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Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Reservations: Looking Back on the Awesome

With most of my siblings, and nieces and nephews, before we left Chicago
Photo credit: Sam Troelstrup

I just wrapped up another thrilling session of studying/paper writing/discussion board participation and I suddenly felt motivated to write this post :)  I've been waiting to write it until I felt the urge.  I didn't want it to be forced.  You'd think that writing a wrap-up of something so completely awesome would be a cinch.  Not so.  It wasn't a simple endeavor, and it's not a simple conclusion.  But I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet :)

Our No Reservations summer was a complete blast, four stars, two-thumbs-up, crowd-pleasing, adventure of epic proportions.  When I look back on it now, I can't believe we did it.  And, then I think, "I can't believe it took us so long to do it."  Honestly, everyone at some point in their lives should have the opportunity to have a No Reservations kind of break.  A chance to cut the ties, kick up the feet, and let the wind blow you every which way.  A chance to feel the grass between your toes, and smell the roses, so to speak.

I'm not going to pretend like it was easy.  Because it wasn't.

It requires an adventurous spirit, and careful planning.  Geof and I began talking about this almost two years ago.  We had toyed with the idea or a short while, then we got engaged, and suddenly wedding planning took the front seat, and other adventuring hung out in the back seat.  Getting married made us rational people.  We decided to save up for one more year and then reassess.  But no matter what, we were going to make it happen.  It's easy to get caught up in expectations, to do what everyone thinks you're supposed to do, and be comfortable with the familiar.  Well, we were both antsy and getting uncomfortable with the familiar.  It took time, and lots and lots of planning sessions to really wrap our heads around the whole idea of just up n' leaving.  Perhaps it seemed rash from the outside looking in, but there was a lot of forethought in it all.  We knew we wanted mountains in plain view, and we knew we wanted a more outdoor-centered lifestyle.  When push came to shove, we gave notice at our jobs in Chicago without a clue what awaited us in moving to Salt Lake City.  Memorial Day weekend, we drove all our worldly belongings 1,400 miles across the country, dropped them off, then flew back home to work the last three days of May.  June 1, the adventure really began.  We were technically homeless, and completely unemployed.

Holy.  Shit.

We hung out with family the first week or so, decompressing and wrapping our heads around it all.  It was perfect, and we fell into the habit of not working almost immediately.  It was as if we had always been vagabonds.  It was scarily natural for us both.

You can look back on previous posts to see what exactly we were up to, so I won't recount all of that awesome.  Perhaps more astonishing than all the places and faces we saw and experienced this summer, and even more mind-blowing than any of the 14,000+ ft. peaks we climbed atop were the lessons we took away from the whole experience.  These are things that I think you can hear over and over again, but you'll never fully grasp until you actually experience them.

Grass-is-Greener Syndrome
I made that up, but it fits :)  What is it about us as humans that has us convinced that everything on the other side of the proverbial fence is better, greener, way more awesome?  Why is it so hard to be happy with the side of the fence we are currently on?  We both suffered from grass-is-greener syndrome in Chicago.  As time wore on, very little on our side was all that green.  If only we were in the mountains, if only we had cooler jobs, if only we could run all the time, if only we made more money, blah blah blah.  This summer was our way of hopping the fence and seeing just what was really on the other side.  

Turns out it's exactly the same on either side of the fence.

Life is precisely what you make of it.  If you have a problem with something, freaking fix it.  If you want something, take the steps and do the things you need to do to get there.  Just like in racing, if you want to be a better runner, train.  You aren't just going to wake up one day and be a faster runner.  Do the work, reap the rewards.  We wanted to move west, take a couple months off, and I wanted to go back to school.  So we worked hard, saved up, moved west, took the summer off, and I registered for classes.  Done.  Next?

This brings me to my next lesson learned.

Things Just Work Out
No, you can't just sit around like a bump on a log, you actually have to put a plan in motion, put it out into the universe, make it known, and then follow through.  When something is right, really, truly, unbelievably right, it works.  Plain and simple.  I knew we were making the right decision to move to Salt Lake when suddenly everything fell into place.  It was like magic, except free of illusion.  I knew we were supposed to take the summer off when suddenly plans began to take shape, friends opened their doors to us, new experiences and adventures fell into our laps, and life was just...working out.  When we arrived in our new home city for good back in the middle of August, things immediately began working out.  School started, I found a wonderful job in a great PT clinic two weeks later, and one week after that, Geof found a great job.  Things just work out.  When you get out of your own way, things just work.  So, get out of the way!

