- Sarah Reijonen
'Those moments that remind you you’re alive'
“My English is not so good,” he said.
“No, you’re doing great,” I encouraged as our Uber driver shuttled Spank and I back to our hostel just outside of Jackson Hole—it was the only place we could afford to stay for three nights in the luxury, outdoor destination and it was still $160 a night for a private room. But hey, the hotels all around us at Teton Village we’re upwards of $600 a nights, so we felt pretty good about our lodging choices. Overall, we road tripped for two weeks through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho and stayed 50-50 in Airbnb's/hotels and our trusty tent.
Back to our Uber ride. Our driver, who hailed from Mexico, shared some dreams with us, like his dream of seeing the Aurora Borealis. He attempted to explain his desire, but instead had to resort to his translator app.
What he was trying to express was the awe he had in the Aurora—not to boast that he had seen it, but because it was a “free privilege” available for all to see. What a stark contrast to this town of pomp and luxury, where you can’t buy a 500-square-foot cabin for less than a million dollars.
“Many people want a nice house or money or car,” our driver said in his blue-stripe American flag shirt. But he desired what couldn’t be bought, and I understood him completely.
Again, he tried to really express this, but instead spoke into his phone, which promptly wrote out:
“Those moments that remind you that you’re alive.”
I breathed in that phrase like a fresh breeze blowing through a smoke-filed valley floor.
He reminded me why I love travel so much—it reminds me that I’m alive. He couldn’t have put it more eloquently. After a year like 2020, we must not take for granted these moments, these life-breathing moments. I’m not just talking about seeing the Northern Lights or the majestic Tetons that we gazed upon in the last week, but those small moments. Meaningful conversations with a stranger. The freedom to hike in the woods and bathe in creeks. The freedom to camp alongside a river and fish to your heart’s content with a moose munching grass in the distance (OK, so maybe you can only do all this in certain states, such as Idaho, which I now concede is the freest of the 50 states. So far, it has also been devoid of bums and litter, so there’s also that. Just sayin’.)
It is my privilege to be on this planet; not only that, but it is my privilege to live in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave—God’s county—and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.
Spanky expounded on this a bit as we hiked 10 miles with 1,700 feet in elevation gain to Sawtooth Lake in Idaho nearly a week later.
“Nature is the great equalizer,” he said. He gets real philosophical when he walks for long periods (or maybe it was the lower oxygen level at 8,300 feet—who knows).
But, he’s completely right. When you’re on the trail, you’re just as good as the guy hiking next to you in his Sportiva boots and Patagonia head-to-toe get up. You might even be wearing flip flops, but if you have the give-a-damn and drive and endurance (depending on the outing), it doesn’t matter one bit. You get the same picturesque lake view as Jeff Bezos. You have the same opportunity to do things that remind you you're alive. That’s what nature and the ambition for adventure have to offer. You need only to take the opportunities: To hike it. To do it. To risk it. To dream that dream and lie wide-eyed under the Aurora.