Falling in Love with Telluride

You know how there are times in our lives where we look back and think, “wow. That was quite some time.” Telluride will be one of those for me.

When we first ventured out into what we’ve been calling our “LifeVenture” over a year ½ ago, we had planned to pack up our belongings, put them in a storage unit, live on vacation rentals in Austin for 3 months, and then travel for 1 month to Costa Rica and work remotely. The idea was to get a combination of the local feel and a tourist feel. We still haven’t made it there.

It turns out, being away for that timeframe required some changes in our businesses and in life.

So, while the mountains aren’t exactly Costa Rica, we found a sweet town to live in for a month this January. I also didn’t have to attempt my terrible Spanish here, so that’s something. We rented a home with a few additional bedrooms. With some prep and invitations to friends a few months out, we set up our “hotel.” Friends would come and go the entire month to meet us in a winter wonderland.

Location: Telluride, Colorado. (with the closest stoplight being about 1 hour away, it’s far out)
Duration: one month (with 1 short 48 hr visit back to Austin for a meeting)

There were so many amazing moments. Of course, just like life everywhere, not everything was rainbows and butterflies the entire time… (also known as what you see on a Facebook stream).  I spent 2 weeks with a sinus infection. I turned into a bit of a brat because of this. I worked insanely too much leading up to the launch of Reset Retreat. Above all, this was the month that my Man found out his dad had leukemia.

But this is a “Lifeventure” not a vacation, and with that, life wasn’t put on hold. We kept on moving, but did so with our eyes wide open.


Highlights: 

Telluride is the perfect small town. It has everything you need, but it’s a little dot on the map. Instead of the small town mentality, tourism brings unique people from all over the world. It’s a place that is difficult to travel to and not cheap to live in, thus attracting people who really want to be there. It creates this little bubble of happiness.

 Friendly: These people are happy
I’ve never met so many friendly people in one place before. Because the gondola is like the city bus – it’s filled not just with skiers, but people coming and going from work between the Mountain Village to the Town – you get cozy with people very quickly. It’s a 15 min. ride, so it’s enough time to learn about someone … and a bit awkward if you don’t. I loved chatting with people and learning their stories.

Fat tire biking expedition in some deep snow!

Walking everywhere:
We had a car, but there was never a need to drive anywhere. I think I drove in the car a total of 6 times and that was to go sightseeing further away and then taking a shuttle bus to the airport. Our home was centered in town, so the Post Office, grocery store, liquor store, gondola, and bars/restaurants were only 1 to 5 blocks away – what else do you need? We even had amazing hikes that started 2 blocks from our house. I took quite a few hikes after closing my computer for the day!

My girls came to visit!

Friends! Friends! And more friends!
Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 3.15.02 PMThroughout the month, we had more than 10 friends visit us! Some of them are people I very rarely get to see! Honestly, some of them I didn’t even know all that well, but they were down for an adventure. It was amazing having a mix of new friends and old friends collide in such a fun, adventurous place. I played “hotelier” by turning over the rooms every day or so. By the last week, one of the shuttle drivers noted, “I’ve come to this house a lot this month!”

And I learned that my “Mermaid Sister” (Mans’ sister) loves Legos as much as me. I really love Legos. Like a lot. 

Our house. Good God, our house!

We rented a real house. Not a 500 sq. ft. studio like we’ve been living in during this LifeVenture, but a real house with 3 floors, a dining room, multiple bedrooms, an entry way, and multiple fireplaces.

 The views from every part of the house were breathtaking. I had an office with a fireplace and a bedroom with a fireplace. (this was quite exciting for this fireplace-loving-girl). It was perfect, and I want it. Now I just have to make a couple million $ come out of my piggy bank.

 Living in a vacation:
I went to school in Tampa, and I will never forget going to the Don Cesar Hotel on the beach, enjoying a Pina Colada with tourists. Then realizing how luckily I was … living where people vacationed. My studies and work would go on, but I could venture to the Don Cesar Hotel and find that little piece of heaven any weekend I wanted.

