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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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