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Over two months have gone by and I’m still constantly day dreaming and talking about the experiences from my road trip. As inspiration or encouragement to anyone who has yet to explore the west, I offer my 5 on 5 favorites from the trip. Ah, to be on the road again…

Learning life lessons with my trusty Patagonia in tow

Learning life lessons with my trusty Patagonia in tow

5 Favorite Items:

  • Patagonia travel bag (didn’t do anything without it!)
  • Fleece blanket (made by Jennifer)
  • AAA TripTik map guide
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Nike Gortex jacket (best impulse buy ever)

A great run at Sugar House Park

A great run at Sugar House Park

5 Favorite Activites:

  • Tram ride to the summit and hike down to the lodge at Snowbird Ski Resort, UT
  • Fastest carousel ride in the west, Missoula, MT
  • Group night ride on cruiser bikes to party, Bozeman, MT
  • Ranger presentation on natural history, Glacier National Park, MT
  • Running at Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City, UT

A beautiful sunset at Lake McDonald, Grand Tetons

A beautiful sunset at Lake McDonald, Grand Tetons.

5 Favorite Places:

  • Paradise Valley, MT (Drive from Bozeman to Yellowstone)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (Holy canyons!)
  • Canyons along Colorado River, UT (Rte. 128 from Grand Junction to Moab)
  • Grand Tetons National Park, WY (Amazing glaciers)
  • Stanley National Forest, ID (Drive from Sun Valley to Wallowas)

Hot off the skillet!

Hot off the skillet!

5 Favorite Meals:

  • Scrambled eggs and salmon from the camp stove, solo by Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
  • Buffalo Burger and fries at the Garage with Kiefer, Bozeman, MT
  • Amazing appetizers at the Shallow Shaft with Mike, Alta, UT
  • Shrimp cocktail and fried bananas at Temple Square with Edna, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Eggs, fruit and muffin at Shade Cafe in Jackson Hole, WY

A whole different thermal world

A whole different thermal world

5 Favorite Insights:

  • Better to get gas now than stress out looking for a few cents cheaper.
  • “May my life provide how I desire…if it is in the best interests of all things in the universe.”
  • Time is irrelevant. Time does not tick in nature, it passes.
  • Life is not stressful – emotions are stressful. Don’t be attached.
  • Don’t think, just be present.
  • BONUS: Big rocks don’t get out of the way and driving over them makes dents. Go around!
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All the distractions of Yellowstone (I must’ve pulled off the side of the road for pictures 20 times) slowed my journey to Wyoming and the Grand Tetons, so that by the time I pulled into the Jenny Lake campsite it was full. I back-tracked up to Jackson Lake and quickly found a spot overlooking the lake next to a nice couple from Kansas City who informed me that as of a half-an-hour before Jenny Lake was still open. Damn it. The first disappointment of the trip. I promptly got over it considering that since I hadn’t made reservations anywhere it was bound to happen and I had been lucky so far. If anything, it gives me a reason to come back to this beautiful place!.

Without reservations, I had chosen freedom over security. This trip has reinforced how much of a gift freedom and independence are. While I think we all have access to freedom and independence, some of us take advantage of them more than others. Maybe because we take them for granted or associate them with tangible things, like having or lacking money. Honestly, it is hard for me to understand what it would be like not to feel empowered by either of them. Going out and doing something I’ve never done before or exploring something on my own seems so normal to me. It has been striking to me through out this trip to see the surprise on people’s facesĀ  when I say I’m traveling alone. I don’t think it’s just because I am a woman or young, but because I am on my own. Honestly, it has made all the difference to do this trip independently with the freedom to pull off the road whenever I want, eat (or not) when I feel like it, be grumpy in the morning without guilt…

Post-swim at Jackson Lake by the Grand Tetons

Post-swim at Jackson Lake by the Grand Tetons

Feeling grimy and hungry, I brought leftovers down to the lake to sit and enjoy the view of the Grand Tetons in the distance. How amazing how far I had come from the morning when I had woken up on the “wrong side of the tent” from lack of sleep, wondering: Why am I doing this trip again? Has it only been a week? After so many miraculous sights and a little shopping today, I could sit by the lake and again marvel at the moment being presented to me. Since I was going to Jackson Hole in the morning (I spent all of 17 hours in the Grand Teton National Park) I decided to attempt a cleansing swim in the lake, not taking into account that the Tetons have glaciers = ice = ice water = lake. Even with goosebumps the size of the Tetons on my legs and arms it was a refreshing opportunity as the sun set on another day.

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26 was a defining and adventurous year for Julie Williams, a Portland, Ore.-based communications consultant.

This blog chronicles Julie's crossing of the quarter-life threshold and coming of age on her solo road trip across seven Western states from Aug.-Sept. 2008.

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