“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R Tolkien
Taking a trip alone is not for the faint of heart. According to others, it’s downright perilous. If I had believed the many “what if” stories that pummeled me throughout my twenties as I discussed my next trip with others, perhaps I would have never left the state of Florida. But I took the “road less traveled.” I adventured, explored, and tasted what the world had to offer, and it was my saving grace. The more I wander, the less alone I feel. In each city or country, I met kindred spirits – people that remind me of the goodness in humanity, and the value of diversity.
Life changed. I moved to Washington, DC. I was working, all the time. It’s an expensive city. I was living my dream, and there wasn’t much time or disposable income for such non-urgent things as travel. Trips were delayed to take care of the now. Then I met my great love, and became a stepmom. Very quickly, priorities shifted. It’s been an unexpected reward to know the depths of my ability to love another in the way I love both my husband and sweet stepson. Months have given way to years, and each bit of travel has involved increased trips to visit family – wonderful and joyful – but not what you might call adventurous or relaxing.
“Once a year go somewhere you have never been before.” – The Dalai Lama
My husband agreed with me, it was time to get lost – in the GlobalSultana way of things. I planned a solo trip for the first time in four years. Not a long journey, but far enough away and to a new place, to give me a chance to unwind and not take care of anyone but myself for a few days. Every parent should do such a thing at least once a year, otherwise, our identities become completely intertwined with responsibility, laundry, dishes, the 9-to-5 grind, family obligations, and the various tasks that comprise modern life. It’s a gift to have all these things, and one I do not take for granted, but it is the time away that gives you perspective to appreciate how much you have – to find gratitude and avoid burning out.
The trip didn’t go as planned. Delta Airlines grounded or cancelled 3,000 flights due to weather issues at their Atlanta hub and though I waited for hours at the airport, I wasn’t able to get a flight for several more days – just enough time to miss the retreat I’d planned and paid for in full. Thankfully, they agreed to refund me, and I was able to head off to Boulder, Colorado for the latter part of my adventure, which was the expanse of three days without anywhere to be or anyone to see. Ahhhh – an introvert’s dream.
I arrived late into Boulder and went right to sleep. Though I ran away from D.C., I couldn’t seem to get too far, as discussion over breakfast that first morning revealed that a World Affairs conference was happening at the neighboring university by the inn where I stayed. I walked over with my new acquaintance, many years my senior – making them the perfect new friend – and after we parted ways, I attended two interesting lectures before deciding to head out into the sunny day. Having walked past a trail, I laced up my running shoes and put a few miles in along the Boulder Creek Trail, a little slice of heaven that tracks parallel to the city. Cyclists, runners, hikers, and vagabonds shared the trail, all of us relishing in the 52 degree weather. The beginning of the run was difficult- I wasn’t sure how my body would perform at more than mile above sea level. I took a few rest breaks and monitored my heart rate, and then would continue going. Toward the end of the run, I clicked along at a nice pace and surprisingly, felt fit.
After the run, I headed back to the inn to shower and change in time for afternoon tea at Dushanbe Teahouse. Having stumbled across an article about this very special teahouse about a decade ago, I’d imagined it many times in my mind. Each piece was handcrafted by artisans on the other side of the globe and shipped individually to Boulder where it was assembled into the stunning kaleidoscope of color that exists today. I dined on devonshire cream and cranberry scones, lemon cake and strawberry jam, and cucumber and herb cream cheese sandwiches beneath the tapestry of art crafted by hands descended from the Persian empire in Central Asia. The experience-in short-was divine.
“I dressed and went for a walk – determined not to return until I took in what Nature had to offer.” – Raymond Carver, This Morning
The next morning, I was ready to head into the wilderness near Boulder. Having asked around to locals for the best moderate hiking trail nearby, Mount Sanitas was my aim. I linked up with a lovely woman I’d met at breakfast that morning – a musician – and we drove to the trail head and ascended the mountain. What began as a clean, wide path, turned into a rocky ridge summit. My lungs pumped along with my legs up the side of the mountain, as locals passed us without much gear on their backs. She turned around about 1.5 miles up to head back to meet a friend and I continued up to the summit, which rewarded me with a beautiful, unobstructed view of Boulder below. Instead of heading back down the same way, I asked other hikers about alternatives for a loop and they offered two pathways, one known as the Lion’s Lair. Such a name was irresistible for the intrepid adventuress.
I tracked down the back of the mountaintop and along the ridge line. With the town of Boulder as my backdrop below, I walked purposefully, my footsteps as my sole companion. Nature itself came alive with the quiet. The trees swayed in the wind, birds spoke in their native language, ignorant of my interruption into their world. With civilization a distant memory leaving me with each footfall, I entered into a Zen state. Within a couple of miles, two trail runners came upon my path, laughing at the altitude. Their presence reminded me of my body and its hunger. Unzipping the new day pack I’d purchased in town, I reached for a Kind bar and tried to take mindful bites, eager not to release this present moment.
The trail wound down the mountain and I found the main road and ordered an Uber, which arrived seven easy minutes later. The driver’s name sounded Nepalese to me and so I ventured to ask and indeed, he was from Nepal, a former Sherpa who had summited Mount Everest three times. We spoke of the Himalayas with excitement as I began to unravel pieces of my story from a decade before. He dropped me at Dushanbe Teahouse where I enjoyed a large plate of root vegetable curry that satiated my appetite. I sat quietly in the sun, soaking in the voices of the families and couples chattering over their lunch, lost in my thoughts yet completely present to this moment of my life.
“When our attention is on the present, our life is constantly renewed.” – Deepak Chopra