WHAT A TRIP
Social networking sustains a millennial traveler during a month-long road trip through nine Western states.
Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Horacio Sierra of the District.
Where, when, why: I flew to Denver this June and embarked on a month-long, solo road trip camping in nine states: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. My goal was to not spend a single night in a hotel. I wanted to see how much I could rely on social media, strangers, friends and my camping skills to make my trip congenial and affordable.
Highlights and high points: Having always lived in big cities on the Eastern seaboard, including Miami and Washington, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the night sky as gloriously starlit as I did in Taos, N.M. I slept in a teepee on a three-acre property that belonged to an off-the-grid family I found through Airbnb. The howls of coyotes kept me up at night, so I took a walk and was astounded by what I saw with the naked eye, more stars than I ever thought possible. It seemed as if there were thousands of stars shining from one end of the sky to the other. Their glimmer literally took my breath away.
Cultural connection or disconnect: Social media was my cultural connection to every town and city I visited. I used my old reliable, Couchsurfing, to meet great people in Santa Fe, San Francisco and Boise, Idaho. Each of my hosts took me to their favorite locally owned restaurants and to parties, which allowed me to feel like a native.
However, the most surprisingly wonderful connections I made were through the dating app Grindr. Each best friend for 24 hours realized my time in town was limited and wanted to show off the best it had to offer. Diego took me to the hidden hot springs of Taos, Jace offered me a spare bedroom when the campground in southern Utah flooded and Robert showed me the glitzier side of Portland.
Biggest laugh or cry: The Grand Canyon now joins Niagara Falls and Hawaii on my list of places that live up to their hype. After staying in the home of the Couchsurfer Mikhael — a kind, New Ageinspired woman, in Flagstaff, Ariz. — I woke up at 2 a.m. and drove to the Grand Canyon to watch the sun rise over the South Rim.
I hiked to a solitary promontory where I sat by myself for five hours, watching the shadows recede and the rich colors of the canyon come to life as the ascending sun warmed the chilly air. I listened to my “All-Time Favorites” music playlist and cried a handful of times as the amalgamation of songs, memories and the vastness of time and space flooded my senses.
How unexpected: I was astounded by the willingness of strangers to open their homes and share their meals with me all for the price of companionship and the exchange of life stories. Whether I met these strangers through Couchsurfing, Grindr or on the beach or at a bar, everyone amazed me with their unconditional hospitality.
Fondest memento or memory: Some may chalk it up to a millennial-generation belief in New Age-, pseudo-, pop psychology, but because of this trip, I began to understand what it means to open oneself to the universe. I put my trust in God, strangers and intuition to guide me, and I was not disappointed. I learned that opening ourselves up to ask for help and offering it to others is the only way to travel and live.
Horacio Sierra at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, one of the nine states he visited with a vow to not stay in a hotel.