SF Mission Street: A Journey to becoming “Uniquely Cool”


On the Friday of the dead week, I finally went to the famous Mission Street in San Francisco with my high school friend. I always wanted to go there seeing many photos taken at Mission Street by my artsy friends on Instagram. The photos showed many beautiful mural paintings and I felt a bit more strongly than usual the urge to remember to go to the place one day. Ironically, that day I finally made to Mission Street was the Friday of the dead week, one of the busiest days of the semester.

We took bart to get to Mission. The farthest I got on bart was till the Civic Center station so I never knew there was station literally named as “16th St Mission.” Our first destination was Four Barrel cafe. The cafe was so pretty and nice “inside out”. By “inside out”, I mean the appearance and the taste of coffee, respectively. The cafe had a special kind of ambience. I would like to call it, “raw aesthetics.” It was mostly brownish and blackish all around. There was a sense of ruggedness to the kind of feeling that we got from looking around the cafe. The whole space was pretty large, including a small factory place at the back of the cafe where the process of coffee beans is done. That raw kind of feeling was well-matched with the small factory place and the coffee-bean machine that were taking up the half of the cafe space. Everything was pretty boundless and open. People could watch the factory over their wooden coffee tables. There were several art pieces hang on one side of a wall and they all were geometric shapes. The cafe had that distinct sort of a raw beauty.

Second place we went was the coolest thrift shop I have ever been to. The shop’s name is NO. The name is simple and strange so I wonder what would be the meaning behind its name. There were lots of nostalgic yet still-fashionable used clothes. The clothes were unique in their own styles that I felt like I could take them all to my closet. The clothes were special fashion pieces that a person can not easily find in common clothing stores in shopping districts. I finally entered the world of thrift shops and I am sure my start is a very special and good one. I did not buy any because I wanted to be extra-careful and make the best choice of my life and also because I wanted to have an excuse to visit the shop once again. My friend got unique pastel-orange flannel.
After getting out of NO, we went to a series of many other cool thrift shops that were on the walk along Mission Street and took some rest at the Dolores Park as the end of our journey. Mission imbued with creative spirit that comes from so many thrift shop that seemed like telling each one of them’s own unique stories. There were so many delicious things too. The Four Barrel coffee and the hand-made ice cream we brought to the park were the best. Mission was so uniquely cool and it urged the people there to be like that too. It was not only a place of everything but also a place of niche. Everyone should go to Mission at one time of their lives and find their own niche coolness. Mission is the place of self-discovery and self-exploration.

A Woodland Weekend by Saige Wexler

Sometimes all we need in life is an escape. An adventure for the soul.
It’s a tad painful to admit that spring break is over. We’ve settled back into the Berkeley grind, and It’s easy to get caught up and tangled in a web of daily chaos. That old lingering companion named stress? Yeah, many of us know him all too well. And while Cal students quite possibly possess some strand of superhuman DNA, breathers are essential from time to time in order to chill out, de-stress, and remember what is truly important in the grand scheme of things. Chances are, acing that quiz tomorrow will not matter whatsoever in a coupla years, or even in a coupla weeks. No, that quiz will not actually be the bane of your existence. Soon enough, you won’t even remember it. It’ll become nothing but the dispersed remnants of a meaningless faded thought, a million miles a w a y.  
What you will remember, on the other hand, are the awesome experiences of your college years. One of the most healing reminders of life’s beautiful pleasures is nature. Recently, prior to spring break freedom, a few friends and I packed a weekend bag, put any stress-inducing obligations on hold, and set out on the road for a woodland weekend. Final destination: the gorgeous Yosemite! With good company, good food (in picnic form), hiking adventures and waterfalls galore, stargazing, and ukuleles (yes, plural!) + a bita fireside singing, we had all the ingredients for a pretty rad getaway. It raced past much too quickly, but we returned to Berkeley with a refreshed state of mind and a much needed bliss boost.
There’s just something about the wonders of awe-inspiring mother nature that results in an inevitable deeper appreciation for life. (Psych C162, anyone?) So before you break down and have a quarter life crisis, do yourselves a favor and escape for a little while. Even if it’s just a stroll down Elmwood, a leisurely walk through campus, or a day trip to Tilden, get yourselves out of the library and see your surroundings in a new light. Look for beauty in the neglected.
And most importantly… D e e p. Y o g a. B r e a t h s.
-Saige x
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Photographer: Andie Biggs

