Lessons Learned in Arizona

As someone who hops on a plane almost monthly or more these days, I tend to think I have this whole “travel” thing down pat.

I wait till the night before to pack, have my little travel sized bottles for my hair products, and never forget a charger. I’ve never missed a flight (knocking on wood right now), and always arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I have my routine, and everything kind of falls into place.

Flights ✓
AirBnb ✓
Car Rental ✓
General idea of what we’d do each day ✓

So, imagine my surprise when it turns out, we were totally unprepared for Arizona. 

Things went wrong. Bad decisions were made. Dollars were lost. And lessons were learned. 

The Listicle of Lessons Learned in Arizona

1. 5am flights are a terrible idea for so many reasons. You think you’re saving money, but what you save in money on the flight will easily be made up for in the number of coffees and energy drinks you buy in order to stay awake once you arrive, the Uber to the airport since the trains are unreliable at that hour, and the time wasted spent napping and slightly cranky. Syd and I woke up at 2:30 am CT on the day of our departure to Arizona, and once we arrived in Phoenix, at around 6am PT, we then grabbed the car and drove up to Sedona where we then proceeded to get lost on an absolutely stunning and gorgeous and mind boggling hike… for four hours. Which brings me to…

​2. Look up your hikes before you decide to pick one on a whim. 

They are always longer than what you think they’ll be. We thought the Airport Mesa loop was surely only a few miles long– three max right? We’d just do a quick hike, and we’d be off exploring Sedona by 10am.


Not exactly.

The loop plus the rest of the hike ended up being a massive eleven miles of hiking, a hike we did after only getting about four hours of sleep. The hike around Airport mesa and the loop was incredible– lush with all the assorted desert wildlife and unlike anything Syd or I had ever seen, but what I think I’ll remember most is Sydney and I making it to the end, and deciding that  instead of hiking all the way back through the gorgeous loop, we’d take our chances on the asphalt up a 45º incline hill shortcut to get back to the car.

We had been hiking for eleven miles– and our legs were ready to sweep out beneath us and die, because that would be easier than climbing all the way up that damn hill. Our sunscreen wasn’t cutting it either, and I could feel my skin practically bubble under the noonday Arizona sun. But it was hilarious. And ridiculous. And we learned to always look up our hikes before deciding that a hike “looks” like it’ll only be about 3-4 miles tops. Which reminds me..

3Spray sunscreen is for suckers. 

Rub in lotion, the gross kind, is the way to go. I made the mistake of using spray on and ended our first day of hiking with some interesting candy cane patterns on my skin. Sydney, who was smart, and also fairer in skin tone than me, bought the rub on lotion kind. I burnt. She did not. It’s science. Spray sunscreen is a lie.

4. Look up the restaurant or plan to spend a fortune. 

Especially in Sedona, Arizona where the world’s bougiest hippies spend their time reconnecting with their spirits via $1,000 crystals, reiki healing, acupuncture, spiritual guide consultations, and vortices. After our four hour long hike, Sydney and I were starving for some food and some beer. Near the airport mesa was a little place that looked very similar to the tiny and cheap taco joints in Logan Square. Well. It was a vegan taco place with $20 tamales. Lessons learned. Look up the restaurant beforehand if you don’t want to spend $20 on a tamale. 

​5. Cheaper isn’t always cheaper. 

Sydney and I were really proud of our Airbnb find– it was cheap ($25 each a night), had multiple beds, came with a dog, had a pool, and was in a cute little loft above a single woman’s home which she shared with her five year old son. By the time we finished our impromptu hike in Sedona, we were ready to head upstate to Flagstaff to pass out for a bit and hit up the mountain view pool.

The AirBnb was adorable despite being hard to locate, but when we got up to the room, in the loft attic of her single family home, we noticed one very important component was missing– air conditioning. The loft of her house was at a cozy 90 degrees with a teeny tiny fan mocking us with it’s nearly nonexistent manufactured breeze.

At first, we figured it would just cool down drastically between 3pm and 8pm, but when we came back from the pool ready to pass out from a long 18 hour day, the air was thick with the kind of heat that sucks the air out of a room. We both tried to make it work. But at around nine, Sydney had the “get me the fuck out of here or this whole trip is ruined” tone in her voice, and we booked a hotel room, packed up our things, and made our way to the adorable Flagstaff downtown.


Lessons learned– if you sleep hot, always check on the air conditioning situation in your AirBnb in Arizona or you might be dropping major bucks on a last minute hotel. As it turns out, most buildings and homes  in Flagstaff, office building included, don’t have AC. Cue the blissfully ignorant Midwestern shrug emoji.

5. You can’t do all the things, all at once.

This is common theme in the lessons I always learn, or am reminded of. First of all, hiking in June/July in Arizona is not the easiest thing to do. It’s gorgeous and rewarding as hell, but it’s also exhausting and takes a lot of time and energy.

Part of me had FOMO because there are SO many beautiful hikes in the area, so many things to see and drive through– it makes you a little panicky when you have a limited amount of time to and see everything you want to do. But you know what ended up being more important than DOING ALL THE THINGS ALL RIGHT NOW?

Chilling with my sister. Going to a yoga class in Flagstaff and grabbing a beer. Ending up at a random folk festival that we would have never known about had we had a full agenda every single day. Hanging by the pool in the 95 degree heat of Scottsdale.

We had the perfect mix doing the touristy hikes in the morning, and spending the afternoons relaxing, exploring, and enjoying Arizona. If I were worried about checking off things on a bucket list the whole time, I would have been exhausted and missed the enjoyment of just relaxing and enjoying being somewhere new with one of my favorite people on the planet. 

6I’m ready for a real break from traveling. 

I’m tired. I love traveling, a lot, but I’m ready to take a few months off as I adjust to this new job. I was originally planning a trip to Italy in November, but I think I’m going to table it for a few months until I get into a nice routine that helps me find a balance between work, play, my passions and taking care of myself.

Even though life is going good, and I might be the happiest I’ve ever been right now, I still struggle to find the balance between those things. It’s a constant battle, but I feel lucky to be in a good place and grateful of the new opportunities in my life right now.

Real talk.

This post took me about two weeks to write. Life has, as per usual been a constant to do list. I took two weeks off in between jobs (another blog post on some of those changes soon), and blogging kept falling down the list of priorities because it takes some brain power. Which I don’t always have after long work days, drinking with friends, running around adulting, or hiking and getting lost in the desert.

I’m hoping my new routine, once I figure it out, will allow me to spend more time doing things like this! I haven’t done yoga at the studio for about three weeks which is driving me nuts, so my upcoming goals will include more yoga, time outdoors, and writing. 

Lots of love to you all out there! If you have the secret to balancing it all, feel free to drop some ideas in the comments below <3

Looking for other great resources on Arizona? Check out the best resorts in Tuscon here!

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