I had always been a “city girl” at heart. I thrived in their streaming electric currents and narrow streets. Thus, when I left the Midwest and drove across country for graduate school, the steel temples of Denver set my soul at ease. Until, that is, that skyline broke and a serrated horizon of stone clouds appeared.
I had heard of mountains, of course. Just as I had heard of mountain sports – climbers, skiers, ski bums, etc. They were strange creatures – the unicorns of my Midwest upbringing. But they were just that – a vertical fantasy land of beauty, desperation, and intrigue. And despite my resistance and dedication to city life and a career in high rise apartments, somehow, through six lanes of traffic, glass towers, graduate reports, and nights drowned in smog and neon, the mountains called and waited.
It began with morning sun rises, then alpine glows – colors cut in sky so clear the space between sparkled.
Then there were morning runs that extended beyond the sidewalk to dirt, then rock, the pine, then a world of clouds above.
There were moments atop some distant ridge, the world spanning out in any direction, every green too green, every blue too blue, where the wilderness without called to the wilderness within. And I, as I knew myself, slowly dissolved into an empty canvas meant for reshaping.
There is a quote about journeys – that perhaps the goal isn’t to become anything, but to unbecome and to let go of all that we are not.
And perhaps – how every climb and trail run slowly stripped away in sweat and muscle and stone, everything that was not necessary – is how I came to love myself by first, falling in love with a place that broke that self into dust and air. The mountains demanded courage and sacrifice, tiny deaths of ego in exchange for a new perspective. And those mountain spaces, whether traversed on foot, on wheels, or on two skis, in their raw and unforgiving beauty, carved at my being with their hard edges until those little deaths gave rise to new life.
I stumbled upon my mountain life, but it was always there – a calling, a desperate longing masked as awkwardness and uncertainty as a child. When I crested my first horizon and stood against the wind on some distant ridge, surrounded by blue, by clouds, and by an alpine tundra, I knew then that my spirit was home.
But I was a stubborn gypsy. I was unwilling to give up the other dreams that made my heart sing. I would wander the mountains and give them my body, but I also demanded:
- financial security and a beautiful space to call home
- a family, complete with babies and furry children that I could provide for and care for
- a healthy and happy marriage
- generational wealth, built with my own two hands, that would ensure that my children’s children would NEVER endure the poverty and hardship that I experienced
- a rewarding and meaningful career that took me beyond my own adventures and the pursuit of my own bliss
On the surface, my gypsy life means I bike and ski and climb and wander…a lot. But, for me, being a snow and dirt gypsy is a bit of a paradox:
- a free spirit with children
- a wanderer with a mortgage
- a ski bum with a career
- a dirt bag climber/mountain biker with investments and multiple streams of income
But that’s the thing about life – in our truest and most authentic moments, we are little more than paradoxes: strongest in our moments of great vulnerability, kindest in the face of overwhelming despair, most complete on journeys that break us, most at home in the midst of transformation, most alive when we are our most uncomfortable.
Thus, to be a snow and dirt gypsy means to embrace paradox, to not compromise, to live each day and moment according to one’s values and dreams, however strange and mismatched they might seem.
I am a city girl, a mountain mama, a wilderness babe, a career woman, an investor, a coach and so, so much more. And, whether working simultaneously on blog posts and my finicky rear derailleur from the light of a Moab campground, exploring the Tetons with my son on my chest, or shuffling the dishes while charting lines and organizing new adventures from my home base, I hold one thing to be true: we are prisms, capable of reflection and refraction. We take the light in, we reshape and re-imagine it, and we project it out in all its strange asymmetry. The world needs dreamers like us. It needs adventurers and mothers and wild women. It needs you. It needs gypsies.
Let’s figure out, together, how to make the most of this impossibly beautiful life.
Let’s share our stories.
Let’s wander – together.
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