Spring Style: Room Décor & Flea-Market Trinkets

With the end of midterms and the beginning of the new season, Spring-cleaning can take on a whole new meaning. Getting out of Berkeley and roaming through the Mission District proved to be a unique experience as Catriona Lewis and I walked down what could have been a mall, a flea market, a bazaar or a gallery, all beautifully amalgamated into one afternoon’s stroll. Valencia St. is littered with cozy, little boutiques that feature one-of-a kind trinkets that can revamp your room’s decor. From minimalist designs to intricate vintage lace and florals, these knick-knacks introduce a fresh perspective to spring.

The boutiques and thrift stores weave in and out of each other throughout Valencia St. providing subtle glimpses into the chimeric hand of the work of San Francisco locals. With every item imaginable on a spring wish list made available, the assortment of shops invites conversation between collectors, artists, designers, or whoever you aspire to embody in your search for the ultimate Spring collection.

Here’s a little guide that Catriona and I put together to help navigate the myriad of shops on Valencia St:

Aggregate Supply:
 Embracing a Southwest desert vibe, Aggregate Supply sells a variety of jewelry from the more traditional looking silver with turquoise inlay statement necklaces to more modern stone and clay geometric necklaces. It also features beautiful desert tapestries and wall decor, vases, and potted succulents and cacti.

The Community Thrift Shop:
Straying away from the curated flea market-ish boutiques we walked into The Community Thrift Store. Normally when I go thrifting I stick to buying men’s outerwear and graphic t-shirts, but this community thrift shop features a large home section with well-worn, yet beautiful antique furniture. I immediately fell in love with a set of blue wooden chairs. The thrift shop also featured a home-kitchen section, and if I had more space in my room I definitely would have purchased some of the old-fashioned glassware and adorable teacup sets.

As we stepped out of many of these thrift stores, which are in themselves sorts of pseudo flea markets, we happened upon dozens of legitimate flea market booths sprinkled throughout the district. The booths featured a variety of items for sale from old toys, knick-knacks, artwork and even clothing. The booths are sprinkled throughout the Mission District at the corner of almost every block showcasing budding artists and antique collectors, and they are an established aspect of the area—ironically one of the most sure things in the District despite their ephemeral nature.

Representative of its name, this boutique featured a wide variety of minimalist decorations that could set a peaceful tone to welcome the new season. From candles to pillows, to miniature garden plants, the store set the tone for a fresh and clean-cut spring.

Serendipity & The Little Paper Plane Shop:
These two stores further down on Valencia are as cute as their names. Serendipity is cradled at the corner of 19th and Valencia St., a couple shops down from Boba Guys if you need a little pick-me-up as you’re making your way down the district. The Little Paper Plane Shop featured jewelry by local artists featuring simple delicate pendant jewelry, with fine, geometric designs and neutral tone stone inlays. It proved to be the perfect gift shop selling everything from small trinket jewelry, coffee table books, nail polishes, natural beauty products, and even natural handcrafted chocolates all simply and beautifully packaged and designed. Serendipity also had plenty of candles, cards, hand painted silk scarves and decorative sheets, jewelry and art by San Francisco locals. And as sweet as both of the stores are, the prints on the cards and decorative items are bold and unapologetically liberal, classically Berkeley and SF, and reminiscent of The Sockshop on Telegraph Ave.

