When the Arabs first ventured south of the Sahara, they named the thin strip of land along its edge the Sahel, meaning coast. From here, the caravans of camels ventured forth, snaking their way through the dunes, skipping between the oases. Few could survive the harsh desert environment, but the Berber people have lived here for thousands of years.
As the locals say:
The land where the stones know you is worth more than the land where the people know you.
Far from the harsh landscape of death as it’s often portrayed, the desert is where generations of thinkers, explorers, and philosophers have gone in search of life. In absolute silence, before the sun, sands, and stars is a life-changing experience.
Here are seven astounding benefits of spending time in the desert:
1. No humidity or insects
There are no mosquitoes in the desert – except during periods of extreme rain. As someone who grew up on the East Coast and currently lives in the Baltimore/DC area often referred to as “the swamp” this is the type of environment I can get behind. While some may worry about snakes and scorpions, they’re not all that common.
For those with respiratory problems, the pure desert air is among the crispest you’ll find anywhere. No pollutants. No allergens. Nothing to aggravate the airways, just fresh, dry air.
Indeed, you hardly even notice the sweat in the desert as it evaporates straight from your skin. It’s pleasant at first, but it increases your risk of dehydration, so be sure to bring and drink ample water.
2. 100% sunshine
If there’s one defining feature of a desert, it’s the sun. No matter where you are, it looms over the sky – golden and radiant. No matter if you’re amongst the rocky crags or rolling dunes, the sun never ceases watching.
Considering that a lack of vitamin D is common in the rainy, windy, snowy corners of the world, a dose of the desert can lift your spirits. If you’ve ever struggled with seasonal affective disorder, it’s a foreign word in the desert full of bright light, yellows, whites, tans, browns, and sage green to brighten your mood no matter what time of year
Here there’s no need for rain jackets, umbrellas, or galoshes – no matter what you plan, the rain will never stop you—100% perfect weather all day, every day.
3. Endless peace and quiet
In cities and on the east coast, even in our own bustling homes, we struggle to find true peace and quiet. Even on a so-called quiet night in the city, you can still hear the background hum of cars and radiators and the chatter of neighbors. The city never sleeps.
In the desert, there is no sound but the wind – and even that can be a whisper.
No crowds, no traffic, no congestion – it’s a simpler life. As the South African writer Nadine Gordimer wrote: “A desert is a place without expectation.” And a place without time – marked only by the passing sun.
You can sit in the shade and watch the hours pass by without ever being disturbed, except maybe by a curious lizard.
4. Outstanding natural beauty
When people come to the desert, few expect the breathtaking beauty. You may have seen photos, but trust me, nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes. The word desert means barren, and yet, devoid of life, the crisp, sun-beaten lands are still majestic in their splendor. You can see for miles on a clear day; the sand and rocks an explosion of ochres, oranges, reds, and browns.
In some places, salt oozes from the earth like frost; in others, pinnacles of stone rise above the lone and level sands. And there are the animals who call the desert home: coyotes, roadrunners, lizards, and jackrabbits.
Above the sky is a canvas. Clouds pile up on the mountains, and as the sun sets, the hues shift from blue to purple to red. “Sunsets are extraordinary,” says Joan Schweighardt, author of The Accidental Art Thief. “People stop what they are doing and run outdoors to take pictures of the sunset all the time.”
5. Time to reflect
With no shopping malls, fast food joints, cinemas, and all of life’s distractions absent, you’ve got all the time in the world to think. You can strip life back to find the core of its essence. You can read without anyone disturbing your flow. You can think with a hundred square miles to pour your thoughts into.
And spending time in the desert doesn’t solely mean sitting deep in contemplation. You can hike, mountain bike, or do any number of outdoor activities to let loose without any worries or schedules—pure, unadulterated free time.
In the American Southwest, those amenities are close enough that you’re never too far from water or a shop to pick up a new sun hat or mystical crystal, while still being surrounded by the open and natural landscape of the desert.
6. Like no other place on earth
In the company of cactuses, you’ll find peace, solitude, vast expanses of sand and sky, and a handful of animals scraping out a living. Where forests, cities, and grasslands hurry with the buzz and bustle of life, the desert demands nothing.
It’s a tough environment, harsh and unyielding. Little wonder so many find it one of the most fascinating places on earth. Where you can battle warm up your body and mind and enjoy a slice of peace.
7. Greatest sky in the world
As the day shifts, far away from big city lights, the desert sky becomes a glittering patchwork. There, you can see the Milky Way, the galaxies, and stars, unlike anything you’ve seen before. If the desert makes you feel small, just wait until the desert sky confronts you with the scale of the cosmos. I’ll never forget the night sky just outside Bryce Canyon, so deep with layers of stars.
It’s awe-inspiring, humbling even – and almost certainly one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. In fact, most of the names we have for the stars are Arabic – from back in a time when all the desert nomads could do was name the lights in the sky.
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