I’ve never understood the appeal of Las Vegas but seeing as how it’s the most accessible city near Death Valley, Cooper and I decided to swallow our sense of dignity and spend the weekend together in the city.
In true us fashion, we couldn’t sit still long enough to even sleep. After a night in Vegas, we camped at a questionable half-trailer-park-half-campground in North Vegas. When we first got to the campsite we walked in circles before discovering the tent-camping area; a small circle of dead grass in the middle of the park that most likely served as a bathroom to all of the miniature poodles the RV campers owned. With military jets circling the campground in thirty-minute intervals and the nearby hotels looking like a great front for “activities of questionable morals”, we were antsy to explore elsewhere.
The third night, we hitch hiked out to Red Rock National Conservancy, BLM land just outside of Vegas. Neither one of us had experience with hitch hiking before and grew immediately nervous when the man who picked us up told us he would take us “somewhere better” than the campground we were planning on staying at. Fortunately for us, he was as well intentioned as we could have hoped and we ended up at the trailhead of an incredible canyon just north of the campsite. We climbed up the face of the rocks and found an alcove between two mountains with trees to set up a hammock and enjoyed the night watching the stars and the lights of Vegas at a comfortable distance.
Our last night in town, we headed back into Vegas and planned on staying at a hotel only to find out that I booked the room for the 8th of February. This is when I discovered my equal hatred for Vegas and Valentines Day. With no place to stay, we checked out a few hotels with vacancy near Fremont. We must have seen a handful of hotels that looked like locations where they filmed crime scenes for CSI, with a guaranteed roach problem and bed bugs, only to be told at each one that a room would be near $260 for a night. Being on a living stipend of about $1.50 an hour, and having too much pride to give in, we decided to pump ourselves full of caffeine instead and make an adventure out of the night exploring the strip and people watching, before we were finally offered a place to sleep around three a.m.
Despite the moments that would leave most disappointed in what was suppose to be a perfect weekend, I left that dirty city without a regret from my time spent in there. This program is so all encompassing that it’s sometimes hard to feel like there is more to my life than what is immediately in front of me. The past six months of my life have been nothing but AmeriCorps and I still have six more months to go. Vegas was the perfect getaway to remind myself that despite what I’m doing now, there are other aspects of my life that are equally important in constructing who I am. Sometimes being able to get away, to escape with nearby friends and family, or to vacation in the most undeniably disgusting town this nation has to offer with someone who means a lot to me, is a good mental restart to show me the incredible things I have waiting for me just outside of this year long experience.
None of this is to say that I’m not enjoying where I’m at right now. The tax season has been an incredibly rewarding project and I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity to learn new things and work with such appreciative clients. I’ve never left a shift feeling as if I hadn’t positively impacted at least one person’s day, and that’s something that I constantly doubted I would gain from FEMA and worried I would feel through every project I was assigned. I’m incredibly grateful for this project, for the chance to live in Seattle, and for experiences I’m encountering daily while here. However, there’s always a bit of homesickness and the desire to surround myself with the comforts associated with being around those that know me far better than others can. It’s in those moments that I’m also thankful to be so close to good friends and family and for the opportunity to take time off and visit those I care about. It’s provided me a sense of balance that I’m finding increasingly important to have while here.