Gallup, New Mexico surprised me with its landscape and its people. I went into my visit never experiencing New Mexico and I came out with a better understanding of this often overlooked part of our country as well as a part of myself.
I have to admit when I first learned I would be traveling to Gallup, New Mexico, I had to look it up on a map. I had no idea where it was and knew nothing about it. Not only would I be traveling somewhere I’ve never visited, I would be traveling alone.
Traveling alone may not seem like much to most people, but it was a big deal for me. The last time I traveled alone was when I was pregnant with my oldest. (Does that even count?) I write about family travel and I prefer traveling with my family.
First a bit about what brought me to Gallup, New Mexico. I was invited to attend the Travel Media Showcase Family Travel Conference. This brings travel writers together to learn and network and I knew it was an incredible opportunity.
As I thought about the decision to attend TMS Family Travel conference I thought about my kids. I thought about the example I could be for them. I always tell them to Dream the Biggest Dreams because you can make anything happen. This invitation was about me dreaming big and things happening.
I knew I had to do it and I knew I would be scared. Often to grow and learn you have to sit somewhere between excited and terrified, and still be able to do it. So I accepted the invite and decided to do it scared. Little did I know the biggest challenge was awaiting me.
Day 1: Destination Gallup, New Mexico
I scheduled my flight early and had to leave my house by 4:00am. This meant I had to say goodbye to the kids the night before. As I tucked them in I had tears in my eyes. I was not worried about how they would be without me, I was worried about how I would be without them.
To me my kids are part of my identity, and I’m okay with that. I love being together as a family. We value family travel so much. This trip was going to challenge us all.
I packed my bags and said good-bye. As I drove to the airport it started to snow and I thought maybe it was a sign to just stay home. That is how scared I was to go. I was looking for an out until the very last minute.
I really did want to go and I was so honored to be invited, but fear can hold you back from all sorts of things. I could have easily allowed it to overcome me and miss out on this opportunity. I pushed through the fear arrived at the Rochester airport and boarded the plane.
It was time and the fear was starting to turn into excitement.
As they prepared for take-off, which included De-Icing the plane, I felt at peace with my decision and was going to make the best of every moment I had during the few days I was away.
The plane ride was uneventful. I watched a movie that wasn’t a kid movie-something I haven’t done in forever. It was nice to only be responsible for me even though I missed my family so much. Then I saw it.
As we made our decent into Albuquerque I watched as the landscape of New Mexico surrounded me. I was like a kid again. As an adult you don’t get many moments to experience something competently new. This was new to me.
Seeing the Sandia Mountains and the beauty of New Mexico eased my fears and I was excited to see more of this beautiful area.
Welcome to New Mexico
Albuquerque looked amazing and I hope to get back to explore it more someday but this trip was about Gallup. Gallup, New Mexico is located about two hours NorthWest from Albuquerque. I arrived and check in with my group for our bus ride to Gallup.
The bus ride is when I first realized this trip was more about people. I met my 5 travel companions for the day and we made our way to our first destination-Grant, New Mexico for a visit to the Mining Museum.
Before I go on, I have to share that the people in New Mexico are amazing. I have never felt so welcomed and invited to a new destination as I did when visiting New Mexico.
Our first stop was the Mining Museum. The uranium mining museum offers guided tours from actual miners. These men and women have years of experience mining and offer you a real look into what life it like for a miner and what the mines mean to the community.
I left the museum with an appreciation for the hard work and dedication these people have for their community.
Next door to the museum is the Grants, New Mexico Route 66 sign. I have never visited Route 66 but a Route 66 family road trip is on our bucket list. It was so fun to take pictures and see a place that is part of American history.
From there we made our way to Gallup but first stopped at a local McDonalds. We had all traveled since early morning and were hungry! It was just like an All-American Cross Country Road Trip-fast food and everything!!
We continued our road trip and checked-in to our hotel. At check-in we learned the Wi-Fi and cell service was down and would be for the next few hours. I made my way to my room and settled in. Then I noticed something.
It was quiet. Quiet that you don’t typically find as a mother of three. There were no kids, no phones, no TV, and I was there by myself. Alone but content. It was nice to have the lack of electronics and the time to reflect by myself. In that moment I knew I would be okay.
I did things I haven’t done in years. I read a book. I wrote in my journal. I sat in silence with no expectations. Gallup was proving to be a learning experience not only professionally but on a personal level as well.
Of course no WiFi or cell service is difficult when you are a blogger and want to share but I made the best of it. I even called my family on the hotel phone! The evening ended with a dinner at Anthony’s Taste of the South West.
You know we love to experience the local food when we visit places and this was authentic New Mexico. I learned that green chill was a way of life in Gallup, and goes on everything, and also had an opportunity to talk with other people attending the conference.
Day 2: Hiking at Pyramid Trail and Conference Workshops
The day started with an optional early morning hike. I was on east coast time and was up by 5:30 AM everyday of the trip, and couldn’t wait for the hike.
The hike was unreal to me. I have never seen anything like it. Just like in the plane, I couldn’t stop taking pictures or commenting on how beautiful this place was. I could have hiked for hours. The weather was chilly but the sun was shining and it made for a perfect way to start my day.