The Apartment:
This sunny little store is brimming with vintage decor and furniture. The mismatched pieces range from furniture redolent of Victorian styles that are modernized with the muted, pastel colors and art by locals that juxtaposes the furniture with an abstract and grunge-y touch. A sign hanging behind the register reading, “This is NOT a museum, this junk is for sale,” wholly describes the feel of the shop. Walking into The Apartment was akin to walking into your grandparents’ storage garage. Bins of postcard and old photos scavenged by the owners fill boxes on one wall. The store is cluttered but in a homey way, as if every item has a story to tell.

Campfire Gallery:
On our way to the 24th St. BART station we happened upon Campfire Gallery. A cute little gallery space featuring an exhibition titled “No Self” by local artists Eli Casiano and Colin Francigetto. Described as pop-surrealist the exhibition features canvas paintings that mirrored much of the mural street art we found throughout the Mission, with psychedelic colors and dreamlike images, transforming familiar shapes and objects into something alien. Read more about their artistic inspiration at http://www.campfiregallery.com/current-exhibition/. Campfire Gallery also features smaller artisan sculptures and jewelry from wood centerpieces, incandescent bulb sculptures, simple, geometric, fine jewelry, books, and the cutest owl candles you will ever see. It perfectly captures the vibrancy and beauty of San Francisco’s street art within the comfort of a gallery directly across the street from the 24th street Bart!

Clairon Alley: This alleyway, formerly known as “Cedar Lane” is ensconced in between four intersecting streets, however, it is far from being enveloped by the crowds rushing between Valencia St. and Mission St. This alleyway is an unexpected and remarkable addition to the District. It creates a space bursting with vibrancy and creativity that creates a safe haven that is interestingly distinctive yet still connected to the community amidst the clamor. The murals adorning the walls of the alley are striking in their ability to voice the beliefs of San Francisco’s artists. The artwork is singular in its ability to create a space that invites the entire community to participate in viewing the works and the voices of a select few group of individuals. What started out as a space for the Clairon Alley Mural Project evolved into space that eternalizes historic social issues from the city and allows new artists to preserve their own perspectives from the experiences of today.

We hope you check out all that the Mission has to offer and explore other SF neighborhood styles!

And if you’re in the mood to add to your wardrobe this season, check out the guide Catriona and I put together for all of the clothing stores on Valencia St.!

Spring Style: The Mission District

In search for this Spring’s new look and hopefully some apartment trinkets to reward my attempts at spring cleaning Shruthi Patchava and I took a stroll (well actually a very long walk) down boutique rich Valencia St. (between 16th and 24th) in the Mission District. Here is a little guide to the spring styles Shruthi and I discovered in the Mission District. Even if you are not looking to revamp your Spring style, all these stores feature their pieces in incredibly beautiful displays. It is impossible not to be inspired to do some spring cleaning and redesign your room decor. And, also check out our article highlighting our vintage, flee-market-feel apartment décor and jewelry discoveries.

Roaming the boutiques of the Mission District, we found a unifying muted color palette bleeding from winter into spring. We are loving the muted maroons, grays, and navy blues, especially a sunset palette collection we happened upon in Weston Wear. See the Spring collection here.

Styles from the past autumn and winter merged together with looks from this season’s fashion week to create street style unique to the Bay. The boutiques were drizzled with glimpses of blends of rich colors, geometric layering and prints to welcome this Spring. Normcore and gingham popped up often with casual everyday wear, muted watercolor prints weaved themselves into solid pieces to introduce vibrancy for day-time looks while statement stripes, power shoulders and high necklines in emerald and ruby hues finished off the season’s looks with a sharp edge.

Thin black and white stripes as well as geometric navy blue and white patterns were sprinkled about most of the boutiques as well, especially in crisper simple silhouettes like straight-legged trousers and t-shirt dresses. And, I have to say I am especially happy that the winter trend of comfy, simple, muted clothing is transitioning into spring. Oversized draping tomboyish tops, shift dresses, and jumpsuits seem to be dominating almost every boutique we walked into.