Importance of Life Balance
This very lesson occurred to me as we frolicked in the heavenly confines of Silverton, Colorado during this year's Hardrock 100 week.  I can't recall the exact mountain we stood upon, but I remember it feeling akin to a lightening strike.  Balance.  Nothing in life can be appreciated to the fullest without also experiencing its antithesis.  True happiness is never fully enjoyed without the experience of sorrow.  Weekends are so incredibly valuable to the Monday thru Friday 9-5'er.  Love is deepest when you've felt true heartbreak or indifference.  Adventure is only truly adventure when you've also lived totally by the book, followed all the rules.  

This is going to sound crazy, but just go with it.  We got to the point where suddenly it was just another mountaintop, just another pretty view, just another campground, just another run along the ridge.  Adventure was starting to feel burdensome.  And it's because we had no contrast.  When everything is the same all the time, you start to lose interest.  Variety is the spice of life.  Balance in all things is the only way to really enjoy things to the fullest.  Boring days make you really appreciate the days that blow your mind.  Being away makes you really appreciate home.  Chaos makes you appreciate order and predictability.  Discomfort makes you appreciate comfort.  And vice versa.  Rest assured that that 14-hour day you put in behind a desk on a Monday is going to make your weekend feel like pure heaven.  Guaranteed.  So don't sit there thinking everyone else has it better, because in reality, more than likely, you have it pretty darn good; you just need to see it from a new perspective.  Change your attitude, change your life.  I'm pretty sure I saw that somewhere once; I dig it :)

There's No One Way to Live
After all the places we've been and people we've met, it is astonishing to note all the ways in which a person can live, and make a living.  There are a gazillion ways to make a life!  It is so cool!

Nature Always Wins
I love to say this.  And it's so true.  We can do what we want on this earth and think we're making all these amazing changes, but when push comes to shove, nature always reclaims its stake.  And FYI, earth is nature's stake.  So how about we make it a little easier for mother nature to reclaim it and be better stewards?  Spending some time living in nature will make you really appreciate it.  Everyone needs a little nature in their lives, and to experience the victory of nature over man.  It is awesome.  Sorry to get all tree-huggy and preachy on you, but seriously...

Getting High is Perfectly Acceptable
No, not that kind of high :)  I mean literally getting way up high in the atmosphere where the air is thin and so are the crowds.  Climbing up above treeline and the clouds is an awe-inspiring task, and brings about a great sense of accomplishment.  It's freaking hard when you're gasping for air, lungs burning, quads tingling they are so fried and your calves are screaming from hiking at a 15-20% pitch for the last 4 hours (a la Mt. Elbert).

Reservations = Bad!
The one time I made reservations for us, at the Boulder International Hostel, it turned out terribly wrong.  What a dump!  We were perfectly happy walking out and leaving them our $75 deposit.  That was the last time we made reservations this summer :)

And, how can one forget...

The Importance of Friends
Best for last.  With all the planning, all the saving, all the stuff we did to make this happen, we wouldn't be where we are (literally!) had it not been for the unbelievable generosity of two truly amazing people: Rob and Rina (RnR).  When they found out we were thinking about making the move to SLC, they were all over it.  They opened up their gorgeous house to us and all but forced us to move in ;)  Twist our arms!  They were set on making our SLC dreams a reality.  I don't know where we'd be, or how things would look for us if it hadn't been for them.  It's been seriously fun spending more time with RnR and getting to know them better.  Geof and Rob go way back.  So, a huge, HUGE thank you to RnR for everything they've done for us, and for being such righteously awesome friends.  Perhaps we can return the favor in some way at some time.  Friends; never undervalue their importance.  This summer has taught me this.  Really good friends are just like family.  Awesome.

So, yea, lots of lessons.  Lots of really good, solid experiences, and lots of time spent with my favorite person in the whole wide world in the tiny 3'x5' space of the cab of our truck, laughing the miles away; planning the next day's run; marveling at how smelly my Salomon's were getting; arguing over stupid crap because we were so sleep deprived; freaking out about being lost in the middle of nowhere Kansas in the dark, without cell service, and nowhere to park and sleep for the night; eating cheese and crackers while sitting on the tailgate, drinking awesome beer; scheming our next stop and what kind of ice cream we wanted to get; and laughing about all the weird/fun/annoying/beautiful things we'd experienced that day.  It was perfect.  I love that man!

