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Part One: Two girls and a desert

We staggered into the Rio hotel, Las Vegas late Friday night, looking alarmingly out of place in our hiking books and massive backpacks. That’s one of the best things about having a best friend-you can both look stupid together but it doesn’t matter because you’re not the only one.

img_0524The Rio is off the major strip, and although it was a short Uber ride away and shuttles loyally chugged through the night, we decided to save our energy for Saturday night instead. We checked into our room, changed, and hit the casino lounge bars til 4am, gingerly accepting drinks from drunken patrons as we tried to catch each other up since I’ve been living in San Francisco. One of my favorite things about Vegas is the extra O2 in the air so you never realize how late it is and you can stay up all night and feel young and wild…when really it’s just the extra O2. Oh, Vegas is always a good idea.

Fast forward 12 hours and we’re getting dropped off in the middle of the Mojave Desert, next to a giant neon SMOKESHOP gas station sign. Months ago, we bought tickets to the Rise Festival after Renette finally convinced me that it wasn’t a Christian conference disguised as a spiritual festival. Protip: Buy the shuttle passes when you purchase tickets. We were finally here, under the blazing sun surrounded by people of all ages and demographics. Imagine if all the hippie families from Pickathon and the millennials from Burning Man got together and decided to throw on a sober event to celebrate..the beauty of life or something.

14722978_296610350722214_1371686540001935360_nWe picked up our lanterns and staked out a spot closer to the stage, admiring nature’s breathtaking desert sunset. If you’ve never seen a sunset in the desert, it’s overwhelmingly beautiful (so you probably should at some point). Everyone around us starting writing on their lanterns before it got too dark to see, which I recommend doing as well. I drew all my friends, at least the ones that I could remember, as stick figures, remembering them one by one so that my lantern wishes will send good and happy vibes. The event was beautiful, and it made me miss Taiwan.

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In Taiwan, the Sky Lantern festival happens every year in late January/early February. During the time I lived in Taipei, I’d go up to the little mountain villages of Pingxi/Shifen each time to send off my dreams and wishes on these lanterns, filled with awe as I watched hundreds of them float off into the night sky until they were little specks in an ocean of darkness. It’s truly magical because it’s the real deal. It’s heavily rooted tradition in Asian culture, but I could never remember what I wrote and I can’t remember what I wrote on the rest of my white, basic, hipster sky lanterns at this festival either.

Eventually, we got back to Vegas that night and the rest is history. Well, until it was the next morning when we rented our car from the airport rental center (easier to drop off before our return flights, Avis was great) and all I wanted to do was to eat my strawberry yogurt and sleep at the same time. I kind of did both, and that’s why the second part of our trip is #yogurteverywhere.

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