The Mission also had a unique spin: a focus on the vintage, flee-market, repurposed clothing feel. Featuring both vintage clothing scavenged by the owners and new merchandise, After Life integrates thrifting and traditional consumer shopping (after all it is San Francisco).

One of our favorites from the day, After Life coalesces the vintage style of the Mission District with new styles from this Spring. There was a mix of every texture, from lightweight cottons and chiffon with endless denim and leather outerwear and dresses and cardigans perfect for layering. This boutique has a wide selection of geometric jewelry that provides a rustic contrast to the delicate patterns and textures of the Spring season. After Life has nailed this vintage Americana tomboyish feel creating a museum of worn-in vintage graphic white t-shirts, repurposed oversized men’s jean jackets, worn out Converse, and vagabond-feel leather bags, and they’re all on sale. It was definitely the coolest shop we stepped into. What is there not to love? And find inspiring American vintage lookbooks on After Life’s website here.

Density, though nestled right into the middle of Valencia’s chain of shops, pops out immediately. This store brings out its edge right to the front of the door with graffiti and street art comprising its aesthetic. This store was definitely one of our favorites with an undeniable focus on prints and a men’s collection that featured outerwear that fell right into the balance between casual and dressy. The women’s collection had a plethora of jumpsuits perfect for Spring weather, watercolor and pastel prints and repurposed men’s shirts for outerwear reminiscent of flannel. Small pendant jewelry and natural lotions and beauty products were sprinkled throughout the store, all so beautifully designed and packaged that they doubled as store decor. Check out the bios of all the local artists featured in Density here.

If you’re nostalgic for the past autumn and winter shoe styles, Shoe Biz will let you hang onto your closet staples while transitioning into the new season. This store features many well-known brands including Toms, Vans, Birkenstocks and every type of boot you can imagine. They also had one of the coolest store spaces with an amazing woodsy ambiance. Wander into Shoe Biz at 877 Valencia Street.

Azalea, carrying more brand names such as J Brand, Mink Pink, Rag & Bone, Cheap Monday, and Motel, definitely preserves the muted color palette and slouchy, oversized silhouette while also adding in edger leather jackets, statement sunglasses, and hats. We see why other bloggers living in SF love this store.
You will definitely understand our love for Azeala when you check out the various brands and styles they carry here.

Of course there were some outlier stores. Clothes Contact, a true thrift store, had an enormous section of men’s outerwear, with an unprecedented collection of boy scout army style jackets. They are also selling everything in the store for $5 by the pound so hurry to 473 Valencia St. And if you are in needs of some graphic tees, hit up Wonderland SF as it was packed with artistic graphic tees and louder, patterned statement pieces. Wonderland SF also doubles as a gallery showing off larger canvas paintings, sculptures, as well as small stationery art and wall décor. Check out current gallery information here.

 We hope you check out all that the Mission has to offer and explore other SF neighborhood styles!

Thank God It’s (First) Friday

first friday
The #Das Bus

In an effort to relieve my plight of hunger, I had taken the 1R bus down to Koreana Plaza on a  random Friday evening, with full determination to fill my empty fridge – only to be stopped one stop short of my usual departure point. However, the dreaded feeling of having to walk more than necessary quickly turned into one of curiosity and amusement as I came to realize why my bus had taken the sudden detour; it was First Friday. What’s First Friday? Otherwise known as Oakland’s Art Murmur, the first Friday of each month marks a community experience  on Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street, in which the streets are filled with local music, art, food, and fun. In a way, it’s like Sunday on Telegraph, but on a grander scale.