We saw a LOT of towns and places.  If you're ever looking for somewhere awesome to visit, these are some of my favorites from the summer, in no particular order: Flagstaff, AZ; Steamboat Springs, CO; Glacier National Park; Crater Lake National Park; Eugene, OR; Seattle; Telluride, CO; Silverton, CO; Ouray, CO; St. George, UT; Wheeler Peak (NM); Pine, CO; Whitefish, MT; Leadville, CO.  For some reason, Wheeler Peak, our first high climb of the summer, holds a very special place in my memory.  It was a cool experience, and a beautiful place.  

And now for some fun...Summer by the numbers!

One might think that when a couple of runners have ALL SUMMER to do nothing, they would have all the time in the world to run.  Not so.  In fact, we spent the majority of our free time driving.  We covered 12,500 miles of pavement, dirt and 4x4 roads.  Yes, you saw that right.  In two and a half months we covered what the average driver covers in one year.  Sick.

So how much running did we do?  I calculated 407.6 miles.  Not horrible for me at just shy of 200 miles/month, but I do that even during my busiest times.  We expected to do probably twice that, if not more.  Not so.  But we did climb 83,200 vertical feet.  That's pretty cool, and something I didn't consider at the outset.  It's even more cool when you consider the fact that I've probably not covered that much vertical climbing in my entire life (being a flatlander and what not).

With allllll of that considered, the only thing we'd really change the next time we do this (and there will be a next time) is the number of places we visit.  Next time, we'll pick a handful of places we really, really want to go, and stick with that, rather than trying to see everything and everyone we possibly can.  We felt much more relaxed when we could spend a few days in one place.  It was the changing of location every day or two that really started to get to us.  While it was cool to be able to do that, it really started to fray our sanity towards the end.  Other than that, we wouldn't change much of anything else.  It's truly startling how well everything worked out.  I feel incredibly fortunate for having had the opportunity to do this, and the ability to jump on it without much fear.  

And you know what?  By the time we arrived home for the final time, we were ready.  We were ready to be responsible members of society again, to contribute in some meaningful way, to be running more.  We were craving the stability and structure of a schedule.  Dare I say...we missed it?  See, this is where that whole balance thing comes into play.  The yin and yang of life.  I'm spending most of my weekends running and studying now, and Geof's been job-hunting, and now preparing for his new job to begin next week.  I'm loving my work, my school, my running, my little bit of free time...and knowing that adventure is around every corner, and in everything.  And it doesn't hurt that we live in an AWESOME place.  I love this city!

This is the life :)

So, yea, I would do it again in a heartbeat, but first, there's a little bit of 'real' life I want to live before then.  

Live out loud, take chances, be mindful, be nice to others, play fair (but break the rules every now and then), follow your purpose, and be passionate.

I lied.  This was not at all short, but hopefully it was sweet :)

Paige, out.


Meghan said...


Stacy said...

Best SCotR post ever!

Anonymous said...

Very awesome - you made me feel better about my upcoming 14-hour Monday that started 30 minutes ago. I have BALANCE! ~Laura

Rina said...

Awww, I love it. Great recap of a wonderful experience. So glad you did it. We're loving having you guys here:)

Chris @ OOMFrunning said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and this is a great story - thanks for sharing. You are 100% right - when something is right, you put yourself out there and have a plan things work out. 4 years ago my wife and I left Utah (and full-time jobs) to pursue an unpaid internship in a dream industry. It all worked out better than I could have imagined. Thanks for sharing and reminding me!

Chris @ OOMFrunning said...

Thank you for sharing your story - you are 100% correct. When something is right, you have a plan and you put yourself out there things workout. My wife and I left Utah & jobs 4 years ago to pursue an internship in a dream industry. It all worked out better than we could have imagined. Thanks for the reminder!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Fantastic post, Paige! You learned so much and gained so much from this experience, something that will carry you forward together through whatever your future holds. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And good luck to both of you with work and school, running, and everything else.

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