Being around tourists is one of my happy places because they remind me to enjoy the moments: they fill each day. There wasn’t a day that passed in Telluride where I didn’t meet someone who said with a long face, “we have to leave tomorrow.” I had to contain myself every time by childishly wanting to announce, “NOT ME! Na na na na boo boo.” 

  Free gondola until Midnight:
Taking that daily gondola ride up to the Mountain Village above Telluride showcased some of the most magnificent views of mountains I’ve ever seen. And I grew up in Washington state.

The gondola is FREE and you can ride it until midnight! As far as I’ve heard, it’s the only free gondola of its kind in the U.S. So many days I just wanted to get away for :30, so I would ride the gondi up and down. Strangely enough, I wasn’t the only one doing this.

View from the bar on top of the mountain, a quick gondi ride up.

Best views around:
Because I was working remotely, a view from home made all the difference. There was an awe-inspiring view from literally anywhere you looked. I could sit in front of the fire, type away on my computer, and look up occasionally to remember, holy crap, I’m in Telluride!

Discovered on a hike about :15 min. from downtown. Amazingly pretty!

No traffic:
We were up at a look-out for happy hour one day and were watching the town from above. We started laughing when we noticed the one roundabout in town had 4 cars back-to-back. This was rush hour.

US Postal Office made me smile:
(Insert shocked face). Have you ever walked out of a USPS happy? Me neither. Until Telluride. Because the USPS doesn’t deliver to houses in Telluride (only to the Post Office), we had to ship to General Pickup. Picture this: hundreds of Christmas cards from residents were displayed all over the wall. The man working there knew everyone by name. Each kid got candy if they said hello to him. One employee actually gave me her phone # and said, “just call me if you have any questions at all about your packages.” What? I know! Crazy.

A hike behind our house one day.

I practiced my “professional hot tubbing” skills:
Let’s get real here: I don’t ski. Maybe someday I’ll enjoy the idea of putting something unnatural on my feet that make me fly down a mountain (or tumble), but right now, I think I’ll enjoy watching with a Rum Butter drink from the hot tub. Our house had a great hot tub that I got some good use out of.

Happy hour sledding after work. Never too old to play.

‘Happy Hour’ sledding:
Going alongside my “professional” hot tubbing skills is my semi-pro sledding skills. I’m tiny, ya’ll. This makes me go zoom zoom. We spent many “happy hours” sledding with friends. Nothing like pretending your 5 years old for an hour or so.

Anasazi ruins about 2 hrs away from Telluride. We climbed in some.

Adventures:
I love me some adventures.  Between exploring a completely frozen waterfall to elk spotting to Mesa Verde Indian ruins, I had a great dose of exploring every couple days.

Fire Festival in Telluride

The fire monster we met during a free fire festival one weekend. Must watch the video below!

One of the most random things we’ve stumbled upon (which says a lot):

A free fire festival was happening one of the weekends. No words are needed, just watch this … mechanical fire dancing alien video.   

When I returned to Austin, it was a massive shock to my system. Everything felt so spread out, traffic-filled, and fast paced. Just going to the grocery store was exhausting. Or getting from one side of town to the other was frustrating.

The view out one of our windows.

“So do you live here in Austin?” My initial reaction was, “No,” Then I realized what I said. “I mean, yes. I live here, but it’s confusing.”  A Freudian slip? It was the 1st time I didn’t stamp Austin as my own with magnificent pride.

I think a little part of my heart was left in Telluride. I love that town so much. Hopefully I’ll get to experience it one summer, because let’s be honest, this gal could do without 20′ weather. Either that or I need to grow some fat to keep myself warm.

View more pictures of the LifeVentures from Telluride on Instagram. Check out the road trip from Austin to Telluride here.

If you’re interested in renting the home we stayed in or traveling to Telluride, be sure to visit Latitude 38, vacation rentals. They were wonderful to work with and we highly recommend their services! 

