In my line of work, summers tend to be pretty much off limits for personal travel. It’s our busy season, so while everyone else goes to the beach or jets off to faraway lands, I’m in Virginia, working more weekends than not and dreaming of fall-time travel adventures.
By the end of August I was tired but itchy for a new adventure. I hadn’t traveled anywhere since Italy, back in the spring, and my wanderlusting bones were aching. Bored and alone on a Sunday night, I poked around on Buzzfeed and found this quiz. After more than 20 years of using the internet I still can’t pass up a good internet quiz. Especially when it promises to tell me where to go for fall travel if I only plan my perfect day.
I took the bait. I clicked the link and took the quiz, all the while assuming it would come back with some batshit impossible travel option, like the Galapagos Islands or fucking New Zealand.
After ten questions, the quiz told me to go to Taos, New Mexico, a place I hadn’t ever heard of. I asked the internet about it, like I do. I learned that Taos sounds like house, that it’s about an hour and a half north of Santa Fe and that it’s a basically an artsy little town nestled at the bottom of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which looked like majestic beauties the likes of which this little Virginia girl ain’t ever seen before.
Ok, internet, I’ll play your cute little game, is what I thought as I looked up flights to New Mexico. Because, you know, it never hurts to look. Again, I assumed the worst. I figured tickets would be crazy expensive on the one and only weekend I could travel, but no. The flights were cheap. Plus, I had miles. A lot of miles. The flight would cost me just $12.
Shit, is what I started thinking at this point. Because the more I looked into going to New Mexico, the more going to New Mexico seemed like a good idea. There were National Parks – six within an hour or two of Santa Fe, which seemed like the best place for me to base myself – and there was a very reasonably-priced travel trailer listed on Airbnb that included llamas, a few roaming doggies and that was situated just on the outskirts of the city.
But, I’d never traveled alone. Yes, I’d flown to far away places all by myself and I’ve left the state for work before, but I’d never gone on vacation alone. I’d spent five and a half years living alone, gone on countless solo day trips to parks in the area, taken myself to dinner and to the movies, but I’d never taken myself on vacation.
But I wanted to, is the thing. I really, really wanted to.
I wanted to go someplace by myself where I could set the pace, set the destinations. Someplace where I could sleep late or wake early. A place where I could sit at the top of a mountain for as long as I wanted or drop the day’s plan and chart a new course.
I went to sleep late that night, having looked at flights, places to stay and things to do in northern New Mexico. I figured I should think on it before getting carried away, figured I should give myself at least 24 hours to make sure this wasn’t a passing crazy that I’d regret acting on in the morning.
But I woke up still really wanting to go to New Mexico. So, that night, I booked the flight and the llama trailer and that was it. I was going to New Mexico.
I got a lot of looks when I told people I was going to New Mexico, and then even more when I told them I was going to New Mexico all by myself. Close friends seemed to get it – I think they’ve come to expect this sort of shenanigan from me, but others were perplexed by the choice.
But I didn’t go to New Mexico for anyone but me, and maybe that’s the point.
I want to be able to face myself at the end and know that I lived for me, because that’s the person I think I’ll have to answer to on my deathbed and maybe after, too. I want to be able to face myself and know that I said yes to the adventure, that I took care of myself, that I treated myself with kindness and that I didn’t waste any of the moments between the cradle and the grave.
So that’s why I went to New Mexico. Because it’s gorgeous, because the weather is perfect in the fall, because there are mountains and an elevation I’ve never slept at. I went because there’s incredible food, delicious craft beers and thousands of years of history and culture. I went for the stunning landscapes and the devastatingly beautiful National Parks and mostly, I went to New Mexico because I wanted to and because I needed to.