When getting off the bus, the first thing you’ll see is a wide array of food trucks and street food vendors. Ranging from outdoor barbecues to cupcakes to shaved ice, there are several food options available for purchase. If you’re coming to First Friday for the food stands alone, be sure to come around 5-5:30PM to avoid the long lines that form later in the evening. However, if you want to experience all of First Friday, arrive a bit later around 6:30-7PM, as artists and musicians take a longer time to set up their stands and displays. To give you a glimpse of what works you can find at First Friday, I’ve included a few photos of artists and their works that I personally found to stand out from the rest. Perhaps you’ll find a liking to them as well:

first friday
Jess Jakus Illustration | Jesse Jakus

Artist’s Pick: “The one I’m holding, actually!”
Fun fact: Jakus works with pens and watercolors to create these fun, quirky postcards for various special occasions. She also falsely claims to be unphotogenic. Great work and even greater wink, Jess!

first friday
Bici Arte | Will Freeman

Artist’s Pick: “My favorite piece actually isn’t really done yet, so it’s not on display, but let me show you it.” (top right)
Fun fact: Inspired by his fellow craftsmen during his stay in Spain, Will began to make his own creations, eventually leading to the founding of Bici Arte. Asides from traveling around the world, Freeman also aims to integrate permaculture into the mainstream culture and have it extend past the realm of just agriculture. The work featured above is made with leather, bicycle parts such as tires, and semiprecious metals.

first friday
Rohner Art | Rohner

Artist’s Pick: “My favorite? I guess it would be between the hummingbird and fox I drew.”
Fun Fact: Rohner primarily works with pens and markers to create his artworks. Personally, my favorite work of his would be the tiger pictured above on top.

first friday
Juju Plant (left) | The Honey Tree Project (right)

Artists’ Picks: “This one’s my favorite. I actually don’t know if I want to sell it yet!” (left) “Ooh that’s hard. I guess this one would be my favorite. I want to see it grow big.” (right)
Fun Fact: These two terrariums were actually made by two different people from different stands. The Juju Plant sells prints, potted succulents, key chains, and other works, whereas the Honey Tree Project focuses solely on terrariums. The Honey Tree Project also got its name after the owners attended Burning Man and started incorporating changing lights into the sides of their terrarium fixtures!

For more information on any of these artists, you can contact or find them at:
Jess Jakus Illustration: jessjakus.com
Bici Arte: biciarte.com
Rohner Art: rohnerart.com
Juju Plant: jujuplantoakland@gmail.com
The Honey Tree Project: TheHoneyTreeProject@gmail.com

Photos c/o Catherine Zhou

My Time in the Middle East

I left California to begin my long journey to the Middle East to visit my family in Jordan and Palestine. I will be traveling for three weeks, and can’t wait to document my time there. For the first stop, I flew out of LAX to the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. After a long and tiring 13 hour flight, my family and I decided to take advantage of the few hours we had in Turkey during our layover. We left the airport with a few pieces of luggage still in our hands and began to walk the streets of Istanbul. Not being able to speak or understand the Turkish language, we somehow managed to call a taxi, find a restaurant on the beach, and explore the beautiful city and its streets. In only a few hours, we ate delicious food, met great people, and saw amazing sights-an awesome start to our travels. This is my second time in Turkey, and I definitely plan to come again.

middle east

middle east

I spent my last few weeks abroad in the Middle East where I went to Jordan and Palestine to visit family and have a good time. Despite the violence and political issues going on in these areas, my family decided to continue with our trip and enjoy our short vacation. With a huge family and over 60 first cousins, there was never a dull moment. I caught up with cousins who I haven’t seen in years, reminisced on childhood memories with my grandparents, ate delicious home cooked Middle Eastern meals, attended my cousin’s wedding, and walked the streets of some of the most historical cities in the world. It was exciting and interesting to be apart of a completely different society and live with those of a different world than my own. Now back in my California home, I miss my family and time in my parent’s homeland and can’t wait to return and make more amazing memories with everyone.