Road Trip to Telluride

When you spend the time packing up enough stuff for an entire month in a town, you mine as well make the road trip getting there one to remember. January is traditionally a pretty slow month for us – plus I work on the road frequently anyways, so we decided to take our sweet time getting to Telluride by way of little adventures along the way.

Location: Austin to Telluride, Colorado: 1200 miles or so
Duration: 10 days (ish?)Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 5.15.34 PM

Austin to Houston

Our lease was up a few days earlier than when we planned to get on the road and the Longhorns were playing a game in Houston. We decided to visit our friends and enjoy the Bowl Game, even though this did set us in the wrong direction for Telluride.

Houston to Amarillo First off, that drive from Houston to Amarillo is long. Very long. We were in Amarillo less than 24 hours, but that was by far, the coldest i’d ever been. With it being 6 degrees (windchill being a lot less) and extremely windy, I couldn’t believe we were still in Texas. No offense, Amarillo: Been there, done that now.

It was pretty cool, however, that as we were heading out of town, we saw the Cadillac car art. I completely forgot Amarillo was home to the famous art. We stopped, walked around freezing our behinds off, and quickly headed back towards Santa Fe.

Santa Fe, New Mexico 
We had visited exactly a year before, but I eased into this visit more. Last year, I went from hotel to hotel, trying to meet General Managers for business development. That’s scary business. I let this trip be more relaxation and it was great.  New Year’s Eve was once again spent in a 400 year old building. It was fun to talk about how much had actually changed in that span of 365 days, and we could attribute so much of our growth from the way we were living: being more open to opportunity and change. Also, just living life in the moment more than before. (Boy am I still a work in progress on this)  We went to an amazing store – which doesn’t even seem right to call it a store because it was like a museum – filled with old doors from all over the world. It spanned about 2 blocks thick! This might not have been impressive to all, but coming from a dad who was a craftsman builder, seeing the details of this work was fascinating to me.
Pagosa Springs, Colorado 
One of the best hot springs I’ve been to, and strangely enough I’ve been to about 5 pretty impressive ones in the past year. I love them all, but this one is by far the nicest facility. The town of Pagosa Springs is quaint and “western” like many small Colorado historic towns, but this one just happens to have a massive hot spring running right alongside the river in town. There are tubs that range in size and temperature, one reaching 112′ – which as it turns out, is about as hot as I take my baths. Note to self: This is why you get woozy after your baths. Gotta turn it down a notch!

 The pools have phenomenal views of the river, town and skies. If you’re ever looking for a romantic long weekend, I highly recommend this place.

Durango, Colorado
Still a small town, but it is bustling in comparison to Pagosa Springs. We stayed at the historic Strater hotel downtown, which was quite the experience. We typically opt for a newer hotel over a historic one, frequently decorated with floral wallpaper and doilies. But we thought, what the heck, let’s try something different. To our entertainment, it was just that and more: in fact, there was a “room diary” left by prior guests and included everything from mundane entries to steamy stories of adultery. This was way better reading than anything we had brought with us and gave us hours of laughter.

Some serious drop offs. The good news is, during the blizzard, we didn’t KNOW they were that big. HA

Leaving Durango, we decided to take the Million Dollar Scenic Highway because last year we made the luckily-non-fatal mistake of driving over the treacherous pass through a blizzard. No joke. A blizzard on the side of cliffs is not particularly recommended. But because there was a blizzard, we didn’t catch the expansive views. Take two.

Looking down on Silverton from Million Dollar Highway

The views certainly did not let us down.

We made a stop in Silverton, a dot-of-a-town in the valley of the Million Dollar Highway, to see what it looked like without a blizzard covering it. We had been in this same exact spot a year before (in the picture above) and we didn’t know there was a town of that size because of the blizzard. It was a mining town and is still linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It feels like you’re stepping back in time because it’s so far removed from easy access and normal civilization. It’s now home to an extreme ski mountain, where I witnessed a skier ever so nonchalantly do a backflip 10 ft from my car window as we were driving in the parking lot. Well, hello there buddy! 

