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By Lauren Wong

This new blog publication is a result of this yearning for travel I’ve had since I was a little girl. I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago and every summer my family and I would take trips together. We mostly went to Florida, sometimes the Carolinas, or to the beaches in Michigan. The only time I had been out west before I had decided to move here was during elementary school when we went to San Diego. The only thing I really remember from that vacation was watching Shamu from the stands while water splashed around us.

There’s this urgency we all feel around the time high school nears its end. We have to sit there and decide at 18 years old what we want to do for the rest of our lives. My dad pushed me to go into business, but thinking of myself, 9-5 sitting in an office cubicle, wasn’t something I could visualize. At least not happily visualize. I knew my passions. I spent all of high school, once I got my license, taking weekend trips with my friends, going literally anywhere that had a tiny change of scenery for us to explore. It wasn’t until one night when I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that something felt like it clicked in me. 

The movie is filmed throughout Iceland, when the main character, although absolutely terrified, takes a leap of faith and goes on this journey for work through this otherworldly landscape. Fast forward a few years, and there I sat, completely alone, on a plane to Iceland. The only time I had ever left the country was to go to a resort in Mexico when I was six years old, but seeing how much is really out there, despite the fear, I knew I needed to go. I wanted to travel, it had just always been done on a small scale in Illinois. But, now that I was older, it was up to me to make it happen. I set off to college at the University of Tampa determined to see everything in the world I possibly could.

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Throughout college I studied abroad in both Iceland and Cuba. Once I graduated I knew I didn’t want to stay in Florida, I felt like in the four years that I was there I had seen everything I could. Road trips to Georgia and South Carolina, to Miami and the Keys, I wanted more, something completely brand new.

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I can’t say exactly what it was, but all of a sudden, by the time it was my senior year, I had picked Arizona. Out west was something undiscovered and unexplored to me and from what I had seen online, Arizona had just about everything. Hiking, camping, the warmth, and mountains. I had never lived near mountains before, or even seen the desert. The first time I actually explored the Phoenix area was when I was searching for my new apartment. 

Escape With Vagary takes you on this journey with me. It’s just me, my camera, and my words. It’s being in a foreign land, with that child-like curiosity that seems to escape us all at some point. My way of getting that back is chasing down sights I’ve never seen before. That’s why it’s Escape With Vagary. Our minds are full of wander, taking us away from our day to day life, in search of more. 


It brings me back to that time I boarded my flight from Iceland, on my way back to Chicago. As I sat there, my heart full, I wrote this poem. 

It’s my first venture out,

alone in this big world and from the second I landed I was waiting, 

waiting for a sign,

an epiphany,

the moment where everything clicked at once and suddenly everything made sense,

I was waiting for a moment that never came and I’m convinced never will. 

It wasn’t this destination that was the peak,

in fact,

no destination will ever be the peak,

our entire lives are spent reaching higher and higher, waiting.

when instead,

what we really should be doing is shutting that ticking timer off in our heads,

to really stop, take a breath, look around, and realize that although from down here there’s still so much left to hike,

gazing up at these canyons is just as beautiful as the view from the mountain top. 

Maybe there really is no peak after all.

In my mind, I thought that the trip would be life changing, and though it is something I’ll always hold dear to my heart, there wasn’t anything revolutionary about it. That’s when I think I really got it. That in order to feel alive and to embrace everything we can in our lives, we have to go in with no expectation. I can’t have any expectations of Arizona, I just moved here, I’m a small speck of what makes up this state. But still, I’m here, a blank slate, ready to take it all in and I’d love for you to come along on this journey with me. Whether you’ve lived in the Southwest your whole life, or you’re new and looking for something to do, I think we all can learn something from erasing our expectations and going back to that little girl who blindly went into the unknown. The only guidance being curiosity.

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