my great, grand canyon.

In late November of 2019, I embarked on a journey that (unbeknownst to me at the time) would result in such a dramatic shift in my life. This may seem like a fairly dramatic beginning to the story of my first visit to the Grand Canyon - an alarmingly typical tourist destination in the wider Americas - but it was this trip that resulted in an inner dialogue that refreshed my well worn out soul and amazed me beyond my belief.


My hands clutched the horrifically confusing map of roads, entrances and viewpoints as we made our winding way to the canyon rim, hopeful for what we would see and experience. I'm not too sure what it is about traveling to new places, but I find myself nervous more often than not. Maybe a sense of dread that what I find won't be what I had expected? Potentially a fear that I will be underwhelmed? The anxiety was no different on this day.


Our unnecessarily huge rental car chuffed slowly along as we discussed viewpoints and plans, like we actually knew where we were going. It's a maze. A parking lot. An onslaught of jacket-wearers. A packed bus. And finally, there we were: The Grandest of Canyons. We had only an hour until the bus would return.



A herd of worn down shoes trod through the light layer of snow to get to the edge. Most with cameras in hand, travellers snapping photos of every crevice and shade of the canyon. Some of the more adventurous held walking sticks, intent on walking the rim. We all had our intentions that day.


It was on this short trip that I realised that different moments are desired by different people. We have our own priorities and unique yearnings. My dad wished to sit on the cold, snow-covered ground to get the perfect canyon sunset time-lapse on his phone. My mum and my sister took turns crafting Instagram-perfect pictures to share with friends and family. And I wandered the rim of this deep canyon, hopeful to find the magic and a moment in time where possibly and maybe my life would change.


What I found strange was the fact that there was no cinematic music playing. There were no insane camera angles, there were no lighting tricks. There were no meet-cutes and no wise old women waiting to impart a word as I went on my journey. I was still seeing this canyon through my own eyes. Through my default lens. Through my issues and my worries of home.



It was here that I was reminded of one of my favourite books, 'The Art of Travel' by Alain de Botton. He speaks of anticipation and reality, that we forget that we tend to bring our biggest burdens (ourselves) with us as we travel and as we seek resolution. Of his trip to a tropical island, de Botton says:


'I was to discover an unexpected continuity between the melancholic self I had been at home and the person I was to be on the island, a continuity quite at odds with the radical discontinuity in the landscape and climate, where the very air seemed to be made of a different and sweeter substance'.


The air was different. The view was different. The accents around me were different.

But I was still myself.


I still got emails about upcoming phone bills by the Grand Canyon.

I thought of which load of washing I would do first when I got home by the Grand Canyon.

I checked my Instagram notifications and messages by the Grand Canyon.


Most importantly, I realised that I had a habit of elevating my need for unique and life-altering experiences by the Grand Canyon.


Was the irony of my life-changing experience at the Grand Canyon the realisation that I needed to stop yearning for singular, somewhat sporadic life-changing moments and actually enjoy the moments I was given?


Yes.


You can choose to see the greatness in a moment; in a place. This year has taught me to seek the splendour in the monotonous and the mundane (fittingly the two things I fear most of all). It has taught me to enjoy the now and not weigh my joy on the scale of physical experience. It has, most importantly, taught me that even though things may not happen as I expect, they can still be wonderful.



The Grand Canyon was something I will undoubtedly never forget in my lifetime. It is a genuine natural wonder, a sight for the sorest of eyes, and one of the most spectacular places to think and reflect. The colours are incomparable, the feelings are grand, and the detail in the landmark is unparalleled with anything I had ever seen in my life.


But the true wonder of my quick trip through Arizona was the time I spent with my family. The stupid jokes we shared on our drives and in our many hotel rooms, the wonderful and lengthy naps I had in the backseat of our abnormally large rental car, and the genuine joy I felt to be back with them, even if it was just for a few weeks.


I may not have had my magical movie moment, but in a way I definitely did.


So thank you, my great, Grand Canyon, for teaching me to teach myself better. For guiding me to guide myself. For causing me to understand that I can make those moments on my own.


And as Alain de Botton says: 'journeys are the midwives of thought'. So keep traveling, friend. Keep allowing yourself the space to think and do. I will be doing just the same.


- Chloe Grace