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The town of Ouray.

Ouray, Colorado
Ouray (pronounced “your a”) is the town on the edge of The Million Dollar Highway and has its own hot springs and historic downtown. The town once had more horse and mules than people, though maybe that’s not surprisingly with about 30 mines at its peak.

Above Ouray during the blizzard.

Above Ouray NOT in a blizzard.

The prior year, we came upon the town after hours of driving in the middle of nowhere, and our GPS said we had arrived. We were confused. We literally couldn’t see the town because the blizzard was that blinding. So, we had quite the laugh when we rolled into town this year and realized how much we had missed.

We took a random turn to follow “ice park” signs, not realizing it was one of the premier ice climbing parks in the world. This is man-made in a beautiful gorge. THIS is why I love unexpectedly taking turns on unknown roads! Who knew we would run into this masterpiece with people climbing. Crazy people that is. We stayed in a very cute hotel – nothing fancy, but a hot springs was a hop skip and a jump outside our door. So, after hours of exploring, we eased into the wooden tubs with natural water heating our bodies and the stars dazzling us above.  Even though Ouray is only about 6 miles from Telluride as the crow flies, it takes about 1 1/2 hr to get there. Unless you have a jeep and it’s the summer when the snow is melted. In that case, you could take the one-way jeep road. Next time perhaps.

Telluride!

I felt like a little kid arriving in Telluride. I just couldn’t stop smiling and saying, “Oh my God. This is our HOME for a month!” Here’s the blog about our month in Telluride. 

View more pictures of the LifeVentures of our road trip on Instagram.  

Where the Skies Really Are Bigger: West Texas

West Texas actually surprised me. Other than Marfa, Big Bend National Park and the Observatory, I had no desire to visit the nothingness of West Texas, which for you non Texans is about the size Colorado. I’m all about exploring, but it’s almost faster to get on a plane and visit Rio than it is to get to Big Bend. However, a unique opportunity to work remotely and spend time with The Man came into the picture. My company Pigtail Media specializes in experiential, social media marketing for the travel and hotel industry, so traveling can actually be very productive. People see photos and must think I never work, and as lovely as that sounds, it’s not even close to the truth. In fact, I could use some help with my addiction to work.

No filter.

No filter.

But, plugged in as I am, weeks like this remind me I’m tremendously grateful to be able to take my work anywhere.

Friends married with an incredible backdrop.

Friends married with an incredible backdrop.

The Man was launching The Beer in West Texas and had a beer conference in Colorado. He spent a week traveling From Texas to Colorado while I stayed in Austin for a required meeting. I then flew to meet him in Tuscon for a wedding at a Dude Ranch.

The past month ½ had been filled with intense work. Like the kind that you just have to remember to put one foot in front of the other and have faith you are actually moving. So taking 2 days to chill on a Dude Ranch was much needed to have a quick reset. Cool factor: It was actually the ranch where Nickelodeon’s Dude Ranch was filmed. I LOVED that show: probably because it was basically a show where they managed a hotel. Funny how things align years later. Double cool factor: We spotted a super rare Gila Monster. SO COOL!

Alpine, Texas. 3 days

Sunday we made the long drive to Alpine from Tuscon. I had no knowledge of the town prior. As in I didn’t even Google where it was. On the way, we had to drive through El Paso (which I have been to), but the highway required us to follow along the Rio Grande for about :45 min due to construction. Stop and go traffic on an 8 hr drive is … awesome. Annoying, but it gave us a unique opportunity to really take in Mexico on the other side of the massive fence. We were complaining about traffic, while shanty homes littered the hillside a mere 300 yards away. Slap of a reality? Yeah, I think so.

