A junior at Arizona State University, Geneva Patterson has encompassed many titles prior to her entrance into ASU, but “traveler” may be her most defining.
Visiting over 20 countries before the age of 20 years old, Patterson has been taking life into her own hands from the start. Last spring, Patterson graduated from Paradise Valley Community College. Although she had plans to attend ASU as a political science major in the fall, she felt uneasy about how much her life was about to change. Instead of sitting around, wringing her hands, she decided it was the perfect opportunity for a solo road trip to clear her thoughts and expand her borders.
“Road trips are unlike most modes of transportation. With travel comes an incredible sense of freedom because you can always change direction,” Patterson says.
THE DESERT BADLANDS TOUR
After graduating last May, Patterson planned to go on an overnight stay in Prescott over the Memorial Day weekend to clear her head. The purpose of this “Desert Badlands Tour” was an opportunity to reevaluate what she needed and wanted out of life and this lonely drive gave her time to figure it all out.
Her first destination was the Mogollon Rim where she spent one night in her car and later drove to the Old Rim Road and through smaller towns Straw – berry and Pine. Eventually, Patterson and her 2013 Honda Tucson came to a fork in the road. Her options were the Grand Canyon which was close by or another nine-hour drive to Monument Valley.
To Patterson this was a significant decision.
“I wasn’t just dinking around in Arizona like I had done before, but this was a long drive to think and, for me, that is a really long drive.”
So she turned toward Monument Valley and there was no turning back. This single night adventure turned into a four day feat where she traveled along Northern Arizona and into Utah visiting six different national forests.
“If I had turned around I wouldn’t have accomplished what I needed to. I went beyond my comfort zone and pushed beyond the borders I had [made]before,” Patterson says.
OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE
This is not the first time Patterson has traveled alone, uncertain about her destination. But it was still an experience far from her comfort zone where her only company was the land and her endless thoughts.
“I decided to keep driving until I needed to stop. I didn’t leave Phoenix to go anywhere [specific]. I just kind of did what I needed to do. I just kept going until I needed to turn around,” Patterson says.
At this point Patterson had gone through the town of Winslow, the Petrified Forest, and to the Painted Desert in the Navajo reservation. In her opinion, the Painted Desert is as “epic” as the Grand Canyon. After basking in how truly alone she was in the “deafening silence” of the Painted Desert, Patterson hit the road for Utah.
She encountered all kinds of wildlife including deer, cows, desert birds and wild horses. After sneaking into the Monument Valley campground at night and leaving early before sunrise, she drove to a desolate part of the Valley to take pictures of the morning sky.
While inside her car, eight wild mustangs approached her vehicle curious of who Patter – son was. She stood outside and snapped more pictures as the horses posed and joined her in watching the sunrise.
Moments like these really stuck with Patterson. “We as people are insignificant, we pass away, but Monument Valley will continue to be there. It’s sad when people don’t do anything to push beyond themselves and experience this beautiful world.”
ALONE AND CONFIDENT
On her way back home, she took a different route through Flagstaff, spending one night in Sedona, to Prescott and Dewey-Humboldt. It was at this point that she decided to head home, motivated by her soggy sandwich and dying camera battery.
“I was in a super-funk after graduating community college and knowing how different ASU is. The trip was kind of a metaphor because I didn’t know what was ahead but I was going anyways,” Patterson says.
“It gave me the assurance that most often the hard things are really good and the unknown is often the best place to be.”
WHAT PATTERSON LEARNED
In this self-seeking adventure, Patterson not only came back to Phoenix with a better understanding of her situation, but of herself.
She says, “I found new ways to be alone and be confident about it. This [road trip]was so undocumented. Until now, there was so much I haven’t shared about this trip; it pretty much only exists in my memory. In our culture, we tend to believe that if things just exist in your memory they are insignificant…. But regardless it is meaningful because I experienced and interacted with it.”
When Patterson got home the outside of her Honda was covered in fine layers of dirt, the inside smelled like the remnants of her meals, and hanging on the rearview mirror of her car was a Navajo dream catcher that Patterson purchased in Monument Valley. The souvenir is a reminder “to always do what you need to do even if other people don’t understand. It was such a wonderful experience.”