorado was therapy for my soul. And this was a real moment I wanted to remember. I woke up without that weight, and was eager to witness this view. It calmed me to just sit in its presence, and be reminded of the peace that does come.


We visited Zion NP and Grand Canyon NP. And oh my word these parks are something else. It's been eight months and I still cannot describe the emotions I experienced being in these places. Both did something different for my soul. Zion calls out a sense of adventure in you. To explore, wonder, and wander. It's full of excitement and energy, and the views the trails lead to are stunning. We only got a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, a short hike at sunset, but it was so incredible. The peace and awe I felt overlooking the landscape, I was paralyzed with overwhelm. It calls you to pause, breathe, and slow down. I get goose bumps remembering it all. We really loved being at the Grand Canyon and are already talking up going back! We went to the North side, which has such charming vibes. I think it's less busy and less touristy. It's a powerful place and I cannot wait to experience it again!


In between Zion and the Grand Canyon we decided to drive out to Las Vegas for a day. I'll be honest, I felt really out of my element once we got there. So many people. So little clothes. :P But I’m still glad we spontaneously decided to make the trip to this city of lights. There’s so much energy in Vegas. And walking the strip to see it all lit up sure is something else. Plus we got to shower, sleep on a real bed, enjoy some AC, wash our clothes, and enjoy a pool for a hot second...Until we decided the music was too loud and getting back on the road felt like a better thing to do. I’m not sure if this is a sign of getting old, or learning what I actually enjoy. Either way, I’m pretty okay with it. Next time we go to Vegas, I think we’ll stay out of the city.

I loved every minute of our trip and I'm so grateful Karl and I could experience a trip like this together. Here are three things I learned

1) More Pauses. Sometimes this means a slow and quiet breakfast. Or it's reaching the end of an overlook and just sitting for thirty minutes really soaking it all in before moving on. Or it's taking a mid day nap beside the lake. It's less rush and more intentional presence. I need this practice in my daily life, and even more on a vacation. I starting to feel a little rundown at the end of our trip and learned how valuable pauses are to make the most of an adventure for me.

2) Take Adventures That Work For You. It's tempting to research a new place and create an itinerary based on all the 'must sees' recommended by others, but the best of places won't do anything for you if you're aren't enjoying what matters to you. I think it's really important to figure out what you need your vacation to do for you. Do you need sunshine, beaches and rest? Are you after epic scenic views and outdoor experiences? Do you love big cities filled with museums and inspiring architecture? Whatever it is, build a trip that's consistent to your needs. Karl and I are still learning a lot about how to vacation together. How to balance each of our needs and what works best for us but each trip we take gets better and better.

3) Keep a Journal Near. I journal everyday, but there were times I was so overwhelmed with feelings and inspiration that would flood faster than I could process. Taking a photo of where I was helped lock in the moment, but writing it in words always brings more to the experience for me. Keeping a journal in my pack, ready to use whenever I would feel the need to write, was a gift to discover this trip.

Thanks for showing us around, Ariel! We can't wait to visit again.

I'm a bit scared of heights, thanks for making me get higher up anyways Karl and Ariel!

We FREAKED out when this mountain line came in view!! Oh the first sights of the Rockies. Made our road trip feel more real!

Quick break in Breckenridge for lunch and to walk a bit. This town feels like it's straight out of Hallmark

Stuck between wanting to look down at the view, yet terrified by how high up we were!

We made it to Utah!

Right at sunset. It was such a gift I'll always remember.

Time for Zion

Tourists. Not even going to apologize about it.

We were blown away!

First campsite! We found a free spot to sleep with a lake view.

Seriously. How gorgeous!

Driving took way too long cause I needed to stop and get a good look of everything in sight!!

Going through the tunnel!

Breathing it all in.

I can't get over all the texture and shades!!

What a view! The overlook was my favorite hike.

Another lake view campsite!

I never leave home without my Hydro Flask

Hiked to the Narrows

Time for Vegas baby!

Well that was fun, let go back to the woods now

Speechless. Joyful. Consumed with Peace. Overwhelmed.

Sunset at the Grand Canyon. A bucket list adventure for sure.

Now on to Colorado!

Another campsite by a, you guessed it, LAKE. I don't know how we made that wonder happen.

Karl found a really fun trail that went up the mountain and led to a waterfall.

My favorite view in the morning.

Last view of the Rockies. So long Colorado.

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