Danielle Thurston, July 2020
This world is big y'all. So big that I used to wonder why the heck a person would visit the same place twice when they could spend that same vacation time and money exploring a new destination. There are countless places I have left to deep dive into, where I will fill my days to the brim while exploring every possible nook and cranny of a place. Then once I feel I’ve successfully covered its ground, I’ll mark it off the list and begin planning the next one, rinse and repeat. I have even been guilty of planning the next vacation while on vacation (I still wholeheartedly stand by this as a completely productive thing to do) and always wanted it to be different than the last. I’ve learned I was even like this with movies and tv and frankly many other facets of my life. Then I met my partner. My husband, who is a dozen years older than me likes to tell me my preferences and speed at which I live life might morph over the years. He’s the type who watches his same favorite Seinfeld episodes monthly. If Shawshank Redemption or Tombstone are on, 9.5 times out of 10 he watches it and the .5 is only if I insist on something else. He knows what he loves, what he wants in the moment and has no problem spending what free time he has doing what he likes and what will make his life more joyful. Almost the endearing childlike freedom of expression adults strive to return to. This mindset tends to spill over into the way he lives his life too. He doesn’t share the same trait as I do with a demanding inner voice telling him he must be productive at all costs, never stop pushing and learning new things and to keep doing more. More knowledge, more experiences, more research, more lists checked, and tasks accomplished. He shakes off any feelings of outside unrealistic pressures, if they even come up for him at all, and the guy knows how to have fun. He knows how to relax, to be in the moment and he lives for bringing smiles and laughter to those around him. He is silly, he is balanced, he is perfectly weird, he is driven, and he has a firm grasp on living a joy-filled life. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a successful talented pilot who takes safety, preparedness, and hard work beyond seriously. This guy can school me on endurance too. He’s got me beat when touring London by foot for 10+ hour days or taking on day-long rainforest adventures in El Salvador. He’s always game to go to a new destination and try new things, but he also knows that there are times for the rush of those ‘first times’, the fulfillment of the go go go and the do do do, and that THAT time isn’t EVERY time you vacation.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – French writer Marcel Proust
He and his family have been to the Grand Teton National Park every year for over 25 years. When he first shared this tradition with me (while I was watching his entire face light up in a way I rarely ever see apart from when he’s talking about this place) I was intrigued and frankly a little skeptical about its powerful repetitious draw. It probably wasn’t until my third summer visit with him that I truly got it. Sure, the Teton mountains are one of the most spectacular sights to see from across its lakes and equally as spectacular to be in when climbing to its peaks. Sure, it is the most re-visited national park in the US and a place unlike any other. Sure, all these things add to its draw, but what makes these vacations glimmer with the unique sparkle they do for us every year is the way in which he and his family have chosen to experience it and what- or maybe who- they bring to it. They’d all disown me for saying this, but I truly think the Tetons could likely have been (or even could be) a whole other place if the same approach was taken. The park was cemented in tradition for the family after the loss of their patriarch over 2 decades ago. It became a place to connect, to take stock in gratitude, to do nothing and everything, to make loose plans and have no commitments. To truly be together, be it still and quiet, playing cards all day or nose in a book sunbathing, paddleboarding alone or with another, maybe even in silence, practicing yoga while staring at the mountains or eating bison burgers and mounds of nachos. This annual vacation was so special because it required nothing from its visitor except openness, being present and showing up. Nothing. Else. I had never vacationed with this hive mindset before in my life. My family vacations often included the outdoors, and we would go to beautiful scenic places. Yet we did so often with the intent to be busy and doing fast things, like wakeboarding, dirt bike riding, skiing, or sailing. It hit me in that third year, as my life was taking on more intense versions of busy back at home, that this was a recharge, a rejuvenation, and a vacation that I didn’t need to come down from once I got home. I turned off my cell phone and went off the grid. I didn’t listen to music on my daily hikes and activities, I listened more than I spoke (most of the time:) and I took the pressure off of DOING and was ok with just BEING. In my travels since this realization, I have met many others who have their own version of the Tetons. For some it is Orcas Islands off the coast of Seattle, for others it is a dude ranch in CA; others go to the mountains of Torres del Pines or a villa in Bali, and I have friends who go to Cabo San Lucas annually. I’ve met some who change the location every year but name the vacation with a clear title and then bring to it a clear intention… to rejuvenate and just be. This is powerful and I hope catches on more and more as I feel it churns out better humans on the other side!