On My Way: Hangzhou


A few weekends ago, I travelled with two of my cousins to Hangzhou (杭州). We took the metro to the railway station and it was around a 1.5 hour train ride to our destination. We booked a small room at a quaint hostel. Though it was pretty cloudy and rainy, there were a lot of tourists like us and overall, the city was fairly easy to navigate.



To get to the main attractions, we took the local bus. We paid a visit to a Buddhist temple (灵隐寺), and by “visit” I mean that we climbed many hills and flights of stairs. The monastery was founded in 328 AD and the surrounding area is full of carvings, caves, and grottoes.


Later in the day, we wandered around the city streets and stopped by a postcard store/café. The store had hundreds of different postcards and had tables where you could write and mail them. They had a system where you could pay to have your postcard sent in the future as well, providing options from 30 days to 5 years.


The next day, we visited the famous West Lake (西湖), which was absolutely stunning. I guess I have a thing for bodies… of water.

In other news, I think I’m losing the ability to write coherently in English because this took me much too long to write. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves!

Untitled Ramblings Pt. 2

untitled ramblings

I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t really know how to do this whole journal thing. How does one start a blog? I can’t be the only one who finds the the first few posts to be the hardest. Do I introduce myself and tell you my life story? Do I jump right in and start talking about my life? Or do I get right to the point and tell you what I think the meaning of life is?

Well, I guess that’s how I’ll start.

I’ve been out of school for almost a month now and in that time I traveled to Taipei and Hong Kong on my own and am now back in the Bay Area where I’m interning this summer. I’m going to go back to the start of summer to tell you all about my journey to Taiwan.

untitled ramblings

I left for Taipei the same day I had my last final. My microeconomics final was scheduled from 8 am – 11 am and my flight was for 5:55 pm. Considering that I still had to do laundry, pack, pick up currency from the bank, and BART to the airport, it was definitely stressful! I’d never really traveled alone before, at least not abroad. The extent of my travels alone would be flying to LA to visit friends and my trip to Shanghai last summer where I stayed with my aunt for the first month. Not surprisingly, I basically had to beg my parents to let me go on this trip. This was also my first time staying in a hostel!

During my four days in Taipei, I ate a lot, visited a bunch of night markets, saw a few temples, went shrimp fishing, visited Tamsui, broke my boots, survived multiple storms, did some more sightseeing, and ate even more. By the end of my trip there, the only shoes I had left that weren’t drenched or broken were my shower shoes (actually, those were wet too from the shower)!

untitled ramblings

Trip Highlights

One of the more ridiculous things I did was walk 30 minutes to try out this restaurant that was highly recommended for its beef noodle soup, only to realize that I had read the address wrong and the actual location was right next to the metro stop. So I walked another 30 minutes back. In the rain.

Second, I always thought Asian countries would be really conservative, but at one of the night markets, there was a shop that sold penis shaped cakes, popsicles, etc. There was also a sex shop!!

untitled ramblings

Third, apparently shrimp fishing is a thing in Taipei. They dump fish into huge pools and people sit around with fishing poles trying to catch them. I spent 2 hours doing this and caught 2 shrimp. That was $10 USD/shrimp – most expensive shrimp I’ve eaten.

Finally, meeting really cool people. I’ve read a lot of ThoughtCatalog articles about people who just travel. And at my hostel I encountered people who quit their jobs and just started traveling. I met people who had been traveling for months already without any plan as to where they were going. One of the guys I met had just quit his job in investment banking in Brazil and planned on traveling until he ran out of money. He’d been traveling for two months and would stay in a place until he felt like he was over it and then pick a new place.


Untitled Ramblings

untitled ramblings

I really like summer. And San Francisco.

The thing that doesn’t really work for me is summer in San Francisco. Unless, by some miracle, it’s 77 degrees with a slight breeze which really only represents only a handful of days.

