I took about a week getting from Vegas to Austin, stopping in Phoenix to clean my trailer and watch The Bachelor with my godmother and her friends, Tucson to catch up with my friend Jake, and New Mexico to explore the Carlsbad Caverns. The caverns were on my list of national parks I want to visit on this trip and I ended up spending half the day wandering around the dark silent cave, an experience that sort of feels like you're dreaming. I planned on camping near the park for the night and getting a quick picture of the caves before heading on to Austin, but the park guide suggested doing the full loop to the Big Room since that's what made it a national park. It was totally worth it, even though I ended up leaving later in the day to drive the 8 hours to Austin [with a nasty lingering cold brought on by trying to keep up with Dom's friends in Vegas].
People kept telling me I would love Austin since it's like a warmer version of Portland and they were 100% right about that. It feels like I drove home and landed in the middle of July, the only differences being that there are cactuses all around, practically every radio station plays country music, and people say 'y'all' instead of 'you guys'. Everyone is super friendly and weird, and it makes me feel right at home.
I'm staying with my friend Laislee right now, who I met 8 years ago when we were roommates in a flat in Barcelona we shared with two other girls. She kept offering for me to stay with her here in Austin and I almost turned her down since she now has a husband and a baby and I was germ-y, but she insisted so I changed my mind. They live in a big house with her little brother, her friend Febe, and her cute 10-month old Ollie, and they're the types of people who have guests coming in and out all the time. It's crazy how circumstances can change but people stay the same, and it feels like we picked up right where we left off [minus staying out until 8:30 AM because we were 21 and 22 and living in Spain for the summer].
The first day I was here, my friend Travis invited me to go to Barton Springs to swim and a couple days later, Laislee and I hiked along the green belt to a rope swing that she made me try, even though I didn't bring a suit. It's pretty unbelievable that you can swim in the middle of February and the water here is almost turquoise. Laislee also took me on a bike tour for the full Austin experience, which includes eating breakfast tacos, visiting Graffiti Park, taking pictures of the murals all over the city, and sipping iced coffee on the patio. I didn't come here with a list of things I wanted to do, but every day people keep telling me more places I have to go so I have a list now and it keeps growing.