I found myself talking about my hometown to some friends recently. We moved to Ventura in 2009 when I was almost 21. Malakai was only a few months old and it was the first time I had moved anywhere outside of the high desert. Specifically the Apple Valley/Hesperia/Victorville areas.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a hard time with it. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, maybe you’d understand. Or maybe if you’ve ever moved from the desert to the beach, you’d understand (I quickly developed a very intense tsunami phobia). I missed my family and friends so much…and since Ian worked most of the time, I maybe went a bit crazy from the loneliness.

But the years went by and before I knew it, I began to think of Ventura as home. Ventura is the place that I learned to be a mother. Ventura is the place where my son started school. Ventura is the place where I decided to be a photographer. I grew up in Apple Valley, but I became a grown up (or something like it) in Ventura.

Going back to the desert the last few years has been really hard for me. Logistically and emotionally. Malakai gets carsick and it’s just such a long drive with two kids. And let’s be honest, returning to the place you grew up is bound to bring back memories. Good and bad.

We were in Apple Valley for Thanksgiving and for the first time in a long time, it felt like home again. Maybe it’s because the kids are finally old enough to appreciate learning about where mommy and daddy went to school or what house daddy grew up in or where mommy fell off her bike and had to get seven stitches on her knee. Or maybe it’s because I can tolerate the cold more than the summer heat, and something about the cold, crisp air reminds me of spending holidays with my family.

Either way, I found myself appreciating things that I never did before. My husband and I literally only had to drive less than a mile away from his childhood home to take these sunset photos in this wide open field. You can’t really find that in Ventura or LA, but there are plenty to choose from in the high desert. And the sunsets out there are unbelievable. I don’t think I ever cared to watch the sunset when I lived out there, but I can definitely appreciate them now.

I guess the desert will always be a part of me. And I’m so glad that I still get to visit and share that part of my life with my children.