Alpine, Texas

Alpine, Texas

Once we finally arrived in the dot-of-a-town, Alpine, we were greeted with a blast from history: It felt like we were in an old western movie. The historic hotel is known to be haunted. Here’s a little fun fact about me: I’ve always been completely interested in ghosts and mysteries, but I’m terrified I will someday see one and I will never be able to sleep again. The Man didn’t know the second piece. And so, as I try to go to sleep, he starts in with, “What’s that shadow? Did you hear that noise? It must be the ghosts! Ooooo. Boooo. Spooky!” Let’s just say that between the train outside our window going by 4 times a night and the fear I would crack open one eye to find wrinkled-up-cowboy-ghost beside my bed, I didn’t sleep much that week.

Besides the “hauntings,” the place was actually quite great. I set up “Pigtail Media headquarters” for the week in the room. The Internet was pretty spotty at times -meaning one wireless supplier manages most of the town, and well, they went down. So essentially the majority of the town had no internet for a day.). I held one conference call in the freezing cold one morning because that was the one place I could get a signal. Ish. Ok, it was like 45 degrees, but I only had one light sweater – It’s Texas! I had no idea it would be cold.) Another video conference call had me worried a ghost was going to walk in the frame. I’m sure those on the other end loved my frequent checks behind me.

The stories from the locals were somethin’ else. Truly amazing in all honesty. Tales of real struggle. But also of finding peace, finding themselves, and just being. Staying a few days let me settle into the feel. I took the time to chat with everyone I could to learn about them.

But this was definitely a small town, and I was happy as a pea to move along to the next town and adventure after a few days. One local put it well, “Marfa is way smaller. See, they only have 1 grocery store and 1 dollar store. Alpine has two of EACH. Much bigger!

Before heading out, we visited the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. I saw one of the most amazing shooting stars of my life. The skies in Texas really are bigger, and I think they might be bigger in West Texas. So here we were, 5 hours or so from a city life in one of the least populated places in the US, and I run into a person I previously worked with on a week-long project in Toronto 6 years ago. The world is a crazy-small place.

Marfa, Texas – 1 day

Marfa is a town of 2,000 and it’s in the middle of nowhere. I mean nowhere. Yet, like a local told me, you could be in the middle of New York and ask anyone in the art scene if they new Marfa and chances would be high they’d know. This place is now a haven for art. Probably the most famous “landmark” is the Prada stand-alone “store,” which is an art exhibit, though it’s technically not even in Marfa.

I’m not sure I “got” Marfa – In the way most people “get it.” It was amazing to me, but it was more about the locals and the awe-inspiring landscape, which is not the story I had heard. However, I think when events come through, maybe it’s a different story.

El Cosmico

El Cosmico

I finally got to see what El Cosmico was all about! The “glamping” – Glamour Camping – hotel, from the extremely creative Liz Lambert. She is also owner of San Jose in Austin among along other boutiques. I desperately wanted to stay in the one of their teepees – my mother spent some time in a teepee before I was born, and I felt like I should experience something like that … but in the comfort of a hotel-like situation. Unfortunately all teepees, tents, trailers and yurt were booked. This was the middle of the week. Crazy. I was able to get a personalized tour, which was really special to me.

We stayed at Thunderbird Hotel, which also has Liz Lambert’s design spin on it. While she no longer owns it, it still has her unique touch. Adored it! I met with the GM who happened to be born and raised in Marfa. The stories she shared of the changing town, and her intense love for the tiny community warmed my heart. She knew how to enjoy the little moments and good people life gives us. I wanted to take her back to Austin.

You wouldn’t expect a dot on the map to hold a high dollar restaurant, but never fear, you can easily spend $100 + on dinner here. I must say, it was delicious and the surrounding was perfect.

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If you’re never heard of the Marfa lights (unexplained lights 1st spotted in the late 1800’s that are still deemed a mystery by researchers), it’s worth a read. Long story short, we didn’t see them, but enough cowboys and Rough Rider-likes shared very difference stories with us. Enough to convince me something is not normal out there.

