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Small Journeys = Tall Transformation

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

And these little things may not seem like much but after a while they take you off on a direction where you may be a long way off from what other people have been thinking about. - Roger Penrose

Any Colorado ski town in high season is predictably exciting; buzzing with energy, bustling crowds of people and air as thick with exuberance as it is with snowflakes. Visiting during a shoulder season shows the softer side of a place and Steamboat Springs is no different.

Having lived in Colorado for decades, I’ve skied these world class slopes many times. I’ve been here often during the Spring Mud Season, when the town curls up into slumber like a child; content but exhausted, from a long day of play. Muddy hiking trails still welcome the adventurous and it’s always worth the price of the post-hike washing down of the car and hiking boots.

I found that a quick trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado only 2 weeks before the mountain opens offers a surprisingly delightful and unique experience. A shallow dusting of snow loosely covers the ground like a welcome mat holding the promise of what’s to come. Sunshine and a perfect, baby blue sky provide the backdrop for a golden eagle, magpies, bluejays, falcons, woodpeckers and tiny finches who flit about as merrily as if they were announcing spring. The riverwalk offers an easily accessible invitation for everyone and hiking trails still beckon those to whom tramping through a bit of slushy snow means fun! Strawberry Hot Springs is open, quiet and bubbling, many restaurants and shops are ready to serve and spa and massage services are open and ready to book with no waiting list!

The pearl of this place, however, is the people. Like all Colorado ski towns, Steamboat attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, including a range of workforce, year-round business owners and seasonal residents. A calm anticipation drenches the town during these few weeks before the season begins and flows out through the people as generous expressions of hospitality. Rejuvenated from the summer and not yet exhausted from a robust ski season, everyone we met was enthusiastic, accommodating and engaging. There was time to nurture curiosity and connect, there was space for deep conversations and plenty of warm, Colorado sunshine to cheer the spirit.

Our first night’s dining experience on our getaway was a casual dinner at Talay Thai on Mount Werner Rd., a quick walk from The Sheraton, where we stayed. We were happily surprised at the great quality of food and delighted by the stories shared by wait staff (all from Thailand) who recognized the opportunity Steamboat offered for work and lifestyle and moved their families here.

Over the course of 3 days, we met many local business owners, who shared charming stories of their adventures establishing and growing businesses in the area. In the midst of a growing number of high end ski in and out resort accommodations, several smaller landmark motels and boutique hotels can be found downtown. The owners of Rabbit Ears, The Nordic Lodge, The Bristol Hotel and The Western Lodge charmed us with stories of their life journeys, love stories and business adventures in Northern Colorado’s Yampa Valley.

Our time was limited for dining, but we loved The Laundry, Besame, Salt and Lime, Big Iron Coffee, Small Creek Greek and Off The Beaten Path and highly recommend all! (Crazy to find the best Greek food I’ve had in Colorado in Steamboat!)

At a little over 3 hours, the drive from Fort Collins to Steamboat is so effortless and scenic, I can’t wait to do it again! Of course, who you are traveling with matters much and informs the quality of the trip. We all have reams of road trip memories that describe a spectrum of experiences throughout seasons of our lives. Kids, parents, spouses… people in small spaces can create some interesting dynamics.

Like many parents, I spent many, many hours driving when my kids were little. Because we lived an hour away from everything, music lessons, sports activities and social outings required car time. In addition, we made multiple 6 hour drives each month for additional educational pursuits.

I loved every minute of these road trips. The stories we made up, the singing, the conversations, the never ending mental reaching to think of a new and creative story to share or a new game to play and when those efforts finally exhausted themselves, we would immerse ourselves in other voices from our enormous library of audio books.

I’ve found road trip conversations with young adult children to be equally as precious, though the effort on my part turns from the need to provide content, to receptive listening. The give and take expansion that results is extraordinary and gratifying far beyond what I ever would imagine could take place in a few hours.

Great conversations are to adults, what playgrounds and open fields are to children. Safe, but slightly wild places, designed to encourage growth and creative engagement. Conversations invite us to learn about ourselves and clarify our perspectives through speaking. We learn to relax our hold on fixed mindsets through the act of engaged listening. Intimate conversations provide a container where ideas become fluid and we are free to explore them from new vantage points.

The opportunity to appreciate our own value and the value of others is amplified.Seeking to understand, opening new avenues, nurturing curiosity, entertaining new feeling patterns in relation to familiar topics, choosing response over reaction, realization over rumination, the value list goes on and on…

On this trip, my son and I engaged in a flowing, organic dance of reflections, ideas and word play, tuning into topic after topic:

  • The importance of human connection and the varying depths of such connection

  • The nuances of friendship

  • The art of communication

  • Generational bias

  • The value of community

  • Generational differences, perspectives and influences

  • Politics

  • Government

  • Sexual repression, promiscuity and related emotional health

  • Transgender issues

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Education vs. School

The takeaways?

  • A 3 day getaway can bring us closer to each other and closer to a better version of ourselves.

  • Though the destination is what pulled us, the journey held unexpected joy and gems for self-transformation.

  • Do it more often.

What will your next journey be?

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