One: Vegas With A Twist

The first adventure of my 35 to 35 journey

Las Vegas, Nevada is known for it’s flashing lights, loud Casinos, acrobatic shows, cold drinks, and scantily clad people. This is a city where mistakes are made, money is lost, and people allow their inhibitions to be at an all time low. I’ve partaken in all of these things, but with the life changes I have recently gone through, escapism doesn’t seem to be the right path for me.


So why else go to Las Vegas? In October I was invited to travel to Sin City with a group of friends. The purpose of the trip wasn’t to party and lay by the pool, but instead, to get a little dirty out in the desert. We bought tickets for the Rise Lantern Festival, which occurs every year in Jean, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. So I booked a flight, packed my bags and headed out to Sin City. We were only spending about 24 hours in the city, and when we arrived we checked in to the hotel and headed out to our first destination, The Neon Museum.


We took a car to downtown Las Vegas, past Fremont Street. Driving past historic places like The Golden Nugget gave me a feeling of nostalgia. As we approached The Neon Museum, we began to see the giant light fixtures that once decorated the most famous hotels in the history of Vegas. We hopped out of our ride, purchased our tickets and headed in. We walked outside to the “bone yard”, and made sure to pick up the complimentary umbrellas, as the heat can easily become unbearable during the day. Then we explored the ruins of a Las Vegas long ago.


Seeing the original lights, now broken and replaced, made me reflect on my own difficulties this year. I think it’s easy for people who have been hurt by someone they loved to feel a likeness to these once adored parts of history. Broken, abandoned and replaced. But then again…they found a new purpose, a new beauty. The more I walked around, the less I felt like I was in a bone yard, and the more I realized it was a gallery. A place to appreciate the beauty that was and still is. After we got our fill of Instagram worthy photos, we loaded up and headed back to the hotel.


The drive out to the Rise Lantern Festival was quick and easy. You really could feel the excitement in the car. We pulled into the parking lot around 5pm, took more pictures then I can remember, and found our spots among the torches. Once we were settled, we explored the tents of food and drinks while bands played on the stage. We headed back to our seats, aka a straw mat on the ground, unwrapped our lanterns, and began decorating them. This is where the real depth of what we were doing sank in.


Many people use lantern festivals as a way to say goodbye to the year past and ring in the new year and new beginnings. For me, this was especially meaningful and difficult. As I sat down to write out how I felt about the past year, I realized that it was challenging to put into words the pain and anger that I was feeling. I had remembered that over the past few months I had been saving poems and quotes that I identified with in my phone. So I searched through them and found my favorite ones to transcribe on to my lantern.


It’s strange how writing down your feelings can make you feel lighter, but it’s an even better experience to watch those words float up into the clouds. Lifting up and away, leaving space behind to heal. The first release happened after 8pm. Once I was able to get the lantern lit, getting it to float was more difficult then you would think. Eventually it took off and was surrounded by things other people were either saying goodbye to or hoping for in the future. It was a powerful moment I will always remember. I felt so blessed to be there surrounded by some of the most amazing and supportive friends. We all left the festival in awe, and we know we will be back someday! Who’s joining us?


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