Before I moved to China a little over one year ago, it suddenly occurred to me that I had not seen much of my own country. I had been abroad multiple times growing up and went to several places within America like California, Flordia, and Louisiana; but the large majority of America was pretty untraveled for me and for the most part, I didn’t have much of a desire to see it. I’ve now realized how mistaken I was, and find America to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. I now travel back and forth from China to America usually every four to five months, and it has become a goal of mine to go somewhere new each time. True, it doesn’t sound as cool or exotic to travel in your own country, but I highly recommend it. I think we get focused on “what’s out there” rather than “what is all around me”. The reality is that there is beauty everywhere if you look. It may not always be as grand like a World Wonder, but if you take the time, you can always find something worthwhile. New Mexico’s White Sands Monument was first on my list of destinations. Why? It was within less than a day’s driving distance from Dallas, and I needed a nice long drive to get away from the stresses of life for just a bit. Essentially, it’s snow-white sand for miles in the middle of nowhere with blue mountains and bluer skies in the background. As a budding photographer, it sounded lovely and the perfect place to try out my new camera. It also appealed to the side of me that likes to boast of the places fewer people have gone to. A particularly favorite response to one of my photographs is “Where is that??”. So I grabbed my best friend and we drove from Dallas, Texas to Alamogordo, New Mexico blaring Disney princess karaoke all the way.
The White Sands Monument is located outside of Alamogordo within the northern section of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is an American national monument and is the world’s largest area of gypsum sand dunes. Admission to the park is only five dollars for adults and children get in for free. If you are interested in the hours, here is the link: https://www.nps.gov/whsa/planyourvisit/hours.htm. We visited in January and it was a warm January in the desert so most of the time during the day I wore a t-shirt and jeans; however, it gets extremely cold at night as soon as the sun sets. So if you do come, be sure to pack a jacket if you stay around for the sunset. It is a surprisingly fun place for families. You can sled on the cool dunes and even plan a horseback ride if you are interested. Camping is also an option; however, RV and car camping is not an option and you will need to hike to said approved camping sites about a mile from the visitors center. If you like to rough it, you will enjoy a night here, but if you love your pillows and hot showers like me, you can stay in Alamogordo or Las Cruces. Alamogordo doesn’t have a lot going on aside from a pretty good burger shack, so we decided on Las Cruces which was less than an hour drive. Las Cruces was a nice town. Nearly every restaurant we went to had amazing Mexican food. La Posta de Mesilla had some fantastic flautas and churros at a really interesting brunch spot, and La Nueva Casita Cafe, in particular, stood out to me because that had the most amazing homey tacos and then we got fried ice cream and it was like a whole new world. Additionally, we decided to stay in Sante Fe ( its only four hours up from Las Cruces) for a couple days on the way back which was a fabulous city that deserves its own post sometime.
This trip was pretty low key. My friend and I stopped all along the way at gas stations for snacks, roadside meteor museums, some really good and really bad Mexican food. I think that’s why I loved it so much. It wasn’t grand, it was just perfect and easy and beautiful, and I felt free. This was my first spontaneous, for no reason at all trip, and it started something that has only gotten bigger. Now I love to travel solo, as well as planning the next destination and the thought of snapping the next picture. Even though most of my adventures are “bigger” now, this one ranks towards the top because of the company, the freedom, and the views at the White Sands Monument.