Active Adventures in The Grand Canyon State


It’s no secret that most of my vacations are adventurous. As a photographer, I always prefer climbing, seeking, driving, and exploring to laying on the beach and staring at the ocean. As a New Yorker, I jokingly say that I train over three hundred days a year because I walk everywhere and spend seven days a week at my pilates studio. In middle school, I needed to be bribed with a dollar to take a walk, but now I make it a priority to stay active because it’s an important part of how I maintain a healthy lifestyle. I try to avoid subways, hit at least 10,000 steps a day, and focus on how lucky I am to live in a city that’s so easily accessible by foot. Active living is part and parcel of my being, and vacation is no exception.

 Exploring Arizona has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Arizona is like Mars on earth—red and hot with incredible twists and turns. I wanted to go to Arizona just as much as I wanted to explore Japan or travel to the Arctic.


To escape 100+ degree weather, and to make my outdoor plans as pleasant as possible, I decided to explore Arizona at the end of April. Packing for Arizona required strategizing. I only travel with a carryon and a backpack, and maybe this is TMI, but I tend to re-wear my clothes throughout vacation because I don’t care as long as nothing is visibly dirty. I wanted to pack minimal clothes to leave room for my healthy living products.

Maintaining my healthy lifestyle on the road means I need to be prepared. I always make sure to have sun protection: SPF and an oversized hat are key. I also like to pack travel size versions of my skincare and beauty products. Lastly, I always pack tons of healthy snacks because I try to maintain the same diet when I travel, which can be challenging as I gave up refined sugar nearly four years ago! Consistency in my healthy lifestyle makes the unexpectedness of traveling, easier to handle.

With all my healthy essentials packed, I was ready for my trip. I was inspired by the beauty of Monument Valley, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, Sedona, Flagstaff, Page, Scottsdale, and Bryce National Park in Utah, which I luckily fit into the schedule alongside the Arizona adventure. With my ambitious plans, I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in the car, but made sure to spend an equal amount of time outdoors, staying active and experiencing the beauty of these places. After landing in Phoenix, we grabbed our car and headed to Sedona, where we hiked for two days.

I ran up and down hiking trails to capture new images as the sun moved across the sky and created the perfect light for my photograph. I’m an early bird no matter where I go, but if I know I have something I need to capture, I’ll get up before dawn because I’m dealing with elements out of my control.

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Monument Valley, while technically not in Arizona, was well worth the extra drive.

It’s an interesting area, almost like a wild park for the mountains because there aren’t many hiking trails. Monument Valley was stunning and did not disappoint. We had a scary moment, though, when our SUV got stuck on a rock going up a fairly steep driveway on the main road, but luckily we made it out unscathed. After successfully capturing the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon in the same day (ill-advised by almost everyone, but thankfully I went for it anyway!), we continued our journey to Horseshoe Bend, a short hike from the parking lot. It was a welcome relief to be out of the car back in nature, moving my body once again. It’s these long moments spent sitting, that I truly understand why I’ve committed myself to an active life.

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We headed back to the hiking trails before moving on to Scottsdale to explore my other obsession: cacti. This might sound strange, but they remind me of dinosaurs and I get really geeky around them. They all have such distinct personalities and I’ll endure any amount of heat, layers of SPF, and dust to explore them in their natural habitat. Okay, 104 degrees before noon isn’t the best time to go hiking, but plenty of water along the way, a burst of energy from a healthy snack, and my already active lifestyle, made it bearable.

My biggest tip for people about to embark on this adventure is to plan beforehand! It’s an active trip, which is important for me and fits naturally into my already fit lifestyle, but it’s definitely good to be prepared. Also, sun and skin protection is essential. It gets hot, so SPF is a non-negotiable. Also, I always tell people to pack travel-size beauty products because I think maintaining your health and beauty routine on the road is a good way to feel grounded and energized, even when the trip presents curve balls. Lastly, make sure you’re prepared with your favorite healthy foods because this particular trip is active and requires lots of energy.

Julia Chesky