Breakfast and Workshops
After the hike we made our way back to breakfast and the conference. The TMS Family Travel conference brings writers and family travel destinations together to learn more about each other. The schedule consisted of learning more about the destinations and workshops to improve ourselves as writers.
Breakfast was a buffet of local New Mexico cuisine and included green chili! The thing I noticed most about breakfast was the heart and love that went into preparing the meals for us. You could see that the people were so excited to share their world with us, and I am grateful to be part of it.
The day was full of workshops and I learned so much from the sessions as well as from talking to other writers and bloggers.
As the day concluded we had a quick snack from Burchie’s Gourmet Food Truck and headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.
Dinner + A Sneak Peek into Facing My Fears Tomorrow
For dinner we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn where we toured the hotel and had a nice dinner. During dinner a local family shared their traditional dances with us. Again I found myself so impressed with the pride of the people who live in Gallup.
After dinner we headed to a Balloon Glow. This was stunning! As we walked into the arena surrounded by the park and darkness the balloons lit up the night. We also had s’mores by the fire sponsored by GoRving. It was an amazing way to end an incredible day, but my fear was starting to creep in because tomorrow would be the ultimate challenge.
Day 3: Facing My Greatest Fear
I feel like I was pushing day 3 out of my head because I was terrified. We had an opportunity to ride in a Hot Air Balloon ride and I really didn’t want to do it. My fear was definitely overcoming my excitement, and I didn’t think I had it in me to do it.
I decided to go and make my final decision when I was there. I knew I didn’t want to stay in my room all morning so I boarded the bus. Then I received a few texts from my daughter encouraging me to do it.
When I received these I knew I had to do it…no matter how scared I was. I had to do it for my kids. I had to show them that you can do things even if you are scared.
You have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to grow and even adults have to push themselves.
So I did it.
I would love to say I was calm and enjoyed every minute of it. The honest truth is I cried most of the time. I was scared the entire ride. It was not peaceful for me and I it took everything in me not to cower in a seated position in the basket.
But…I did it. I was brave and I was scared. I did it anyways.
The people that were in the basket with me helped me in ways they will never know. The pilot, Bill, was so comforting and made me feel safe, even with my fears. He is an incredible balloon pilot and if I ever did it again I would highly recommend X-treme-Lee Balloon Adventures.
My friends that were in the balloon with me were kind and understanding, even though I could barely speak. Their kindness meant so much to me and it helped me face my fears.
Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever do it again. I 100% do not regret doing it. The views were so amazing and it will be something I will remember forever. I am proud of myself for pushing through my comfort zone and proud that I can be an example to my kids.
After the balloon ride I could finally relax. I had faced my fears and I was happy it was over. We headed back to workshops for the morning and then headed out to explore the downtown Gallup area.
Exploring Downtown Gallup
If you know me you know I love turquoise. I don’t wear much jewelry but the pieces I have are pieces I adore. We explored the city and saw so many hand-crafted pieces that were made with care and precision. I was in awe of the talent and beauty that was put into each piece.
Touring downtown Gallup was like stepping back in time. Gallup is a slower pace than back home. It is simpler but there is something to learn by all of this. The people are kind and generous. They want to show you their way of life and I was blown away by it.
The afternoon was a few more workshops followed by dinner at the El Rancho Hotel. The El Rancho Hotel was American Western history at it’s finest. Hosting movie stars like Doris Day, Rita Hayworth, and Kirk Douglas the El Rancho Hotel has so many stories within their walls.
We spent our last evening in Gallup enjoying the authentic New Mexico food and entertainment. I loved touring the hotel and learning about the history of this hotel. It is a part of American history that has a story and I was so happy to be part of it.
Day 4: Time to Go Home
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that at this point I was ready to go home. I missed my family so much. Part of me felt missing. I’d also be lying if I didn’t mention how happy I was that I did this.
Emotions are complicated and I definitely felt both during this trip. I am so glad I went on this trip. I would do it again next year if I am invited, even though it means missing my family dearly. It was not easy but I gained so much from this trip.
Our last day ended with a few more workshops and a bus ride back to Albuquerque. As I reflect on the trip I find myself going back to three things: the people of Gallup, the writers and bloggers I met, and my own personal growth.
The people of Gallup are why you visit. Yes-the landscape is incredible. The history of the area is amazing, if you stop to listen, but the people are gem of the area. They share their passion with you for their community and they are proud.
This part of the United States is often overlooked, and it shouldn’t be. There is something to learn from Gallup. When you visit Gallup, you will see our country in a different way and realize that beauty can be discovered in the smallest parts of our country. I am forever changed by visiting Gallup, New Mexico.
The writers and bloggers I met during this trip made so many moments incredible. Often we sit at our computers and talk through a screen, it can be isolating and difficult to create relationships. The small conference setting allowed us to sit with each other and have conversations to learn more about each other and learn from each other. The experience is invaluable.
Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone. This is the most personal but may be the most important. I learned more about myself and grew more than I even realized. I discovered where to go next professionally and personally. Facing my fears of traveling alone and riding in the hot air balloon taught me more about myself and what is possible.
Visiting New Mexico was life changing for me. The experience is something I will never forget and I can’t wait to share it with my family.
What have you done to step outside YOUR comfort zone? Leave a Comment and Let’s Chat!
Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.