Notes to myself: My struggles to become a tour guide

Last month, I organized an epic trip for my family (the husband – SG, my mom, my cousin sister- Stu and her dad/my uncle – who I call chacha) through South West USA. I was responsible for planning and organizing, making reservations, time-keeping, and making sure that all us vegetarian people ate their vegetables. The family, like the ungrateful teenager who declares that they never asked to be born, insists that I did these of my own volition. Yeah, right! Babes in the wood, they would have never made it to out of the airport without me.

Some extracts from my notes to myself.

Day 1: Las Vegas

“While (partially dressed) vacationers intently clicked selfies with giant hookah-shaped margarita towers with a fake Eiffel tower in the background, we ate crepes under an artificial French sky and I realized that my fellow travel people don’t like cheese or sugar. This is going to be one hard trip.”

  The thrum of wanderlust, the beat of my heart.  I hear the road calling. 


Day 2: Las Vegas

“Today, at Chaya’s under the shadow of the Linq Roller, we removed tomatoes from the list of edible items. This after my uncle suspiciously glared at the innocent bell peppers, suspecting them to be poisonous tomatoes. How was I to know that in addition to lime and coriander, tomatoes are public enemy no. 1?”

“We are possibly the only vegetarian people that the Irish pub we dined at have ever encountered. We had exactly forty minutes to reach the musical that we had tickets for – paid for by selling a kidney. SG looked at the menu and declared ‘veg wrap!’ My uncle shouted ‘same for me’. I carefully perused the ingredients of the aforesaid wrap and ordered myself a vegan burger. Cut to later, they had eaten my burger and left me with gigantic piles of quinoa.”

“Buttery and fresh, with the right amount of crispness. Why am I with the only people on the planet who after watching a world-famous musical spend more time reviewing the popcorn than the show?”

When a sudden tree grew in desert country


Day 3: Sedona

“We drove through some amazing views of the Oak Creek on the way to Sedona. Funny how my mother was more awe-struck in Whole Foods. Am glad though – I feel pious about all the fruits and vegetables we have bought. She says she likes strawberries. Finally a fruit she likes!”

“This Airbnb thing seems to have worked out well. We are in such a large house that we all have our own rooms. Will ensure that we remain on speaking terms. As long as no one plays board games.”

I left a piece of my heart in Sedona

Day 4: Sedona

“Mom carefully washed and ate exactly one strawberry for her breakfast today.”

“I meditated over the vortex energy at Airport Mesa today came to the conclusion that a tour planner needs to be a dictator. Democracy is highly over-rated. One man, one vote. Mine.”

“We have switched loyalties from Whole Foods to Basha’s. I have bought a picnic hamper. Chacha seems very excited about his Basha’s loyalty card and SG with the washer-dryer.”

The West Fork Trail, in Sedona, is a 6.6 mile round trip along the Oak Creek and is rated as one of the top ten hikes in the Unites States.  Thirteen river crossings, and butterflies and dragonflies for company.  Dear God, let heaven be like this.

Day 5: Sedona

“Stu finished her semester and joined us today. She lives on Doritos and air. I am terrified that she will faint and I will have to call 911 and they won’t understand my accent.”

“Our grocery-buying trips have become the highlight of our day. We each have our favorite aisles: Chacha: wine. SG: Beer. Stu: Doritos. Mom: potatoes. I buy fruits and vegetables that only I eat.”

Day 6: Williams

“Today we saw the Grand Canyon and I fulfilled a ten-year promise to my mom. Then we excitedly inaugurated the picnic hamper and ate potato sandwiches.”

“It’s horrendously cold up at this altitude. We rolled into our Airbnb late at night to check in, at the head of howling winds that froze all exposed digits and my brain cells. Stu and mom waited in the car hopefully clutching the take-away pizzas. An agonizing and cold thirty minutes of fiddling with the lock box before I read the host’s email with the updated details. I feel like a shit tour organizer.”

“All the Earth worships thee.” Nothing can prepare you for the magnificence of Grand Canyon.

Day 7: Page

“Not a single person has read the e-mails that I sent out months in advance, the ones with thoughtful links to the places we can visit, and the things we will do.”

“If your family want to make a meal of breath mints, let them.”

“We are now obsessed with Mexican and Thai food. In America.”

Gold, silence, shadow and light. The colors of romance of a slot canyon. 


Day 8: Page

“Note to self: Read the airbnb house-rules and fine print very well. Do not be afraid of asking questions. This will avoid any misunderstanding of what exactly a ¾ bathroom is and you won’t have to work out a shower schedule for five adults right before a pre-booked non-refundable tour.”

“We spent the morning rafting the Glen Canyon. I have a feeling they would have preferred some quality time at Safeway.”

The Navajo sandstone can tell some really tall tales


The River Colorado curves around the Horse Shoe Bend creating an iconic American photograph.  And a thousand foot drop.

Day 9: Kanab

“Stu saw a little snowflake symbol on the weather forecast while on our way to Bryce Canyon. Since chacha had proudly put on his favorite pair of shorts this morning, we had to make an emergency stop to buy warm clothes.”

“If people don’t eat their boiled egg sandwiches – the ones that you slaved over, earlier that morning – it will likely stink up an entire national park. I think I saw one of the hoodoos turn up its nose in disgust.”

Rain water and Ice have acted in concert to create the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. The Paiute Indians tell of the Legend People who were cursed by Coyote and turned into rocks.  I believe in both theories.


Day 10: Kanab

“I spent several hours pleading with people to read up on the various treks we can do in Zion, in the hope that self-choice and democracy will win the day. I made available several maps, pamphlets and guide books in hard and soft copy. All in vain. I then spent several hours planning each person’s treks suitable to their fitness levels and interest levels. I shall come back one day ALONE and do the 19 mile Narrows hike, wading through ice-cold water. It will be less tiring.”

“Water seeping out of the Navajo sandstone creates tranquil springs and the unique hanging gardens for which Zion is famous, full of ferns, wildflowers, and mosses.” I fell in love with the masses of dainty but hardy Golden Columbine.


Day 11:

“Since today was the last day of the trip, I had every single edible leftover for breakfast. I forced myself to think of all the starving children of my country while gagging on the strange mix of lukewarm fajitas veggies + congealed guac, instant jasmine rice, roast bell pepper & beans soup, and rotten bananas. The rest of the family chatted around, read the newspapers, did e-mails, drank copious amounts of tea and ate copious amounts of instant noodles. Mom ate a strawberry.”

“SG and I caught the flight to Chicago, after dropping the rest off in Vegas so that they could spend some extra time in the city. Last heard of, they were walking the strip, tired, hungry and thirsty, completely lost without the tour operator.”

With a promise to return

Day 14:

“SG and I reached home sweet home after the longest flight from hell. The tour guide, no longer responsible for her family’s safety, entertainment and nutrition will finally have some decent sleep tonight. But first for some instant noodles.”


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