Lajitas – 2 days

Lajitas Resort is, once again, in the middle of nowhere. See this pattern? Texas is big, ya’ll. We passed zero towns for an hour getting here from Presidio, Tx. Zero homes. Zero cows. Not a bar of service. Zilch. Nada. The road followed the Rio Grande for magnificent views in every direction.

Mexico boarder

Mexico border in the distance.

 

The resort is on the banks of the Rio Grande and has all the modern conveniences. No potential ghosts or unexplained Marfa lights here, but wow does it have views.

The best office view I've ever had.

The best office view I’ve ever had.

Officially, this was one of the best views I’ve had from “my office.” I sat on the verandah with Mexico in the background and video conferenced with my Reset Retreat partners, one in Portland and one in Croatia. Technology blows my mind sometimes.

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Rio Grande

There were not a lot of options for food, but luckily one included eating in a ghost town up the road about :15 min in a new direction. Terlingua was a Ghost Town, but now holds the Star light Theatre (also a restaurant), a coffee shop and a few scattered residences and businesses. Ruins surround the rest of the area. It’s a special little place. And if you’re out there someday, order yourself a Guns and Oil beer under the stars. I hear they have ‘em out there.

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Terlingua cemetery

 

Big Bend – 1 long day

Highlights:

We hiked about 9 miles and drove about 175 miles … in a day. My kind of Saturday adventure. There is so much to share, so I’ll leave it to a few pictures.

Incredible Mother Nature.

Incredible Mother Nature.

We hiked inside a Rio Grande canyon.

Rio Grande Canyon

Handstand in the canyon of the Rio Grande.

We took a long hike up to one of the most beautiful 360 degree views I’ve ever seen. And I’m from Washington State: I’ve seen my fair share of them. This was breathtaking and we only passed a few people the entire time.

Magnificent views.

Magnificent views.

We ended up at the Hot Springs hanging half way into the Rio Grande just as the sun was setting. It could not have been more perfect timing. 7 other people from Austin were also there – one a survivalist, which made for unique conversations. The Beer made a celebratory cameo as we cheered the West Texas launch. Everything was quiet. Unbelievingly quiet. Except for the storm water rolling by in the Rio Grande a foot away. And then a million stars came out.

Hot springs along the Rio Grande River

Hot springs along the Rio Grande River

A two-hour drive back that night, ended us in Marathon at the historic Gage Hotel where I could have spent another few days. To be back by Monday morning workweek, it was on the road again to Austin for a month in the South Congress area!

If you ever get a chance to visit Big Bend and West Texas, be prepared for skies bigger than you can imagine and a chance to enjoy nature and really appreciate the individual sitting right next to you.

-Cierra

Living in a “Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn” in Houston

We’ve been living in short-term rentals for the past 6+ months in Austin, Tx to experience living a little more adventurously. This week-trip took us to Houston, but instead of living in a home, we got cozy in a hotel.

I’ve lived in Texas for most of the past 17 years. I explore the heck out of the Austin area, plus everything in a day-trip radius. And I do mean explore; most weekends have incorporated some form of driving until we find something cool.

When Cary and I decided we were going to spend a week in Houston during the week of SXSW (we needed to for his work, and let’s be honest, the prices for short-term rentals are off the charts in Austin during SX), I begrudgingly started having the typical attitude about Houston: you know, the sarcastic, “can’t wait!” Yeah, I probably said, “Aren’t you jealous; I’m leaving Austin during SX to live in Houston. Awesome.”

At some point during my sarcastic comments, I realized something: I actually don’t KNOW Houston. In 17 years, I’ve driven thru Houston from Austin to Tampa (school) 4 times a year for 4 years, I’ve been to a Jimmy Buffett concert, maybe two baseball games (that I should note were in the same stadium as the Buffett concert), a day trip once in college to a museum, and maybe some passing thru the outskirts to hit the beautiful Texas coast (insert more sarcasm). I don’t really KNOW Houston!!!

