Mar 192012
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

Some say the desert can bring you solace –– that the cracked, arid land will absorb your worries as swiftly as it would the first sprinklings of a cool summer rain.

I’ve come to learn that this is true. Possibly because I was too busy worrying about new things, like if I’ll ever know what it feels like to have socially acceptable levels of hygiene again.

Last week’s spring break brought out the good, the bad and the ugly (Seriously. Imagine a pack of female vagabonds.) of me and my travel companions: the female Collegian editors, including fellow columnist Allison Sylte.

And we have the beautiful desert land of Moab, Utah, to thank.

I’d never been to Moab, but when Sylte boasted of its “oh-so-delicate arches” and breathtaking (literally…) hikes, I agreed to embark on the rugged, flannel-filled journey. We made the six-hour trek from Fort Collins in a Jeep named Esteban, and I’m sure those we passed thought we were a car full of men –– because, well, we decided to forgo makeup and clothing made for women.

After four days filled with 12-mile long hikes and sleeping snugly in a tent only big enough for two, the four of us came out as stronger, and probably slightly less heterosexual, women.

Despite the temporary loss of dignity and moments of exhaustion only possible through hiking miles on the “primitive trails” of Arches National Park, I think I came out of the short trip with lessons that only the mystical landscapes of Moab, Utah, could give.

Everything looks prettier when all vanity is lost

It’s safe to say most college women put some effort into their appearance –– I mean, at least a daily shower. But in Moab, the “shower” became a foreign concept to me. “Hot running water cleansing my body? That must be something reserved for the gods!” I thought to myself after days of not bathing –– dirty and delirious.

Yet as uncomfortable as it was during the first couple days of no makeup or Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth shampoo, eventually, I noticed something strange: I felt liberated.

People, complete strangers, saw me looking like a homeless man, and yet, they still interacted with me. In fact, even if out of pity, they seemed a little bit nicer. Puppies looked cuter, babies seemed more adorable, and the famous Delicate Arch, the one plastered on the Utah License plates, somehow seemed … more delicate.

Eventually, I forgot about the level of grime covering my entire being, and I stopped caring if the drunk old man at Eddie McStiffs ACTUALLY thought we were “beeeaaautiful young women.”

In Moab, I looked my worst, but somehow, the world looked more beautiful than ever.

Things are always better when desperately needed

All my life, I’ve been what you could call … a recreational eater. I watch the Food Network for fun, and even if it’s 7 p.m and I’ve already eaten four meals and an entire box of Cheez-Its during the day, eating a piece of pie has always been the next logical step of the night.

Let’s just say I’ve never trusted anyone who says, “I’m just not much of an eater.”

Except it often got to the point where I was eating because the food tasted good, and not because I was actually hungry. Although, this happened mostly before college –– before I was broke and an avid free sample hunter (Whole Foods has the best).

But in Moab, I got to remember what it was like to eat when I was actually hungry –– as in, the biological effect indicating your body needs food to survive. Not hungry as in, “Those Cheetos look pretty good. I think I’ll eat the whole bag because I have nothing better to do.”

After a 12-mile hike and not eating all day, a simple hot dog cooked at our camp site tasted infinitely better than any fifth meal I’ve eaten out of boredom.

Food is always good, but when your body actually needs it, it’s magical.

Travelling lets us see ourselves, and those around us, for who we truly are

Because how can we find ourselves without first getting a little lost along the way?

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major who wrote this whilst hungry, hence the disproportional emphasis on food. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at

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