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Leaving Space for Stories

This weekend, I ventured deep into the heart of Texas. Six hours of driving through desolate terrain and away from the comforts of the city brought my friend and I to the small desert town of Marfa, Texas. The town, with less than 2,000 residents, has gained a reputation and has been featured in numerous magazines for being a magical place where the Wild, Wild West meets Wes Anderson contemporary. As a born and raised Texan and fan of modern art, I knew I had to make a trip out there.

Leaving Space for Stories

Photo taken by Arielle Avila

Being from Dallas and living in Austin the past five years has made me accustomed to the constant buzz of cities, and nothing could have prepared me more for the quietness of the desert. As we drove into the town at night, I was surprised by the city's lack of nightlife or streetlights - it seemed like we had arrived in a ghost town. I questioned why we had just driven so far out west and freaked out at my lack of cell service or wifi. What had I gotten myself into? I started to think this trip wasn't going to be worth all the hype.

Photo taken by Arielle Avila

As soon as we arrived at our AirBnB, I was delightfully proven wrong. Our host turned out to be an artist from Texas who traveled frequently internationally. Before we could put our things down, he offered us homecooked Thai food and started giving us recommendations of where to visit during our trip. We took into consideration all of his recommendations and had our next couple of days packed with tours to go on, sites to see and restaurants to try.

Even with things planned out for our trip, I still had a sense of restlessness – I couldn't get over the stillness, the calmness of the desert. I was expecting more. The first day was the most difficult. During our breaks in between coffee shops and art tours, I was trying to break the quietness of the town by checking my phone or hopping on social media, but we were in the middle of nowhere and wifi was fleeting. I finally put away my phone for good, and slowly I was beginning to enjoy the trip.

The rest of the time in Marfa was spent talking to the people who ran the art galleries and who've lived in Marfa for years and seen the small town grow into what it is today. We talked more with Seph, our Air BnB host and learned more about his travels through Southeast Asia and the art festival he started last year. We also got to know other local artists that were working with Seph and they shared some of their favorite memories of Marfa – from climbing the old water tower to jumping on the trains at night. I felt like I learned more about the town and the community there by listening to their stories than from any of the tours we had gone on.

I realized I went to Marfa with expectations because of what I had read in Vogue or seen on Instagram. Once I let those expectations go, I had space to listen to others people's stories and enjoy the town for what it was.