I have realized in the last few months that I’m becoming the very woman I’d hoped I would. That’s not to say I don’t struggle or have room to grow. In fact, it is the opposite thought that makes me believe this all the more.
I am well aware of my shortcomings. I see my strengths and weaknesses, but I believe them to be equally deserving of praise and adoration. Though I will forever be imperfect, I revel in my quirkiness. As I’ve grown older, I’ve finally found the joy in pushing the right buttons. Testing the best waters. Venturing outside the greatest boxes. Though cautious and anxious, I am not afraid.
This couldn’t have been proven more true with my most recent jaunt across the country.
In April, I visited friends in Las Vegas and took on a solo adventure in Denver. This made my third visit to LV, but it was my first time in Denver…my first time in Colorado! I had no idea what to expect, but the excitement of seeing friends and the anticipation of greeting a new – and very desirable – place absolutely filled my heart with joy. Fewer things light up my soul more than traveling.
The sweet, wonderful celebration of friends (old AND new!) + the possibility and thrill of the unknown
= one happy girl.
The friends I visited were celebrating their engagement with a very boisterous and rambunctious bachelor/bachelorette party – Vegas style. Their friends and family came from all across the U.S. – California, Texas, West Virginia, Hawaii, Florida, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon. These are the kind of people they are, people you travel across the country (and oceans) for. One friend came from Slovakia! The beautiful thing is that Lo and JJ live there, so I get to experience both the local and tourist culture every time I stay. It’s perfect. And my friends are perfect.
This trip was even more special than my previous 2, as we spent our entire time celebrating these two phenomenal people. The time there was full of surprises, laughs, reunions, tears, and absolute ridiculousness (of which I am a HUGE fan!). I saw a family friend, Charlie, I hadn’t seen in years. I got to learn more about a friend from Slovakia – Tomas had been a foreign exchange student when I was a freshman in high school. He was a senior, and though I knew who he was, our friend circles were pretty separated. This was the first time he’d been back to the states since high school! Who knew I’d learn so much, or that we’d have such similar humor?! I watched the sweetest woman alive blissfully celebrate her engagement. And the most absurd guy I know (I say this lovingly) celebrate being engaged to the sweetest woman alive.
I am certainly biased, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s true. These people are magical. The passion they have for life, the humor they embody, the beauty they radiate to the world – each makes them the greatest of people. I confidently say this about every friend, old and new.
My time in Las Vegas is always transformative because of the people and the surroundings there. Maybe this comes as a surprise; it’s easy to see the superficiality of the place. It’s easy to find the facade in every building, the lacking sense of confidence running amok the Strip. But it’s lovely and spectacular in it’s own right.
Still, glance above and see the mountains. View the sun in the bluest sky, adjacent to the most awe-inspiring clouds. There is the true beauty. For some reason, everything feels clearer when I’m visiting out there. I suppose soulful people and a different kind of air will do that you.
I can never fully describe the loveliness of that trip. It was beautiful. And as sad as I was to leave Vegas, I was beyond excited and anxious to get to Denver. I had no clue what to expect. I had no clue what to feel either. Nervous to find my way to my Air BnB hosts after dark; hopeful that I’d make the most of my time there; proud for pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone. I’ll never forget getting off of the plane and waiting at the bus terminal for nearly 45 minutes, surrounded by complete strangers who seemed to know exactly what to do. All the while, I was lost just standing still. I didn’t want to look like a young female traveling solo, but that’s the very vibe I had. My jittery eyes kept watching for the RTD bus that would take me to “Union Station”. The cinematic part of my mind thought it’d never come.
But it did, and with exhaustion and relief, I climbed on the bus. About a 30 minute bus ride, a 15 minute wander, and a 10 minute cab ride later, I was at my host’s apartment. They lived in LoHi – the Lower Highland area of the city. A perfect 15 minute walk away from downtown Denver, and a 5 minute walk away from the cutest shops, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants.
