I left Brooklyn for Montana, and I am forever changed.
See, I'm a city girl, through and through. The sound of horns blasting in the morning, the whiff of hot garbage, traffic as far as the eye can see and personal space invasion have all been the norm my entire life. That's why, too often, it takes a plane ride to remind me of the importance of being present. That being neurotic does not have to be a way of life.
Did I mention I've considered becoming a cowgirl? I woke up in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, equipped with the sass necessary to walk my block, and went to bed in Phillipsburg, Montana thinking that I might want to make a living herding cattle while wearing badass cowboy hats.
Mountains of green where cattle and horses roamed freely replaced towering skyscrapers stuffed with suits and subway rats. The suffocating feeling of bodies packed tightly together on public transportation gave way to the warmness of a crackling fireplace and simple peace and quiet.
I had a lot ideas about what Montana would be like, and, for the most part I was right. It was a simpler way of life. On the drive from the airport, we passed through the small town of Phillipsburg. Population: Less than 1000. The grocery store has its shelves restocked with products flown on certain days of the week. There was an actual candy store. Straight out the 1950s. The mountain backdrop looked like a movie set. For the first time in what felt like forever, I wasn't afraid to look a complete stranger in the eye.
We are flooded with options in cities, an overwhelming number in fact. There is a Sephora that sells 400 different types of lip gloss, there is organic cheese in Manhattan that costs more than some shoes I wear. I'm constantly being inundated with options (a first world problem to say the least). And the worst part? We don't need 99 percent of any of it.
But this weekend, I was determined that things would be different. I'd have options but instead of feeling overwhelmed by them I'd enjoy them. In just three days at The Ranch at Rock Creek I went clay shooting, horseback riding, fly fishing--basically I just got plain old dirty.
Sure, I got a fish hook stuck in my hand (some call me clumsy, but I call my penchant for falling for no reason a mystery) but at least I tried. I'm sure if the fish I caught could speak he'd have said, "That's what you get."
Have you ever seen a cow up close? They have the most legit side eye, ever. But that's beside the point. It was horseback riding that made me realize how completely out of touch I am with nature, how utterly submerged I am in emails, news and the latest food trend. On my horse, none of this mattered. Just the click of his heels against the ground and the sound of the stream filled my ears. It was all so perfect that for a moment I imagined giddy-upping straight into the sunset and never returning.
After a full day, my perfect cabin was the ultimate retreat to write, sip a cup of coffee, or my favorite - immerse myself in a perfect vintage bathtub with a view of the mountains in the distance while tightly gripping a glass of champagne. I was in absolutely no hurry to get back to Brooklyn.
There's something about living simply that allows you to love simply as well. What really made my trip great were the people I met on the ranch. Brandy, Bryan, Holly, Claire, Phil, Maggie, Patrick and Jeff. I say their names because oftentimes travelers remember a face and not a name, and these are names I'll never forget. They come from total different walks of life from me, and as corny as it sounds, we became family in just three days.
There was Bryan, an incomparable bartender responsible for some of the most immaculately made drinks I've ever had (take that, Manhattan "mixologists"). Bryan and I bonded over our California roots and his travels around the world, which somehow led him to the middle of Montana. Somehow we ended up watching the Tyson documentary in a saloon with horse riding gear as seats.
Then there was Holly, a Montana native who actually visited me in Manhattan just a few weeks after I left the ranch. Funny how things work out, right? She was just as in love with the big city as I am, but, she was also happy to get back to Montana, and I can't say that I blame her.
As my plane revealed the Manhattan skyline, the glittering buildings and impenetrable streets, I felt an immediate nostalgia for the open space I left behind. Don't get me wrong -- I am, and will always be a city girl, but when you can walk outside in the morning and see horses roaming freely in the distance and have fresh air whip your face, it does something to you. Something very, very powerful. Because of my trip on the ranch, I have expanded my concept of beauty, of kindness and slowing down.
Have you ever taken a trip that stayed with you long after you got back "home"?