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Finding Joy In Small Moments

Four days in the desert and a gas station hot dog will work wonders for finding small moments of joy in your life.

By: Kalli Hawkins + Save to a List

I've been a bit absent on here for some time now. I've been busy searching down an endless rabbit hole, trying to find joy. For some reason, throughout the past five months, I just couldn't seem to find it in my writing as much as I wanted it to be there. But here I am, finally putting words on paper and experiencing joy. And good god does it feel good.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. This past year was rough. I've experienced emotions and heartbreak that I thought I would never have to experience. It's not easy being blindsided by someone you love. However, I'm not here to dwell on the negative events but rather on the road ahead. I truly believe that joy and happiness are found in the small moments in life. So when my life was ripped out from underneath my feet unexpectedly, I sought out the small moments in my day. I was searching for that faint flickering light of happiness and joy still burning somewhere deep inside of me. I wanted to spend my entire day in this very moment. I wanted to experience joy for as long as I could because I knew when that flickering light eventually went out, I was going to be left standing there trying my best to hold myself together.

There's one place I can always count on to find it. I knew where I needed to go. So I packed my bags, grabbed my gear, my two furry lovebugs, and hit the road in search of that distant light. Sure enough, I found it in the small moments. The first glimmer of joy I found was behind the wheel, blasting Eric Church, the windows rolled down, and Riley's head and tongue were hanging out the window as we headed West. "Here it is," I thought. I had found it. I smiled, took a long deep breath in, and slowly exhaled. "I'm going to be okay," repeated through my head. I smiled again - pure joy.

It eventually faded away as I pressed on. I drove deeper into the mountains in search of it again. I followed mysterious backroads, up and over mountains, dust consuming the jeep, my gear, and the dogs. I didn't care. The dirtier, the better. Maybe it will help mask my puffy eyes and tear-ridden face, I thought.

After five hours of driving, I found myself pulling into camp in the middle of the desert, with only miles upon miles of sagebrush surrounding us. I hopped out, cracked a beer, and started walking off into the unknown. The dogs charged ahead, excited to be out of the vehicle, and I aimlessly followed. We watched the sunset together on the edge of a rock cliff. I was sipping a Pacifico and had both dogs wrapped in my arms. I had found it again - pure joy. This is what life was made of - small moments of joy.

There I sat on the edge of a rock cliff, dirty, covered in the day's sweat, with remnants of dried tears on my cheeks. My hair was an absolute mess. I decided right there that I would continue to search for joy each and every day. To focus on the little things that bring me happiness. I wanted to do something every day that makes me smile and brings me joy. Ultimately, whatever it was, I decided I would say yes to it.

So the dogs & I spent the next three days bouncing around the desert, swimming in rivers and lakes, watching sunsets together, curling up with a book in the hammock, and aimlessly wandering among the sagebrush with a good beer. Those small moments filled my day. Sometime during one of these three days, I unexpectedly found myself standing in front of a gas station hot dog roller eyeing a cheddar bratwurst. Until this moment in my life, I have been adamant about not eating hours-old lukewarm hot dogs from a gas station. However, I had just entered a new chapter in my life and found myself looking at a juicy bratwurst with unanticipated lust. I stood there, having an entire conversation with myself, "Are you seriously going to do this?" I walked away, talking myself out of it almost immediately. But before I made it to far, a question entered my brain. "Is this gas station cheddar bratwurst going to bring you joy?" Without hesitation, I replied, "Hell yes, it is." Shortly after, I walked out of the gas station with a dressed bratwurst, a smile on my face, and joy in my heart.

Four days in the desert and a gas station hot dog was exactly what I needed. I knew that the small moments were what was going to get me through. It's now five months later, and I have continued this same mindset and routine each day. I've leaned into every small moment I could find. Since I've been back home in Minnesota, it's now transitioned into spending time with my niece and nephews, watching sunsets in the harbor, learning a new skill, and rediscovering familiar backroads. I've learned that small moments are everywhere and show up at unexpected times. Each time one appears, I take a deep breath, trying my best to savor the snapshot of joy that I feel. I feel it right now, as I put words and emotions on paper. All I can say is, it's about damn time.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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