In just a couple of months, I’ll reach the 5-year anniversary of my move out west to Flagstaff, Arizona. Before that move, I had a nagging desire to leave the eastern seaboard behind and move out west. I was seriously considering Seattle, but when the opportunity to move to this small Arizona town I’d never even heard of, I decided to take the chance.
Believe it or not, when I graduated college in 2010, I had dreams of moving to New York City. I’d visited the city several times and even managed to secure a job offer. The only reason I didn’t was because I graduated with $3.16 in my savings account, which wasn’t exactly going to get me far. Instead, I managed to find a job in a research lab at the university where I studied. The trajectory my life ultimately took could scarcely have been more different from my big city plans.
Since then, the level of personal exploration and transformation I’ve gone through has been immense. Living in Flagstaff has shaped my identity, providing a unique chisel that has helped define who I am, how I want to live, and how the place I call home should reflect that. There are things here that have been wonderful and revealed parts of me I never expected. There has been deep pain and hard lessons, too.
I’ve learned how important it is to me to have quick and easy access to wild areas. Being out on trails as much as four days a week nourishes my soul in a way that is simply irreplaceable. I’ve learned that it’s not actually important to me to live near city amenities like shopping since I prefer to shop online anyway. I appreciate that movies only cost $10 on a Saturday night and it only takes 15 minutes to drive clear across town. I’ve soaked in the delight of being able to spontaneously drive to the Grand Canyon for the day to run or hike. I’ve even accepted that I’ll almost always see someone I know at the grocery store. Flagstaff has also made me appreciate water and architectural charm, in that it doesn’t have either of those things. :)
I never intended to stay in Flagstaff for too long. Long enough to enjoy it, make some friends, and settle in a little, but I never saw it as home. While it’s become more of a home than I expected, it still feels like I haven’t quite found my place. As the years have ticked by, I’ve found myself thinking about what I want and need to feel that sense of home.
A couple of weeks ago, we spent a week in Montana for a trip with family. Together with some of the other traveling I’ve done recently, it reinforced to me how being in places like that–among the mountains and far away from the crowds–stills my soul and calms my mind.
Part of me is surprised at how much I’ve leaned into becoming a Western mountain town woman. Part of me knew it was there all along.
I dreamed up these photos as an expression of that side of me that has come to life. I’m still learning about that side of me, still growing, and still asking questions of myself. I don’t know what’s next for me or when it will come, but I do know I’ve learned so much about how to craft my life with more intention.
Outfit notes: I’m wearing an XXS in this dress, which fits like a size 0 in my opinion. Take note that the fabric has absolutely no stretch. The dress is double-layered and the hem sweep is enormous, so keep in mind hemming is not cheap. I purchased a size S in the hat–measure your head for the most accurate fit.
Photo location: Livingston, Montana