How many years can some people exist
before they’re allowed to be free?

Pietro Gregorini
Jun 5, 2017 · 4 min read
Monument Valley (April 2017)

After a quick stay in the clean and relaxed Salt Lake City — the capital of Mormons that held the winter olympics in 2002, which welcomed me with its large number of homeless and junkie people that I later discovered living in a shelter close to my neighborhood — I moved south into the inner part of Arizona. My flight landed in the warm Phoenix with a huge delay which obviously made me lose my bus to Flagstaff. I had to book a last-minute shuttle, where I found I was the only wandering soul together with the driver. David, his name, was a young guy living in the town with his girlfriend: they met each other at a university in Alaska, a place where they would like to move back to as soon as she finishes her studies. I enjoyed talking along the road so much that I actually felt lucky experiencing that contingency, but also bad for not having enough cash for the tip. At least, I hope my advice about how to cook a perfect pasta would have been appreciated anyway.

As soon as I reached my Airbnb apartment, my sixth sense told me that those days would have been something special, and I wasn’t proved wrong. My host, Iris, was the loveliest person I could have ever found and we had such great conversations together. Her house was filled with so many inspiring quotes all over the place, including next to the bathroom mirror which made me smile all the time while brushing my teeth in the early morning. Weeks later, reading her review about my stay, I felt so moved and speechless by how one person could have felt so connected and understanding towards you in just a few days of living together.

The route from Flagstaff to the border of Utah is a lonely road that cuts the wild nature through the middle and can’t be described properly with words: all of a sudden changes of landscape and vegetation, the colors of rocks and soils. The whole tour to Monument Valley is something beyond imagination. It’s not only due to the stunning imagery, vivid into our heads through all the western movies of the past: that place is where the Indian tribe of Navajo bury their dead, and even if you’re not spiritual you can feel there is something sacred in those lands, between the magnificent silence which surrounds you. I’m not sure if it’s the etymology of my name — which means rock — that made me feel so connected with it; I sat down, I touched the ground, I took some red soil in my hand. For some inexplicable reason, every thought in my head, every anxiety, faded away. That must be what Buddhists call nirvana: a complete peace of mind. In our modern times we always run, stuck in our daily routines like a hamster in a wheel, and while our lives become more stressful day by day, we forget we are just guests in this planet. We forget the peace that nature gives us, and how in nature we get relief.

The following days I visited other famous spots in the area like the Antelope Canyon, the Horseshoe Band, and the Grand Canyon, having such amazing tour guides like Kevin and Shane whom I loved to joke with. I found each one of these landmarks unique for their own characteristics and definitely something you won’t ever find elsewhere in the world. I guess this is where the United States shows its real soul, through the vastness of its nature.

When I reached the Greyhound station to take my bus to Las Vegas, I discovered that due to daylight savings time my bus left yet one hour earlier. Despite the maledictions to the technological booking systems which should have known months before about it, fate has been kind enough to surprise me again: I met Jarett and his incredible story. He’s traveling for more than two years around the country for The Forever Family Walk, his social media project to raise awareness for children in foster care and at-risk youth in the US, interviewing non-profit organizations along the path about their work and programs.

After being introduced to Tater Tots — a particular kind of fries which I still believe tastes like fish — we ended up in a karaoke bar where the DJ offered us drinks to sing. I performed my big numbers like Radiohead’s Karma Police, R.E.M.’s Daysleeper, and a far from perfect rendition of Patti Smith’s Because The Night. I jumped on the last bus to Vegas at 1AM, arriving just half an hour before the pick-up time for my next tour to Death Valley. Once there I was a bit hungover, definitely exhausted, with few hours of sleep, but instead of just swearing I realized I had one of the best nights of my trip. Isn’t it funny how destiny surprises you and how just one hour of a delay could change your plans for the better? After all, sometimes accidents are the best things that could happen in your life.

Suggested Sountrack
Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in the Wind

Follow the photographic side of this journey on Instagram!

A Wanderer’s Notebook

Travel notes from a middle-age crisis. An unpretentious project by Pietro Gregorini.

Pietro Gregorini

Written by

Globetrotting Art Director. Addicted to photo chemistry. Words juggler in spare time. Guaranteed jester.

A Wanderer’s Notebook

Travel notes from a middle-age crisis. An unpretentious project by Pietro Gregorini.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade