Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love getting together with my loved ones, sharing food and stories, and playing games that reminds us how competitive our family is. I’m so very thankful to have a network that supports me and encourage my dreams (even if they don’t always understand or agree with them). And after my most recent trip to Denver, I’m incredibly thankful for the strangers we make connections with.
I typically don’t look forward to the airplane ride on a trip. It’s not that I don’t look forward to it because I don’t like it, but it’s the last few hours before getting to the destination I’m so excited about. But thanks to my seat mate, a very recent transplant to Denver, I now see the plane ride as part of the journey. Every once in a while, you meet a person who is a breath of fresh air, whose views of the world enlighten your own. For 2 hours, we discussed life choices, the way of the universe, and things we’ve learned so far. The idea of Mindfulness, living in the moment, echoed in my mind all weekend, enough for me to begin to practice it in my life.
I recently started going to a hot yoga studio, and have felt such peace and re-centeredness from my practice. My seat mate gets the same thing from jujitsu, which makes you focus ONLY on the situation at hand. If your mind goes elsewhere, you’re going to be choked out (he assured me it’s not as violent as it sounds, and it’s more like chess), and in yoga you will lose your balance. In life, we can’t enjoy or even really exist in the present moment if we are always thinking of the past or the future. Don’t get me wrong, we need to learn from our past mistakes and work towards our future goals, but we can’t enjoy what’s happening in our lives and give it our best self if our mind is elsewhere. The major reason I love traveling is that I am so utterly present in what I’m doing, taking in everything I’m seeing and feeling. That’s what every moment of life should be.
Okay, now that I’ve shared my airplane realizations, I can share with you how cool Denver is. After an awesome plane ride, I took the train from the airport to Union Station in downtown (a great bargain and convenient ride to the heart of the city). I arrived late on Friday to the Warwick Hotel, a boutique collection of hotels with locations across the world. I had booked through Expedia, and they didn’t have my reservation, so after a bit of confusion and forwarding of reservation emails (where I stayed kind and empathic to the cheerful desk workers), I was upgraded to a suite. One of my theories on life is that if you’re good to the universe, the universe is good to you. So I had a sweet pad to lay my head down for the weekend, and also a really, really sweet heated rooftop pool to swim in. I usually don’t spoil myself with sleeping expenses, but swimming in the pool among skyscrapers definitely added to the experience of staying in downtown Denver. And every once in a while, you need to “treat yo’self” (thank you Parks and Rec).
I had to do some payroll for work Saturday morning, and was so thankful I was able to do it from afar. After doing my little bit of work, I head to the Red Rock Amphitheater, in the hills just outside of Denver. The Amphitheater is an incredible stage with tons of stairs and bleacher seating, with a view of Denver way off in the distance. Someday I will come back for a concert, but I enjoyed running up all the stairs and exploring the 1.5 mile trail in the park, where I found a little solitude. The red rocks reminded me of so many other landscapes I’ve fallen in love with, and this is a destination that should be on your must-do list in Colorado.
After hiking, I enjoyed a delicious steak and pastry brunch at Ralph’s, the restaurant at the Warwick. There was no one else eating at 1:30pm, but I enjoyed the company of the servers and manager as they gave me recommendations of the must-do/see things on their lists. After my afternoon swim, I started their list with a stop at the Brown Palace Hotel. This hotel is supposedly haunted, and was built back in 1892, with an extensive list of the notable people who have stayed there. I accidentally went to their cigar lounge, but enjoyed a delicious pear martini regardless of the smoke. They were setting up a champagne glass pyramid in the lounge, which was completed and lit up by the time I left. It is a beautiful, historic corner building (my favorite architectural design), and is worth a stop if you’re in downtown.
Next I headed to Marco’s, where I enjoyed the best gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had. Their pizza is wood fired, and the crust had the most delicious campfire taste to it. After the pizza, I headed to The Viewhouse in LoDo (lower downtown). I imagine I would’ve enjoyed this bar/eatery better if the upper lounge with the view would have been open, or if I would’ve had a travel partner to play bags with, but this was not my favorite place to go. Everyone there was in a group of friends, and I always feel out of place in drinking establishments as I’m not a huge bar-goer. Needless to say, I left there quickly to enjoy a nighttime swim in the pool before bed. I’m so wild, I know.
Sunday morning I walked to a nearby coffee shop for a hot almond latte and scone. My short walk turned into a grand tour of all of downtown (I walked 18 miles total between Saturday and Sunday), so I saw most everything there is to see. I will admit, I skipped seeing the US Mint where coins are made, because I didn’t even know what it was until doing some research and I wasn’t too excited about it. But I did walk through the capitol grounds, enjoying the building and lawns. I also saw the giant bear statue outside the Convention Center, and enjoyed the painted-blue trees scattered throughout the city in honor of the Denver Broncos. Downtown Denver also has a promenade stretch called the 16th Street Mall, where part of the street is an outdoor mall with live music.
After checking out of my hotel, I took a Lyft to the Denver Botanic Gardens. Sidenote, if you aren’t in a hurry while you’re traveling alone, always do a Lyft or Uber Share because you’ll meet some really cool people. I love talking to the drivers, and I met a dozen people from all over the nation by sharing a ride with them. So after a ride full of conversation with two lovely ladies, I went for a stroll through the Botanic Gardens. I imagine it’s absolutely stunning when everything is in full bloom, but it was still well worth it to go there in late fall. I have a mild obsession with gardens in cities, and always find my zen there. I enjoyed a plethora of plants from all over the world, many of which I have never experience before. My favorite was the Lacebark Pine from China, whose bark must’ve inspired the camouflage design. After the gardens I walked a few more miles around downtown, through Cheesman Park and a few different neighborhoods. I found another pizza place where they gave me a snack piece of pizza while I was waiting for the slice of pizza I ordered. So awesome.
My last few hours in Denver were spent at The Tatteredcover Bookstore, where I picked up books about mindfulness and doing what you love (still inspired by the airplane convo), and then meeting up with my seat mate for an hour. How quickly strangers become friends. On my Lyft ride to the airport, I met a delightful southern gentleman who works for Homeland Security and resides in New Orleans, who invited me to come visit for Mardi Grais. Once again, how quickly strangers become friends.
As I took in Denver this past weekend, I realized I’m on a search for where to live. I’ll be a gypsy with work for a while, but someday I’ll grow roots somewhere. I’m not sure if Denver is the place after this trip. I enjoyed the city and what it has to offer, and it’s awesome that it is so close to the Rocky Mountains, but it reminds me so much of the Midwest. At this point of my life, I am searching for diversity in landscape and culture, and Denver doesn’t quite have that. The people were wonderful and reminded me of those I love back home, but it was too comfortable for my taste, an easy transition from Midwest to West. I could see raising a family there because it is a lot like a milder-weather and mountainous version of home, but at this point of my life I will continue searching.
Now I’m off to enjoy time with my family and friends, enjoying the present for what it is. I look forward to my next adventure, and my next move to wherever my next project is, but I will enjoy each moment I have at home as well. Even though it’s cold. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, I am incredibly thankful for your support and love taking you on this journey with me.