I have officially been living in Colorado for 3 weeks. I received my state ID yesterday and after 8 years, I surrendered my Illinois citizenship. I… live in Colorado. Those words are still weird to say and continue to sound exciting when I hear myself say them.
I’ve known since about 2014 that Dan and myself would end up out here eventually. I wasn’t sure during those years exactly how, when or in what capacity but we instinctively knew that we wanted it. Neither of us had even been to Colorado at that point but something about the allure of mountains, nature, and an active lifestyle after years in Chicago seemed to fit what we thought we were looking for. There seemed to be a great divide that we needed to cross over – mentally, emotionally and physically.
After we said goodbye to Chicago and before we left on our 8 months trip around the world, there still wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this would happen. Our travels further solidified my strong desire to live somewhere where I could be outside. Climbing through the mountains of Patagonia, getting lost on the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador, and laughing hysterically at how unprepared we were for our hike through the Andes in Colombia were some of the most enjoyable and happiest times in my life. I didn’t anticipate ever ending up back in Chicago for round 2 but in doing that, we were able to get exactly what we wanted.
In hindsight, accomplishing this huge goal of traveling the world for 8 months made me feel that I could literally do anything I wanted. If I could change my life so drastically and intentionally choose my own path for 8 months, why couldn’t I do that for the rest of my life? If I could leave my comfortable life in Chicago once, why couldn’t I move across the country and bring with me the lessons and things that really mattered?
In June of 2016, Dan and I traveled to Colorado together for the first time (he had been the previous summer on a boys trip camping in the woods). We wanted to get a feel for it, drive around some areas, and of course go for a hike. We stayed at an Airbnb in Lakewood which is west of Denver and my initial thoughts of the place started to terrify me. Denver is a small city. It is no Chicago. We had to drive everywhere. I wasn’t loving it on the first day of the visit. I expressed my negative view to Dan who agreed but encouraged both of us to try and see it through a different lens. We weren’t leaving Chicago to live in another city because if that was the case, Chicago would win every single time. I needed to cross this great divide again.
The second day of our visit, I changed my attitude, my perspective, and was thinking outside of the comparing Denver to Chicago box. I began to notice how quiet it was. How amazing the weather was each day. How less crowded it felt. That the mountains were only a 15 minute drive away. And then I knew.
That night, we ended up celebrating our decision to make this move happen at the Great Divide Brewing Co. in downtown Denver. Now looking back on choosing that brewery after making all of these final decisions, I realize the irony (this is still some of our favorite Colorado beer by the way).
For the next 9 months in Chicago we buckled down, saved some money, spent time with our loved ones and I was able to re-establish my role at my job. All of this was wonderful but at the same time, we never lost focus on leaving in March when our lease was up.
In February 2017, we came back to Colorado to sign a lease. In 3 days. I won’t go into all of the details because it was very chaotic and confusing. However, we ended up finding a wonderful spot in Arvada simply by driving around areas and stopping into apartments that looked appealing. And we celebrated again at a brewery. Shocked?
The move out here was pretty stressful. Packing obviously isn’t fun, it rained the entire drive to Colorado from Chicago, Fiona our cat was had multiple meltdowns in the car and in the hotel in Omaha, our moving company couldn’t deliver our stuff and ended up charging us an extra $500. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that moving across the country is fun so I guess that is no surprise.
After the whole moving fiasco, life has started to calm down and we have made the transition to living here pretty seamlessly. I can honestly say that I truly love it here. It is only a 15 minute drive to the front range and I have been taking full advantage of getting outside. Dan and I have gone hiking every single weekend (some weekends I’ve gone Saturday and Sunday) we’ve been here and I try to get out trail running at least once during the week. I haven’t even gone to the same place twice; I feel overwhelmed by the amount of options! Since we’ve been here, the weather has been beautiful 90% of the time so there is no excuse not to get to the mountains.
Did I mention that Red Rocks is also only a 15 minute drive from us?
Besides proximity to nature, I love everything about where we live and our actual apartment. Arvada is a great little town with everything we need within walking distance (bars, coffee shops, restaurants, liquor store, etc). They are also putting in a light rail stop very close by so we can get downtown or to the airport without having to drive. I’ve even discovered my favorite coffee shop maybe of all time called Global Goods where all of the proceeds go to an organization called Global Refuge which helps support refugees all over the world. Dan and I are also able to sit on our balcony to eat dinner every single night and watch a movie without having to pause it for a siren blaring in our window. And our cats absolutely love the space with more windows.
So far, I ‘d say that crossing this Great Divide is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and one that Dan and I have made together. It wasn’t easy, as big changes never are, and will take some adjusting and getting used to. But I’m certain that after 3 years in the making, we are heading in the right direction.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” – Lao Tzu.