South to Southwest 

I love Austin.

It is nonchalantly unique. Quirky but cool, funky but laid back – Austin is a bright, shiny city that is unobtrusively homey. Austin is a place where everyone, from the businessman in slacks to the mustachioed/man bun-ed hipster can find their place and happily co-exist. In Austin, come and go as you please.

We stayed with Alex’s cousin who was a wonderful host. We began exploring in the best way known to man – with Tacos at the famous Torchy’s taco truck. We each devoured a smoked brisket and a fried avocado taco, savoring every last bit of what could only be explained as sent directly from heaven. Then, we explored the little one-of-a-kind stores populating South Congress street, sifting through old photographs and foreign mementos, discovered local art on graffiti-drenched walls, watched people lazy paddle down the Colorado River and enjoyed Asian Fusion at East Side King for dinner. David later gave us a driving tour of Austin, taking us to see all of its different sections. Each pocket of Austin projected a unique personality, making the city feel like a conglomeration of idiosyncratic communities. It rocked.

White Sands Monument, NM, our next stop could have been the moon. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The drive was interestingly gorgeous – the endless desert of Texas and New Mexico sprang into life as we found ourselves in the middle of a National Forest, which made the empty and silent dunes to come all the more dramatic.

We checked in and began our mile long trek to an isolated campsite in the dunes. The sand is eroded gypsum, which means it’s extraordinarily fine and white, stretching the desert as far as the eye could see. The only thing in sight was a breathtaking backdrop of jagged mountain peaks, silhouetted far into the distance. We set up our tent and joyfully scrambled up the tallest dune in sight. The overwhelming sense of wonder continued into the cold desert night as we gazed out of our tent and onto the sparkling sheet of star coating the night sky. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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