“What to do today?” I asked myself as I awoke on Renee’s comfortable couch.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do today. I wanted to take a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park! My friend Simon had the amazing idea that I should try to visit every national park while I was in Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park was maybe an hour away!
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had very different plans for my day. Yesterday I woke up to golden rays of morning sunshine beckoning me outside. Today, I was awoken by the rhythmic pitter patter of raindrops on the cold glass window. The world outside looked gray, overcast, and rainy. I checked the weather and learned that the forecast predicted the rain to continue for most of the morning. Not a good day to check out a national park.
The combination of rain and my foiled plans for adventure made me want to spend the morning hanging out on Renee’s couch playing on my computer. But eventually a sense of guilt stole upon me. I was in Colorado! I felt that even if it was raining, I should at least get out of the apartment and go experience the world. I hadn’t driven halfway across the country to sit on my friend’s couch. I could do that at home!
So I made a compromise. I went to the Starbucks in Broomfield to pass the morning. This gave me the option to stay dry and play on my computer, but I was also out experiencing Colorado and people watching.
I got a delicious Chai Tea Latte, watched the bustle of people come and go, and played on the internet. Slowly, as the morning progressed, I began obsessing over the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico. Every year at the start of October, Albuquerque has a big spectacular event for Hot Air Balloon enthusiasts from around the world. The pictures of it looked absolutely stunning. I had been dreaming of going to this for years, but it was always too far away to truly consider attending. But today, as I sat in that warm Starbucks on that rainy morning, I realized that the Balloon Fiesta was actually happening this week! It would be continuing for four more days! Could I actually go see it? After all these years of dreaming to go, was it finally possible???
I spent the morning desperately trying to find a place to stay in Albuquerque. Unfortunately, almost everything was booked. Every motel was booked. Every AirBnB was booked. Pretty much every couchsurfer was booked. The very few hotels that still had availability were charging at least 300 dollars per night. As an unemployed nomad, I could not really rationalize spending 300 dollars per night to see these balloons.
I was crestfallen. I will confess that I felt a bit frustrated with my road trip on this day. The weather was lousy and I felt like I was wasting time. I couldn’t make it to the balloon fiesta. I couldn’t make it to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had driven across the country in search for adventure, in search of *something* to help me reconnect with myself and reignite my fire. And I had this strange sense of worry that it was all for nothing. I was scared nothing would come of this trip. That this whole experience would end up being a colossal disappointment. That I would return home as the exact same person that I had been when I had left. I’m glad that I can now laugh at this foolishness in retrospect.
Feeling defeated by the day, I decided that it was time to get out of this Starbucks and figure out what to do with the afternoon. Suddenly my phone buzzed. Adam, a couchsurfer from Albuquerque had agreed to host me! I had a place to stay! I was going to the balloon fiesta!
Suddenly a new and spectacular adventure began unfolding before me. And then the stormy clouds that had draped the skies all morning parted to reveal a beautiful Autumn day in Colorado!
Now that it was beautiful out, I decided to go explore some trails nearby that Renee had mentioned to me. They were called the “Flatiron Vista” trails. The Flatiron Vista trails were not the wonderful mountain trails that I had embarked on yesterday in Boulder. These trails were mostly flat through open grassy area. But the views they provided of the mountains in the distance were phenomenal. I loved it. I felt so whole. It was amazing to be exploring an awesome new part of the country instead of walking the same tired paths of my home town. I couldn’t take my eyes off those mountains. Colorado is amazing!
That evening I told Renee that I was leaving to go to Albuquerque tomorrow. She took us to an awesome Thai restaurant, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and hanging out. I couldn’t help but feel a little silly. I had spent so much time obsessed with visiting Colorado. I had just gotten here, and now I was already about to leave. I hadn’t even made it to Rocky Mountain National Park! And now I was getting ready to leave Colorado and head to New Mexico? What the hell was I doing?
The truth is that I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I couldn’t stop here. I couldn’t settle down in one spot. I was loving Colorado but adventure was calling me ever onward. Who knows when I would ever have another chance to go to the Balloon Fiesta? I did not want to miss this closing window of opportunity. It was now or never.
I got in my car the next morning and began my drive down to Albuquerque. I had a full day of driving ahead of me. For some reason, I had mostly expected the southern part of Colorado to be as boring as the eastern half. Boy was I surprised. As I headed down I25, I was almost screaming with joy at the incredible views of mountains along the way. It was early October, and the mountains were all exploding with fiery colors of reds, oranges, and yellows. I felt so blessed to be able to see this, to actually be driving through this. The views kept getting more amazing and my old life back home began to feel so very far away.
I needed to stop and take in this beauty, so I decided to stop at Colorado Springs for lunch. Man, Colorado Springs is incredible. The views of the mountains as I drove down the streets were absolutely breathtaking. I loved that it felt busier and bigger than Boulder. I had lunch and then drove around for a while taking in the views and seeing the city. I wondered what it would be like to wake up to these mountains every single morning.
The drive down south continued to stay phenomenal. Even the rest stops were beautiful. I ended up driving through some really gorgeous mountain roads as I left Colorado and began to feel much more confident driving through the mountains.
I still couldn’t help but feel foolish for leaving Colorado so soon. I hadn’t seen Denver. I hadn’t seen Rocky Mountain National Park. I had barely seen Colorado Springs. And now I was driving right past Sand Dunes National Park. But I continued on anyway, excited for what lay ahead of me.
Finally I crossed into New Mexico. I promised Colorado that I would eventually return, but I didn’t look back. I was only looking forward. Towards Albuquerque. Towards the Balloon Fiesta.
And towards all the amazing adventures that were lying in wait ahead of me.