My sister has always been a bit of a free spirit; the type you look at and wonder what type of fairy shit is going on in her head. It’s part of her charm… she has grand ideas and follows them with infinite passion, and changes her direction often. I was a little surprised to find that she chose to write about New Mexico, because she and her husband Brian have been all over the world in the past few years, so it must be a pretty magical place. What I love about the way they travel is that they are super frugal, and camp as much as possible to save money and enjoy nature. Read on to become enchanted by New Mexico, and find out how Leigh and Brian find opportunities for adventure at every turn.
Tell us a little about yourself! What do you do when not traveling?
When my husband and I are not traveling we are sailing (and working on our sailboat- SV Presence-ing). I am also a watercolor artist and we have both recently started new careers in options trading, so we are able to work anywhere with a reliable internet connection.
When did you first realize you had the travel bug?
For myself, I think it was my first road trip I took to Rehoboth Beach in high school with my two best friends. It was a bit spur of the moment, with so many misadventures including losing our unstaked camping tent in the wind, and sleeping illegally on the beach that night and playing UNO until the wee hours of the morning. After that point, I cant remember a time when I wasn’t dreaming of a place to visit, or move to.
How did you find Santa Fe & Taos? Was it accidental or on purpose?
My husband and I were on a cross country road trip taking some time to explore the west coast, had some peaks in Colorado that we were planning on bagging, and arrived just in time for their first major snowfall. We didn’t have the right gear to head out for a technical climb, and so decided to take a detour down to Santa Fe, NM and Taos, since we had never seen that area of the country before. So, it was really on accident we came to be there.
How would you describe the vibe of New Mexico? What made it so memorable?
New Mexico in general has really beautiful scenery. For two people that easily get bored driving, we were really captivated the whole time by the changing colors, going from the desert, to the mountains, to quaint adobe villages with some of the friendliest people we have come across. There was hiking, HOT SPRINGS (super amazing ones too- check out Ojo Caliente), artisan markets, hot air balloon festivals, peppers roasting everywhere- we could have easily gotten stuck there for a long time. If you love art, amazing scenery, skiing/snowboarding, craft beer, culture, colorful art and scenery, pop up markets, and access to hippie shit- you will love it there!
How did you get there?
We drove from CA in our beat up Honda Civic, packed like a clown car stuffed with all our worldly possesions. She is still going strong at 180,000 miles!
Where did you stay?
We camped at a few National Forests, which is actually my personal favorite way to stay; I just feel really really great being outdoors. But we “splurged” one cold night and stayed in a Vintage Airstream at the “Hotel Luna Mystica”, which was a collection of really nicely appointed vintage Airstreams down a dirt road on the mesa with a craft brewery next door (free coupon with Airstream stay).
What are the top three things you did or experienced there?
1) Ojo Caliente Hot Spring Spa– these hot springs were amazing; there were something like eleven different pools with differing temps and mineral content, and a mud pit where you can slather yourself with some clay mud and lay out in the sun (which was still so lovely, the perfect temp in October). They also have really nice toiletries (I’m a sucker for some nice toiletries- no pert plus here! lol)
2) Santa Fe Artisans Market – These artists come and set up 364 days a year, and the square is full of life with people playing guitar, gathering and meeting for lunch/coffee, is surrounded by museums, and has a really open friendly vibe to it. In addition to the hatch chiles in NM, apparently a Frito Pie is a thing there you have to try 🙂
3) Not that you can plan it or anything, but we just happened to be in the Airstream when a huge thunder and lightning storm came through on the Mesa (I had secretly been hoping it would happen). Something about a lightning storm in the desert is pretty magical, especially when your all snugged up in your cozy Airstream with some tea.
Did you meet any fellow travelers that left an impression on you?
When we were wandering around the mountains trying to decide if we could do a hike in the snow, we met a guy from Washington who owned a bike shop and was taking a few months to just wander around. He was camping out in the back of his converted Toyota Tacoma. He showed us he digs, and we let him ride our electric unicycle, spent about two hours just talking about random things and interests and he may actually come aboard the sailboat back on the East Coast (where we’re currently headed) to crew for a little while!
Do you have any words of wisdom for wanderers looking for off the beaten path locations?
B and I have traveled to some pretty amazing places. But the times we remember the most fondly are the times something didn’t go according to plan and we MacGyvered that shit and made the best of it. I would say, have somewhat of a plan, but be open and curious to what comes your way. You never know who you are going to meet or what interesting new place you will discover. As corny as it may seem- sometimes B and I say to each other in the morning: I wonder what’s going to happen today!? I think sometimes we have to consciously remind ourselves to be curious and open ourselves to new experiences and actively pursue the unknown.
Leigh and Brian live on a sailboat (I guess minimalism runs in our blood!), and their adventures are non-stop, so be sure to follow their YouTube and Instagram (@presence.ing) accounts to follow their travels and boat doings!