Sounds of the World

Immerse Yourself in the Sights and Sounds of the Mojave Desert

Five Airbnb hosts capture the essence of life in this otherworldly, remote pocket of the American West.

Illustration by
Celia Jacobs
Sound Recording by
Kim Kylland
The rising sun casts long shadows over the Mojave desert as birds fly, and a lizard crawls on a rock.

Where California, Arizona, and Nevada meet in the desert is a landscape embedded with mysticism that’s been drawing pilgrims since prehistory. Within the desert, the Mojave National Preserve is a dotted line on the map encircling mesas and canyons, mountains and mines; what’s more, the entirety of this wilderness will be protected for generations to come. Local Airbnb hosts share what this surreal and special desert offers to them and to visitors, with unexpected sights — and sounds — at every turn.

Dawn Rising

At dawn, silhouettes of Joshua trees are gradually lit from behind by the colorful desert sky.
In the mornings, I ask visitors to stand still and listen to the desert. And I say, “What do you hear?” It’s calm, everything is waking up: the roosters call out, the bees are collecting their first nectar of the day; it’s the best time here.

Graffiti Trains

A train covered in colorful graffiti rushes through the desert and around a curve.
The Union Line passes through the desert here; trains are sometimes three miles long and covered in graffiti. You hear the rumble coming from afar, and when you are stood next to the tracks, it’s like an art gallery passing you at speed.

Wildflowers After Rain

Evening approaches over a vast landscape covered in desert wildflowers.
Springtime in the Mojave National Preserve is all about the flowers — especially after the rains. Huge bright yellow or pink flowers on the cactuses that create a carpet of color that might last a couple days, and then it’s gone.

The Desert Megaphone

The desert megaphone looms large from a hilltop over the Mojave, while a person mysteriously levitates in the distance.
Nobody knows how it got there, but it’s one of our landmarks. You don’t have to go very far into the desert to find people who have done some strange things — like drag this mysterious megaphone to the top of a peak.

Stargazing with Donkeys

A heard of donkeys gathers in a cluster under the rising desert moon.
They stay away from people in the daytime, but at night — when you’re out there in the dark taking in all of the stars — you hear donkeys in the background; they’re dark gray so they blend into the night, but you hear them and think, ‘What the heck?!’
Illustrated byCelia Jacobs

Celia Jacobs is a Portland-born illustrator currently living and working in Los Angeles. Her interests include nature, music, and social issues, and she illustrates them with sensitivity and California color. She works for various brands and publications, once from an oceanographic research vessel and once from a lab in Bermuda, but mostly from the home studio she shares with a black-and-white dog named Archie.

Sound Recording byKim Kylland

Kim Kylland is a sound chameleon: a composer, vocalist, songwriter, location sound mixer, and producer. After fifteen years as a touring musician, Kim took a break from the road when she fell in love with composing for moving picture, and later capturing sound on film sets. In 2018, she founded the Los Angeles-based production company Bird Murmur with her creative and life partner, cinematographer and director Todd Schramke.

Find more ways to explore the Mojave