After chatting with my host for about 45 minutes that night, I realized we had so much in common. She studies marketing and currently works as a paid blogger. A wealth of knowledge, she’s an avid coffee lover, a down to earth spirit, and incredibly kind. I felt it very appropriate that I ended up choosing her apartment on AirBnB, and went to bed that night with the proudest of smiles on my face.
DAY 1: Walks through the park, through LoHi and into downtown. Breakfast at ModMarket (2 eggs covered in green chile, potatoes, gluten-free toast, amazing coffee). Denver Center for the Arts Complex. The Capitol building. The Denver Art Museum. Lunch at Freshcraft (remarkable Chopped Steak Salad and SKA Mexican Lager, brewed in Durango, CO). Coffee with my host at Starbucks. Nap time (I didn’t want to, but HAD to!). Dinner at Linger (Masala Dosa: a crispy rice and lentil crepe with potatoes and peas, served with tamarind date sauce and coconut mint chutney!). Dessert at Littleman’s Ice Cream (Mocha Chip). Bed.
One of my favorite parts of Day 1 was dinner at Linger. The restaurant used to be a mortuary; it was turned into a restaurant when the neighborhood was being overhauled. What used to be “Olinger’s Mortuary” is now called “Linger’s Eatuary”, though they kept the original sign atop the building, and the interior theme of the place is still pretty morbid. The booths are lined with casket leather, water is served from formaldehyde bottles, and the checks are given to patrons on a casket-shaped clipboard. The first level of the restaurant is full of tables and booths, while the second level is a bar and lounge, complete with wall-to-wall windows. The restaurant was packed, so I ventured upstairs; I’m still convinced this was the better experience. The view from up there is chic and breathtaking, and the service was top-notch. I asked the bartender for a recommendation for dinner, and he did not disappoint. The Masala Dosa was one of the most remarkable dishes I’ve ever had. He and I chatted about his travels and excursions across different mountains and areas out West, while the woman sitting next to me and I bonded over the fact that we each were exploring Denver alone. She was from California, and in between jokes and stories, she made it very apparent she was interested in me. In the moment, I was unnerved – I was not expecting a friendly conversation to take that turn. However, looking back, I can say I’m totally flattered!
Day 2: Breakfast at Mona’s (the largest pancake I’ve ever seen and amazing coffee, yet again). An adorable stationery store. Shopping for a momento or two. Larimer Square. Union Station. Airport.
Day 2 was so full of emotion and excitement that I can’t really pinpoint a favorite part in the traditional sense. I soaked up everything; took tons of photos; walked with purpose. I had so much to do before going back to my housing at 2pm to check out and get to the airport. There wasn’t enough time. Full of gratitude for all I’d experienced, for all that I’d pushed myself to do, and for the overwhelming reward I’d already grasped, I embraced every second of that place, hoping that I’d somehow absorb enough of it to take back to share with my family, friends, and boyfriend. I SO wish they each could have experienced what I had. So, more than anything else, I spent my second and final day in Denver feeling appreciative and reflective. Above everything, I reveled in the fact that Denver taught me – showed me – what it meant to be alive.
Traveling alone was challenging. And breathtaking. And overwhelming. And life-altering. It showed me parts of my character I’d never explored, and it forced me to adapt when I had no other choice. It freed my mind to wander. It opened me up to new perspectives. It taught me how to be brave and to keep going.
“Be brave and keep going.”
This is the remark on the bracelet I bought from a shop in Denver. I was looking for something very specific to remember the trip by. It was one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of things.
The sentiment couldn’t have suited my travels more perfectly. And honestly, it sums up everything I hoped to convey about this adventure. The descriptions and thoughts – my reflections and feelings surrounding it – have rolled around my mind as frequently as the mental images I captured during that time. I went on one of the biggest adventure my little self has ever gone on, and though I’ve sat at my keyboard for the last few months, pounding at the letters with a fire that won’t be put out, I couldn’t really tell about it. I still can’t. It’s not that I don’t have the words. It’s that few words, if any, will ever do it justice. Instead of words, sometimes, you just need people and places to speak for you. Sometimes you just need people and places to speak to you. And Las Vegas and Denver spoke volumes.