[Guest post by Bradee Conley.]
I grew up in the (flat, cornfield-filled) Midwest — Indianapolis, to be specific. With exceptionally kind residents, it was a fine place to grow up. Yet I always knew I would leave someday. I dreamed of going south because, well, the beach. My family vacationed in beach towns as I grew up. So the beach was my true first love.
Then, along came this guy (I know, so cliche, but I married him). He spent a few months convincing me to consider Colorado. But I’d never hiked, camped, or done anything outdoorsy in my life. What could possibly interest me in a freezing cold state with no beach? Hard pass.
Finally he convinced me to visit Denver. It happened to be a record cold couple of days while we were there. Despite the weather, I loved the Mile High City’s vibrant energy. We didn’t venture deep into the Rocky Mountains, but I fell in love with the little town of Golden (it’s sort of like a little Western town at the base of the mountains but only 20 minutes from downtown Denver).
One year later we packed our bags, sold our furniture, and drove across the country with our dog and whatever we could fit in the car. A small apartment awaited us in Denver. I was 23 and ready to take on whatever this new place had in store. It was truly the biggest adventure of my life up until that point.
Although intimidated, we we felt like this was exactly where we were supposed to be. And I learned pretty quickly that everything from the way people dress to what they do on the weekends looks different in Colorado.
It’s exhilarating to see the world from a different vantage point. It forces you out of your comfort zone and challenges what you accept as the “norm.” I recommend every young person make at least one big move in their lifetime.
What I did not bargain for: my love affair with the mountains. All it took was my first hike, at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, and I was hooked. I took my tush straight to REI and bought hiking boots so I could be somewhat legit. That summer I started looking for nearby hikes, dipping my toes into the mountain scene. I realized I had found my “thing.”
A funny aspect of living in Colorado: Everyone has at least one “thing,” whether it’s mountain biking, snowboarding, kayaking, trail running, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, or camping. As a newcomer you can feel a bit lame if you haven’t found your niche yet. Oh, you don’t do an 18-mile trail run every Saturday? You haven’t skiied since you could walk? What do you even do in your free time? I’m exaggerating a little but not really. The activity bar is pretttttty high but it’s also inspiring.
This past summer, my second as a Colorado resident, is where the real story begins. As the spring concluded I decided I wasn’t going to waste my time. The weekends were valuable, and I wanted to grab every bit of adventurous fun I could.
Hiking, camping, rafting… I pushed my boundaries and felt more alive than I ever imagined. That is what I wish to share with you — the freedom that comes from escaping the mundane and heading into the unknown. The confidence that comes with doing things you never thought you could do.
Have you found your “thing” yet? What makes you feel most alive?
By Bradee Conley