I recently got back from a five day trip around the Telluride/Ouray area in Colorado. It was overall pretty rad and involved a lot of driving, some beautiful hikes, the best tacos I’ve ever had (check out Gnar taco in Ridway if you’re ever there), and a different camping spot each night.

Here are some highlights, most photo credits go to Bret:

Sneffels Highline Trail in Telluride
Milton, holding down the fort
Hike to Ice and Island Lakes outside Ouray


Tacos that will ruin all other tacos for you

While it was a great time, the trip itself is not something I’m going to go into detail about. However, if you’d like suggestions on hikes, backpacking routes, or dispersed camping around this area, hit me up.

The truth is, I haven’t written a post for this blog since February (oops). I also haven’t really taken any extended vacations since my Thanksgiving Grand Canyon backpacking trip (blog post still in draft state). There have been some short trips and lots of weekend adventures, but nothing too out of the ordinary. My excuse is that I’m busy, mainly with work and other “things”. But that is just an excuse and I wouldn’t say I have a lot to show for it. It just seems like there are fewer and fewer hours left in the days, and I find myself feeling tapped out whenever I think about working on anything outside of my routine.

On the way home from this particular trip, we were listening to a Ted radio hour podcast about comfort zones. The premise was that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because living outside of your own little bubble is crucial to moving forward as a society. This includes the work you contribute to, the people you interact with, the community you live in, the media you consume, and discussions you engage in. If we only ever do things we know we feel safe and secure doing, then our growth really stalls out.

Now as an introvert who admittedly likes to compartmentalize my life and stick to a routine, it’s really hard for me to willingly take on something I feel unprepared for or uncomfortable with. But, this talk and this trip definitely got me thinking about my own habits and defaults.

When I was in Iceland (which took four posts to sum up) I thought I had learned a lot of life lessons I was going to remember and apply. Some of these included:

  • Taking myself less seriously and owning my imperfections
  • Keeping a flexible attitude and embracing unexpected changes
  • Responding with curiosity rather than judgement, defensiveness, or negativity

It’s possible I’ve improved when it comes to some of these, but I’d say overall, old habits die hard.

Here are some proof points from this particular trip:

  • Dispersed camping – I am rarely my best self when it comes to finding a camping spot. Most of the time when you’re looking for free camping, you end up looking later in the afternoon/evening as daylight is dwindling, and if you’re traveling on a weekend, it seems like everyone else has gotten to the best spots before you. If you’re like me, you’re also thinking, “why are there people out here, I’m in nature, there’s not supposed to be anyone here dammit!” You’re definitely not considering the high likelihood that someone else had the same idea as you. This all results in me getting stressed and moody, and not being any fun to be around. Since we were looking for camping spots most days on this trip, that happened more than I’d like to admit.
Milton telling me to lighten up
  • Backpacking – There are so many things I love about backpacking, solitude and beautiful views being the main reasons. But, I usually find something to get anxious about whenever I’m doing it. This time, I was nervous it was going to be too cold and that we didn’t bring the right gear. Milton was also acting super weird (I think he ate something slightly toxic) and because I couldn’t ask the internet what I should do I freaked out a little and spent most of the evening worrying.
  • Change of plans – I like my lists and plans, I don’t like when I have to readjust my expectations. But a plan is just a guess at how you anticipate something unfolding, and most of the time, things change. I had a pretty organized Evernote with our itinerary that included the areas we’d be driving to/camping in, the trails we’d be on, and the miles/time in the car from one location to another. We had planned to summit Handies Peak as our final hike before heading to the hot springs in Ouray. I was navigating with an actual map and feeling pretty good about it, until we turned onto the road we were supposed to take to the Handies trailhead. It turned out to be a 4×4 road that we definitely wouldn’t be able to get over with our Suburu, not to mention, it led to a pass that wasn’t even open yet for the season. Not sure how all these details went unnoticed when we were making our ‘plan’. We had to come up with an alternative on the spot which ended up working out great, but I’d be lying if I said I was totally positive and optimistic the whole time this was unfolding.
The “scenic byway” that wasn’t quite what we anticipated
  • Physical challenges – Walking for more than an hour or riding a bike up a slight incline used to be tough for me. When I moved to Colorado I was probably in the worst shape of my life, and my idea of exercise was doing some yoga after eating a meal that usually involved something fried or covered in cheese. I’ve come a long way which I often forget. On the last day of our trip, we decided to do a quick hike on the way home that was short, like 4 miles total, but straight up, over 2500 ft of elevation gain. Bricelyn three years ago probably wouldn’t have gotten up even halfway, but I was able to get up pretty quickly and run most of the way down. I still found myself getting mad that Bret was ahead of me, and even madder when I thought I had reached the top of where we were going, only to find that Bret was going up even higher.

As I was looking back on all this, I felt really disappointed. Disappointed that I didn’t change after experiencing similar situations and patterns, disappointed that I wasted energy being upset when I was exactly where I wanted to be, outside in the mountains.

I also found myself relieved as we were driving home, ready to get back to my compartmentalized life with my routines and lists and plans.

But this Ted talk made me realize that’s the fucking problem.

I can beat myself up for my reactions as much as I want, but at the end of the day, these are all habits I’ve formed over the last 30 years of being a human. If I want to change them, that’s going to take some effort, and when I think about it, most of my reactions with a high ick factor result from situations where I’m challenging myself, or dealing with something I’m not totally prepared for. Basically being outside of my comfort zone.

I can’t expect these behaviors to change unless I get out of my compartmentalized bubble and experience some discomfort. The more that happens, the more chances I have to respond and adapt and learn.

Stepping outside of a comfort zone also doesn’t have to be something monumental. It can be as simple as saying hi or asking a question to someone you don’t know, eating your lunch in a new spot, walking your dog in a new part of town…..whatever, anything that is a little different than what you’re used to doing on a daily basis. Right now, I’m writing this in a coffee shop I’ve never been to, in a town I’ve never really spend time in, and maybe that can just be enough for today.

Here’s to some intentional discomfort (seems very hashtag worthy, but I rolled my eyes writing it so let’s not get too carried away).