Reasons why SF summers annoy me:

1) THE WIND. If you were on my team/on the exec team/know me at all, you know that I don’t wear pants. I just don’t. I’ll wear pajama bottoms to bed and running tights but that’s about it. Guys, SF is windy. Like really windy. I went to Alice’s Summerthing in a dress and leather jacket aka I froze and my dress kept blowing up.

2) The ridiculous lines for brunch. Okay, so this isn’t really a summer in SF thing because it’s more year-round, but I feel like the lines are even longer in the summer. Maybe it’s because it gets bright out earlier and people get up earlier and brunch. But Plow: 1 hour 30 minute wait, Just For You Cafe: 1 hour wait, and I’m sure Dottie’s and others were just as bad.

3) Driving and parking. Hills and parallel parking. Need I say more?

I guess by now you think that I either live in SF or am there quite a bit. It’s actually neither. I was just there for Alice’s Summerthing. I’ve been before but only once. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a free summer concert held in Golden Gate Park by Alice @ 97.3.  This year, the artists that I really went to see were Ingrid Michaelson and Magic! My sister wanted to make it a family outing so we drove (yes, we drove) to SF for the concert. We grabbed brunch at Just For You Cafe — it was good but not great. It’s also on the pricier side and the wait is ridiculous! I really wanted to try Plow but was not down to wait an hour and a half for brunch.

After brunch, we spent at least 30 minutes looking for a parking spot near Golden Gate Park and another 20 minutes walking from our car to the park. However, as someone who loves live music, it was definitely worth it.


untitled ramblings

untitled ramblings

My Brief American Adventure

My summer began like a Jack Kerouac novel. On the road. Minus the hitchhiking, whiskey bottles, Buddhist revelations, and fleeting lovers. I guess all that actually ties us together is that I was on a roadtrip adventure, and I had his Dharma Bums stashed in my backpack. It was 6 AM last Wednesday, with the sun beating down upon our arms, and my sister and I were on the road.

Driving into Monument Valley from Utah

Within a few hours, we were on Route 66, the historic highway that snakes from Los Angeles to Chicago, passing through dozens of tiny American towns. Oatman, Arizona is one of those towns. As a former mining town of over 3,500 residents, the wild donkeys that roam the street now outnumber the 123 remaining residents. That is not to say Oatman is not worth a stop, because it is, it really is. It is a step back into a past America, an America that dreamed of going west and striking it rich.

Donkeys roam wild in Oatman, Arizona

Back on the road, we made it to the Grand Canyon just in time for sunset. I don’t even need to say how magical it was. But the entire Grand Canyon defied all of my (pretty low) expectations. Maybe it’s because this was the first “natural wonder” I have seen in my life. Whatever the reason, I assumed there wasn’t much more to the Grand Canyon than the Apple screensavers or friends’ photo albums. I was so wrong. As we stepped out of the car, my mind was hushed by the immensity and calmed by the beauty. The colors, the expansiveness, the inability to see the bottom, the surrounding forest, all of it.

Pretty damn grand. And colorful too.
Awaiting the Grand Canyon sunset.
Spellbinding orange walls of Lower Antelope Canyon

But the Grand Canyon is far from the only worthwhile monument in the Southwestern region of the United States. Every other off ramp boasted a sign pointing towards a different forest, crater, desert, or mountain range. Our time-crunched trip took us through Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Valley.  Once we were ready to quit the monuments, we spent the day in Santa Fe photographing sculpture gardens and contemplating artworks.

Surreal Santa Fe rounded architecture and perfect blue skies.
Surreal Santa Fe rounded architecture and perfect blue skies.

Words almost seem useless in describing the trip with justice, even more useless than photographs. Yet, all I can say is to go, go, go. Whether it’s the Southwest or any other region. There’s no need to head to an airport or learn a new language to see something new, see something mind-blowing, meet new people, question your assumptions, or find some peace. It’s all here in the huge and overwhelming America.

Monument Valley, the epitome of American Wild West.
Monument Valley, the epitome of American Wild West.

Image c/o Sophie Golub