Sometimes when I think about this travel obsession that I have, an obsession that only gets worse with each passing year/month/week/day I can't quite pin point exactly how it happened. This I do recall: I spent the first five years of my professional life extraordinarily committed to my work. And, like so many 20-somethings in their first big job that meant working all hours, never taking a day off and certainly "vacation" wasn't even in my vocab.
I don't regret a second of that ("regret" isn't in my vocab either actually) and honestly, not so much has changed, except for the fact that I work for myself and so there's no real days off because work/play/life all blends together.
Then there's this part: I made a decision a year ago that the only way I was going to maintain my sanity would be by creating a job for myself that would allow me creative autonomy and, in addition, give me the opportunity to spend time experiencing the world. 2015 was the hardest year, and simultaneously the most rewarding as I saw that "dream job" become reality.
Writing my book, while having creative entrepreneurs as clients gives me that possibility. So last month I found myself in a position to be able to go on a Western Tour.
As I'm researching destinations to be featured in the book, I also have the serious good fortune of having a boyfriend that travels for a living too. So in this particular case, I tagged along on his tour from Colorado to Wyoming, finishing up in Missoula, Montana.
Here's how it went:
I arrived in Denver, on a $79 flight on Frontier (score!) with the plan of catching a bus and making it out to Boulder in time to catch Ben and the band for the first show of what would be a 5 show run. If you haven't traveled out to Colorado one of the things that I find so great is the public transportation to Boulder from the Denver airport. An hour after landing and a mere $7 lighter I arrived in Boulder in time for a dinner at the fabulous restaurant Pizzeria Locale, where Ben and I went to for my birthday last August.
I was truly so happy to be back in Boulder.
We departed after the show around 3 a.m. for our next stop, Aspen! I woke up feeling fairly refreshed despite the overnight travels, and even if I wasn't rested I couldn't helped but feel energized by Aspen.
I was in Aspen in July for Art Aspen and being there in the winter is quite different from my summer experience.
Absolutely everything was covered in the prettiest white blanket and despite the 19 degree temperature we ventured out for a full day of Aspen fun. We spent the afternoon at the Aspen Art Museum and then bought a sightseer's pass and rode the gondola to the top of the mountain (10,000 feet up!) to take in the view. Most of the people at the top were there to ski, I on the other hand was there for wine by a fire, and either way I 100% recommend it.
We spent the next two nights there, the band played two shows at the rock club Belly Up, we ate some of the best sushi I've ever experienced at Matsuhisa and had a stellar meal at Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop. Let's be real, the place is called meat and cheese... so yep, we ordered a cheese plate followed by a steak board and a bottle of red wine. Doesn't get much better.
After Aspen we took off for Jackson Hole.
We arrived into Jackson Hole, which immediately made moves to the top of my super chill places to travel list and checked in to the Antler Inn Motel. Jackson Hole feels like a preserved little Old West town... We wanted to explore the Native American Museum to get a deeper perspective of the stories of what had been however it was closed for the season. There is a spirit out there that made us want to dive into the history of these western states.
The Antler Inn (and just about everything in Jackson) is a short drive from Yellow Stone, the Elk Refuge and the Grand Tetons, and so we took off for a day of exploring.
Because of the winter weather we couldn't get too far into the park however, there is nothing like riding along the Grand Tetons and letting the grandness of those mountains sink in.
20 minutes or so into our drive we turned a corner and out there, over the hill stood 3 buffaloes. We pulled the truck over, went as far as the snow drifts would allow and I snapped a photo of this guy before he made his way behind the hill.
From there, we kept on cruising up towards Jenny Lake and again, like something from another planet, coming around a corner we peered out toward the frozen lake and found that we weren't the only ones out enjoying the day.
First this little fox came running alongside us. He seemed to be telling us to come just a little closer to see what was right over that snowbank. And there - over the ridge were these guys, three ice fishermen, who had made their way out to see what they could catch. I couldn't believe my eyes. The ice fishermen were so incredibly tiny compared to the mountain range behind them.
After another show night we took off the next morning for Missoula, Montana. We had 2 short days in Missoula, however we filled them up with vintage shopping, hanging with Montana based friends and spending two nights at the Wilma Theatre. We caught Dr. Dog the first night and then the band had their final show of my trip the second night. Ben and I made immediate plans to return to Montana this Spring, we're preparing for a longer visit in May!
I took off the next morning on a 5 a.m. flight back to Nashville and was so filled with gratitude for being included in such an unbelievably adventuresome ride.
So many of the places along this run will certainly be included in the book and that last night under the stars of Big Sky Country I found myself counting every lucky one again and again.
Btw, it occurred to me on day 1 in Aspen that I truly wasn't prepared for the weather. Within an hour I was on a hunt for a better coat, duck boots to keep my feet dry and more scarves and beanies to layer. Here's a few packing essentials to help you fill up your own Way Out West Tour travel bag.