Adolescent memories: slowing down in Albuquerque, NM

Lobby of Kimo Theater Albuquerque, NM Photo/ Steve Collins

This week’s guest post is from Abby Tegnelia who spent a few years living in Albuquerque, NM.

New Mexico’s official slogan is, the Land of Enchantment, but as a teenager living there after years in the oh-so-hip (at least in a high schooler’s mind) Orlando, it quickly gained the nickname “Land of Dis-enchantment”. My family and I moved around every five years, so when I landed in Albuquerque as a junior in high school, I figured I didn’t have to get too attached. My family would again pick up roots, I assumed; probably right when I was halfway through college. The joke, it turns out, was on me.

New Mexico doesn’t just grow on you. It grabs on and doesn’t let go.

Teen angst aside, it wasn’t the easiest transition, moving to a land of wide open spaces; brown for as far as the eye could see. I was used to palm trees and pretty beaches – not to mention season passes to the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, plenty of mixers for teens and other activities. In Albuquerque it was a big deal if a group of us were getting together in the Subway parking lot.

As it turns out, it was the first time life would teach me to slow down. Now, every few years I take a year off from the hustle and bustle; once in Texas and once in Costa Rica. I wonder where I’ll do my next sabbatical.

Flying Star Restaurant Albuquerque, NM, Photo/ Steve Collins

Albuquerque is a world of making dinner for the neighbors, sitting around chatting, and hitting up Flying Star for a piece of pie. The people there are so wonderful that my family has refused to leave, 16 years later. I lived there for only two years before heading off to college, but many of my closest friends are still the ones I met there.

As a teen, I visited Acoma Sky City, an ancient pueblo, with my parents, among other tourist destinations. To think – the oldest continuously inhabited town in the country owes its survival to its being on a mesa almost 400 feet above the surrounding land. The glistening White Sands, quaintness of Santa Fe, even the 84-year-old KiMo Theater downtown were unlike anything I’d ever seen. I even tried skiing – once. The Floridian in me didn’t take well to the snow!

And I’ve got to hand it to my mother, who somehow got my two younger brothers and I out of bed at the crack of dawn for the famous Balloon Fiesta. As an adult on one of my many, many visits home, I finally drove out to Taos, alone, in the biggest car I’d ever driven, the snow coming down in sheets. It was so quiet that I remember my insides, wound so tightly from stress, starting to relax. I had a green chile cheeseburger at Old Blinking Light, way up in the foothills, and a few glasses of wine. I slept more soundly that night than I had in months.

Too often, when I tell people that I’m from Albuquerque, their only answer is that they’ve driven through it. I implore anyone to stop next time, and check out parts of New Mexico. It was no accident that my once-nomadic family put down roots there. It’s a very special, dare I say enchanting, place.

While Abby Tegnelia’s family has stayed put in New Mexico, she has continued the nomadic lifestyle, living in Miami, New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Costa Rica and Las Vegas, while traveling as far as Brazil, Borneo and Bulgaria, among many other places. Read her adventures on her blog, The Neon Jungle Princess and follow her on Twitter.

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10 Responses to “Adolescent memories: slowing down in Albuquerque, NM”

  1. Ted Nelson
    March 4, 2019 at 10:22 am #

    For a nomadic family to stay in Albuquerque is a testament to how nice it must be there.

  2. Erica
    March 6, 2019 at 10:48 pm #

    I grew up in El Paso and all of our free time was spent in New Mexico. I am so incredibly in love with that state. From the awe of Carlsbad Caverns to the spring break skiing in Ruidoso to the epic Gila National Forest - you can get lost in natural beauty forever.

    • Billie Frank
      March 7, 2019 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed your vacations in the Land of Enchantment. Come back and see us again!

  3. Laura
    March 7, 2019 at 9:32 am #

    I’ve never been to the southwest but hope to at some point. If I make it there, I’ll definitely have to take you up on your suggestions!

    • Billie Frank
      March 7, 2019 at 10:04 am #

      The southwest is wonderful and diverse. It’s a place that should be on everyone’s list. If you want to know what’s going on in Santa Fe, this blog’s a great place to start. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Federico
    March 7, 2019 at 10:38 am #

    Perhaps not as strangely as I thought I had really never considered NM as a traveler’s destination state, but this post has made me thing otherwise. If I ever have the chance to visit it again, I will, and not drive by!

    • Billie Frank
      March 7, 2019 at 11:48 am #

      Put it on your list! Unfortunately, while Santa Fe is a popular destination for people who live in the US- word has not spread to Europe and beyond. That’s part of our mission at Santa Fe Travelers, to get the word out. Glad you found the post and the blog. Come see us!

  5. Abby
    March 7, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

    I, obviously, LOVE New Mexico!! I remember one year a huge group of German foreign exchange students made the trip from Virginia, where they were studying. They came out for one reason: to see their first cowboy! Swedes tend to mosey that way for the skiing and/ice hockey.

  6. Michael Hodson
    March 12, 2019 at 3:23 pm #

    the jungle princess, bringing the fun back in New Mexico!

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