If you try to have everything, you will end up with nothing. This is a thought that crossed my mind and ultimately became part of a larger conversation as Ken and I wound down yet another argument about how to spend our precious time.
We had just started down (or rather up) the scenic Million Dollar Highway, Colorado State Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains that could give even the strongest heart a falter if one looks down the canyon enough, and had decided to pull over so Ken could drive a bit. We hadn’t stopped in Ouray as originally planned.
In our travels so far, we rarely make reservations ahead of time, preferring to check out the area when we get there and going with what we see at the time. Since RAIF is not a Jeep, our usual routes down Colorado’s many forest access roads were a bust around Ouray (a bit too rocky and a bit too steep with our low clearance home), and all the RV sites were sold out. Knowing that we had some time around this area, we decided to head over the pass into Silverton to see what was available there and then maybe come back to Ouray in a few days.
This sounded like a reasonable decision, but as we pulled over to switch drivers, my gears did a bit of a switch, as well. Inside my head, it went kinda like this, “What if we don’t get back here? What if we miss Ouray? Look at the hiking trails. What if we miss them? What about the hot springs, Box Canyon, Ouray Brewery, pizza, all those cute little shops?” And the worries went on and on and on until they exploded out of my mouth like verbal throw up attacking Ken because he wasn’t showing any emotion and just going with the flow, as usual.
Everything and Nothing
Both of us made the decision to move into an RV and travel to allow us to experience the world and all that it has to offer, but me? I want to see EVERYTHING and go EVERYWHERE! This is actually a problem, because everything and everywhere are impossible.
If we go to this brewery, might we miss the time to go on that hike? If we go on that hike, might we miss the chance to sample the brews at the brewery? If I order that burger, will that burrito be better? If we go here, we might miss our chance to meet the people there. If we turn down this road, there might be a better spot down that road. Sheesh, it’s enough to give anyone anxiety.
So, in true traveler fashion, I turned to strangers to help give me perspective, the people that we have met on the road.
Don’t Be a Dick
“I am a Dick.” That’ll get your attention, and it got ours, too. Oh, the people you will meet: some quite dull, others quite flamboyant, and many more in between. Dick, definitely more towards the flamboyant, talk your ear off, keep you entertained for hours kinda guy. We met him on the second day boondocking a few miles outside of Silverton.
He and a few friends make the trek from all over the U.S. to Silverton every year and have been doing so for over 50 years. Dick, a retired Navy Seal and attorney, a guy with everything and nothing, all at once.
“You’ll want to climb that mountain there,” he so calmly states as as he points to the tallest, rockiest mountain near us. “There’s a cabin just over the ridge that I climb to every year and place a new flag, so people know it’s occupied.” He’s probably in his 60’s, maybe 70’s. Ken and I steal an incredulous glance at each other, and he’s now talking about climbing another mountain, and deftly showing off his 30,000 photos of his travel adventures stored on his phone, stopping only to make sure we are enthralled. We are, but at the same time, I am wondering if he ever slows down to take in the other people around him that also have stories to share. He has everything, but maybe nothing at all?
Be a George
Then there’s George (yes, truly Dick and George). He, too, has been traveling to this area for years with his group of friends. He is more towards the calmer (maybe a bit dull) side of the people you will meet: friendly, full of advice if you want it, full of thought if you don’t. He drove to Silverton from Oklahoma in a refurbished (he did all the work) Class B van created to house both him and his dirt bike, simple yet beautiful. He doesn’t have much, doesn’t say much, but I have a feeling he has exactly what he needs and everything that he wants.
While Dick and George are people we will probably never meet again, two couples – Jesse and Janae, and Bryan and Stefanie – are people we connected with and plan on crossing paths with again. We connected over good food and good beer just by chance, the former at Avalanche Brewing Company in Silverton and the latter at Ouray Brewery in Ouray, simply by saying hi.
Jesse and Janae are definitely fellow stout-lifers (living a full life with intention and passion) as they were in the midst of hiking the Colorado Trail, which is almost 500 miles. Bryan and Stefanie, also stout-lifers, and Harley-riding badasses (maybe not Harleys, but they are badasses) are living in an old mining town just because they love Colorado and want to enjoy every acre of it. We are just getting to know these couples, but I am certain they do not have much, and because of this, they have everything.
Oh, yes, we cannot forget Ken and April, a couple together for 26 years, living, working, and traveling in their RV, visiting Silverton and the surrounding areas for the first time, trying to see everything in Colorado that they have not seen before. An adventurous middle age couple, not as crazy as Dick, but not as mellow as George (seriously, those were their names) wanting to experience it all in every mountain town near the Collegiate Peaks and the San Juans including Buena Vista, Salida, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, and Durango: hiking, biking, eating, drinking, relaxing, shopping, all while still working. In trying to see and do everything, they are gaining nothing.
Embrace Your Choices
And this is what we finally realized while sipping on a beer one recent night, reminiscing about the stunning scenery, the interesting people, and the communities we had passed through. The choices we make will most definitely cause us to miss out on a hike, a ride, a connection, food, beer, etc, but they will also be the cause of the wonderful experiences we have had. If we hadn’t chose to visit Silverton when we did, we wouldn’t have met Jesse and Janae, which would have then tripped up meeting Bryan and Stephanie in Ouray. The timing would have been off. We wouldn’t have met Dick and George (everyone needs to meet a Dick and George); they would have been long gone. We might not have stayed in places we found or rode our bikes and hiked to stunning waterfalls. Of course, we might have met other people or found other backroads or other delectable foods or caught a glimpse of an elk or moose…
The point is too many choices cause us to freeze up and stay where we are; it’s too overwhelming. We want everything and end up with nothing.
“Travel isn’t always pretty.” (Anthony Bourdain)
So give yourself the grace to choose with the understanding that not everything will be perfect, and you will most definitely miss out on something.
And that verbal throw up? Ultimately, we got back into our seats, and started up the highway and immediately forgot about choices or arguments. The scenery was that stunning. And as we wound down the pass and made our way into Silverton, I realized that whatever choices were made, while not always perfect, they would always be the right choices, because we made them together, and we might end up with nothing, which ironically will allow us to have everything.
(This article was originally published in #RV Magazine. #RV Magazine is digital, independent and focused on the latest RVs, trends and the needs of tech nomads, full-timers and van-lifers. It’s the magazine for people who never thought they’d buy an RV magazine.)