So started my determination: I’m finding something cool in this town and actually learning what’s in the big backyard of Austin. No one said I had to come back after this. 😉

HERE’S WHAT I DISCOVERED IN A WEEK: Keep in mind that I was working the entire time, so limited exploring existed:

Hotel Zaza: We weren’t able to find a lot of great short-term home rentals for the week, so Hotel Zaza it was. Darn. For me this was especially exciting: for the past 8 months or so, I have been boutique hotel researching. This is a hotel that pops up in conversations a lot from the boutique hotel world, but I’d never been. This week was one of the best visionary weeks for me this year: a hotel vision I’ve had for a while started to come to more clarity. Awesome blossom! Sitting out and working by the poolside wasn’t too bad either. It was a good reminder of how thankful I am for the job I’ve created that can be done anywhere in the world with good internet.

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Alligators DO exist: I had heard rumors, but when I asked our friends who lived here, I got a response of, “nope. Not true.” Challenge excepted. We had to go :45 min out of downtown, but low and behold, alligators we found! [For those of you wanting to check out the park, it’s called Brazos Bend State Park]

Bend park .jpg

The city has a big fat green thumb: I always thought Austin was the oasis of Texas when it comes to trees. I was surprised by all the beautiful BIG trees everywhere and lush gardens! I’m not sure why, but I really remembered Houston like Dallas: flat, dry, and bla. It’s actually only two of those things.

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Houston Park _1.jpg

A mini Central Park: I was in the hotel room working on the first day after we arrived there. I had no idea what was in the area, so as lunch time approached, I used Yelp Near Me future to see what was good. Turns out only a few pins popped up in walking distance: one of them was in the middle of this massive green blog. A PARK! A restaurant in the middle of a PARK! This is my kind of Monday lunch break. photo 2 (6)

It turns out the hotel was right near Memorial Park, a 1500 acre beauty in the city. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and everyone seemed to be out with their kids enjoying the day. I sat under beautiful trees and ate my lunch, watching the smiling world go by.Memorial Park _ 3.jpg

During this LifeVenture experience, that is the single thing I keep noticing being different than before: I notice the green in the trees and how often people smile.

While I have no desire to live in Houston longterm, I do have more appreciation for it. It does make me wonder….what else have I brushed off in life or rolled my eyes about, that perhaps I didn’t have any justification for rolling my eyes at. 

After a short trip to visit my family in California, we were back to Austin for a month and half. I can’t wait to share that story with you next: bugs falling from the ceiling on my head at night and my house turned into a construction zone with no warning.

Why I Will Now Always Make Time For A TRUE Vacation

Moose “hunting” is now my new profession. Read on.

"Hunting" for animals: we made good use of these!

“Hunting” for animals: we made good use of these!

Cary and I make a point to travel a lot in life. We are both self employed, so it gives us an amazing opportunity to see the world & work remotely. Typically, this makes us that much more productive because we know there’s a world of exploring waiting for us. It’s like the ultimate, “you can play after you get your chores done” thing. That being said, we haven’t had a real vacation in a very, very long time. Unplugged wasn’t in our vocab. 

As I neared turning 30, I chatted with him about really wanting to go somewhere beautiful for my birthday and be unplugged. We both agreed it would probably be good for our sanity to literally NOT be ABLE to check email. So, we settled on this: I would visit my family in Washington State for a week, he would spend a week white water rafting in Idaho, and we’d meet up in Montana and see where the road took us that week.

