I like city living. This month, however, for a total change of pace – I went to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Wyoming for vacation. In the 14 month run-up to the trip (yup – if you want to stay IN the park, that’s how far in advance reservations need to be made – for rooms AND for dinner!) I had the experts at REI Co-Op help me find the best hiking shoes, and backpack, packed layers of clothing, .and borrowed hiking poles.
National Parks can teach you (kids AND grown-ups) about what truly makes our country special. These world famous (we met people from all over the world) parks preserve the awe-inspiring natural grandeur and beauty of our nation’s diverse geography and ecosystem. I learned (re-learned?!) earth science, biology, history, botany and zoology.
What I learned:
- What we have today in this country cannot be taken for granted. We fought for it and have an obligation to continue to fight to maintain and preserve it.
- We can work together to achieve our goals. Yellowstone is enormous and government, industry and philanthropy alone could not have preserved it. The foresight of the political and community leaders who continue the work of protecting our national treasures (beginning over a century ago) can serve as a model for politicians and citizens today.
- When you stay in a national park that has no cell towers, spotty Wi-Fi, no television or radio, you disconnect from distraction and focus on the people and the nature that surrounds you. We slowed down and had uninterrupted conversations. We laughed a lot. The bison, elk, eagles, mountains, geysers and waterfalls were interesting enough.
- The usual annoyances and irritants seemed to fade away. No one was rushing anywhere – so there was time to listen, ask questions, and ask follow-up questions. Lots more learning – from guides, park rangers, fellow travelers, and each other. There was a new calmness and in spite of the altitude, we seemed to breathe deeper.
- When faced with an unexpected and steep incline on a hike (funny how everyone we asked said the hikes were easy and none of them really were!), we rested, stayed hydrated, and continued. The payoff was a sense of accomplishment (sometimes surprising), a breathtaking view, and new information about old and outdated preconceived limits.
- Not everyone can afford to take a vacation to these (and other) stunning parks. National Parks, museums and other cultural institutions often charge admission fees that can put them out of reach of lower-income families. These national treasures should not be just for those who can afford it. There should be vehicles to allow access for everyone.
I am back now, easing into the fall season. I have my photographs from the trip. The usual routine will start sneaking in to the day-to-day. But before I jump in – it’s good to reflect.
I probably won’t toss my city life for a cabin in the woods. But I did surprise myself and my fellow travelers with this new, previously unseen, side of myself. Sometimes doing something that is not the usual can be a very good thing. I didn’t think about work, my appearance, the internet, my clients, or following up. I didn’t plan much. I just looked around – in wonder, awe, and appreciation.
Taking a ‘time out’ requires some discipline – and allows for learning.