Ever since the founding of the United States, Americans have felt the need to travel west, from the intrepid explorers hoping to map the unknown to the enduring families hoping to make a living. Two years ago, I found myself among the millions of Americans who have been unable to resist the call of the West, although only my stay was only temporary. My family and I went on a trip to the Southwest in which we visited three major destinations, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park, and it was an experience that I will never forget
Our journey began in Las Vegas, which was a four-hour plane ride away from Boston, our home. My voyage was much more comfortable than that of the many people who trekked westward in previous centuries. Having spent countless childhood hours playing the computer game Oregon Trail, I was well aware of the starvation, disease, and other perils that the early settlers had endured. Five minutes of turbulence was nothing compared to five months in a bumpy wagon.
Upon landing in Las Vegas, my brother and I were astounded at the raw spectacle of the city. The dazzling lights, the colossal hotels, it was like nothing we had ever seen, a lavish oasis rising from the bare desert. This was far beyond what the pioneers had ever expected to build.
We spent two days in Las Vegas, taking in the splendor of the magnificent hotels and enjoying the luxury of the spacious pools, but we would not have wanted to stay any longer, because, despite the family-friendly image it tries to promote, Las Vegas is not a good place for kids. It is a place where drinking and gambling are encouraged, a place where men on street corners hand out advertisements for prostitutes and strippers, even to my little brother and me. As a comedian that we saw said, ‘Bringing the kids to Vegas is like bringing a hooker to Disneyland.’
From Vegas we went south, eventually reaching our second destination, the Grand Canyon. Nothing could match the immense awe I felt upon viewing the canyon’s unimaginable vastness for the first time. I had seen many photographs of the canyon, but such unimaginable magnitude cannot be captured on film. As I gazed upon the lofty orange rock formations that rose up from the ten-mile expanse between the two edges of the canyon, I inevitably realized just how small I was.
I was only a speck in the canyon, yet the canyon was only a minor tear on the surface of the earth and the earth was only a little ball drifting through the universe. After traveling to the many gorgeous vistas along the rim and taking two grueling hikes into the canyon, my family proceeded to Zion, our third destination, but on the way we made an impromptu stop at Monument Valley, a Navajo Tribal Park that lies between Arizona and Utah. The park’s protruding plateaus of orange rock are instantly recognizable, for they have been the backdrop for countless Westerns and other films set in the west.
Ironically, the reality of the surrounding Navajo reservation provides a stark contrast to the glory of the movies shot at Monument Valley. The glum and somewhat impoverished reservation is a reminder of the many ways in which the Native Americans were trampled on during the nation’s great westward stampede. Although times are better now, they still have not recovered from the many injustices they suffered at the hands of the United States.
Our final destination was Zion National Park, a geologic marvel in the heart of Utah. Zion is a canyon lined with colossal rock monoliths, which were formed as water drained into the chasm over millions of years. During the few days that I spent climbing the gigantic towers of rock and exploring the ravines between them, I truly understood the irresistible pull of the West.
I had never felt such a glorifying sense of adventure and accomplishment. When my family returned to Vegas for the flight home, the hotels seemed hollow and unimpressive compared to the natural wonders of Zion and the Grand Canyon. As the plane ascended, the city shrunk into the vastness of the desert and I realized that, no matter what people build in the west, they can never surpass the natural wonders that were there to begin with.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.