It is easy as a traveler to forget where you are from, or more importantly to forget the beauty of your homeland. We become jaded to its loveliness in pursuit of what we perceive as the ever lovelier exotic landscapes. I admit I have the grass-is-always greener syndrome that affects many constant travelers. Therefore, I have taken a step back recently to truly look and appreciate my homeland, for it really is something magical.
The Southwestern United States is a land of the imagination. Visions of a cowboy riding into the distance, purple orange skies throwing his outline into the horizon as he heads into the desert’s seemingly endless vastness. Tales of rowdy mining towns, where vigilantes and sheriffs sit side by side at the darkened local bar, heads hung over as they cheers each others’ whiskey glasses, a pistol on their hips and a toothpick in their mouths. Images of Native American elders draped in traditional blankets and intricate turquoise adornments, gathering the tribes’ youth around them to tell the tales of their ancestors through a cloud of smoke from burning sage and sweetgrass.
In truth, these images still live in today’s Southwest. There is still a rugged and undiscovered edge to the Southwestern region. There are still the cowboys, still the vigilantes and vagrants (indeed with a pistol in the bar, legal as it is here), and still the sacred traditions of the Tribes.
And there is still the land. An increasingly important part of traveling is seeing places yet untouched by human civilization. Appreciating the way the Earth wants to be and how, hopefully, we can preserve her for the future. The Southwest is a pristine example of the importance of nature preserves. Luckily, although it is tragic the ancient Tribes were confined to such small spaces and deprived of their true nature and lands, the reservations of the Navajo and Hopi (to name just a few) have allowed for large expanses of the region to remain largely untouched.
I recommend this roadtrip to anyone with that same sense of adventure that brought the first of us to this area. Although it is tinged in the sadness of greed and insensitivity, this area has evolved into a shared space between the conquerers and the native inhabitants, and we all now call this home.
Take advantage of this while we can. Humans are still explorers and Americans are still manifest-destiny-ers. Drastic measures need to be taken to preserve what we have for our children. In the meantime, experience these amazing lands. I hope the above mementos through this region will inspire others to love this land as I do, as the cowboys do, as the Tribes do, and as the plants and animals do… and help keep it for the generations to come.