It was one of the best trips ever: I unplugged for almost an entire week. My senses were heightened, noticing smells and colors I would have missed before. I felt alive in a way I’m not sure that I have felt since I was a kid.  I wasn’t planning on writing about my vacation here – just our unique living situation. But because our unique living situation allowed us to take a longer trip, it seemed fitting: instead of paying for rent, I bought a plane ticket. baker collageIn Washington, I spent time in the garden with my dad, (He has about a 1/2 acre garden and enough tomatoes to feed a hungry army), got to make loads of dried and canned food, spent time with my fam and had a second Birthday party  (even got sung happy birthday to),  hung out by a river, and finally saw my very best childhood friend’s baby. I love him. I love her, too. 🙂 Pop and I went on some beautiful hikes, one being right behind our house on a road I grew up on as a kid. I thought the road ended 5 minutes away from the house. It turns out, the paved road turns into a gravel road, and the gravel road turns into an old logging road, winding us straight up the hill to magnificent views of the valley below. We even came across an old growth forest and pond. While it was a 45 minute drive, it was still on the same dead-end road that I grew up on and thought ended way before. It was pretty eye-opening realizing something you thought ended your whole life actually kept on going. Makes you wonder. 

North Fork Valley

North Fork Valley

After a week in Washington, I boarded a plane, onward to our wild, moose-“hunting” adventure! (Cary and I really like animals. We were determined to find moose and everything else under the moon.) We started in Big Sky and went on a VERY long 10 mike hike. I didn’t realize the elevation was so high and completely wore myself out. I basically couldn’t breathe. But, of course, just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, the mountain would entice me to go over that next hump….we had to check it out! We ended up scaling a cliff in search of an amazing view, and a mountain goat (because someone had just seen one). Hike from lake We got our view, but the goat hid. Stupid goat. When we turned around and realized what we had just climbed, I think we both breathed a sigh of relief that we both safely made it. Even though the goat hid, we were lucky enough to see a black bear with its baby later on (at a safe distance) and a moose tromping through the woods. Check, check! Two animals off our list! Making it to the top In the span of a week, we saw some of the most magical places we’ve ever seen. Yellowstone was more enchanting than I could have imagined. With about 10,000 thermal features, it has the highest concentration of active geysers in the world….I thought I’d see about 5 hot springs, so clearly I did my research. 🙂 Hot springs CollageBuffalo really do rome free in this area. We saw hundreds upon hundreds. Some of them were in huge herds, and some were loners. One loner happened to be parked on the side of the road, scratching a small tree when we turned the corner. We slowly pulled off to the side of the road and the buff didn’t even care. I think if we reached out to give him a scratch, he would have been pleased. Cary asked to ride a buffalo for his Birthday, and that day was his Birthday. I think that’s as close as one could get…if one actually planned to ride a wild buffalo. Luckily my man is crazy, but not that crazy. We did want to take the creature home, though. Not sure the airlines have a fee for that yet. buffalo collageAfter two days of exploring Yellowstone, we headed on our way to the majestic Tetons and Jackson. It truly was postcard beautiful…everywhere you looked. We visited Mormon Row, a line of homesteads from the early 1900’s. Many of the famous barn photos you see from Wyoming are taken here. 1236729_10100127706816558_229461691_n I now share with you my new profession: moose hunting, aka moose spotting. We spent every afternoon in a ritual: grab the binoculars, head to the riverbeds and wait for movement in the trees. There were signs all over this damn land that said, “moose crossing” or “be watchful of bear” but we had only seen both on that first day in Big Sky and one other moose. We were determined each night and day to find 1) moose and 2) bear. This might sound boring to some, but this was the best damn experience I could ever ask for: searching for huge animals with the backdrop full of beauty. Animals We saw a lot of elk and, on one lucky night, 5 moose. Still no bear. Finally, on our last day, we got extremely lucky and came across a small bear by the side of the road eating berries off the tree! That night ended up being the best of all: as the sun set and the stars completely filled the sky down to its horizon, it seemed that all the animals were coming out to say adios – even the noisy elk and frisky fox friend. 1231662_10100128243530978_232538863_nAlongside seeing unique animals, there’s another somewhat strange huge love that Cary and I share: storms. To end our night, this storm rolled in with all of its glory. It was quite the way to end a true vacation. 

I will now always make time to take true vacations. It’s good for the soul.

Cierra