Colorful Travels:

Colorful Colorado and beyond…

The trip that changed my life…

In this month’s issue of NatGeo Traveler magazine this question was posed to readers:

“What travel experience changed your life?”

I was a teenager living in rural Missouri, desperately wanting to explore the world. I dreamed of seeing Paris, London and New York City. But, it was a trip to the Rocky Mountains that would win my heart.

It was the mid-80s, Bryan Adams was blaring through my headphones, and we were headed to Disneyland in California via I-70 through Colorado.

Any other teenager would have displayed a variety of angst being locked up in a car for over 1,700 miles with her little sister, mother and mom’s live-in boyfriend. (Thanks to the afore-mentioned Canadian to keep me company!) However, I don’t remember any teenage angst, although I am sure my mother would remember it differently.

I remember the excitement and sense of adventure I felt seeing states I had never seen before. At 15, I had never been out of the state of Missouri.

With adolescent exuberance my lil’ sis and I made a sign that said, “California or bust!” to display in the back car window. Our mother popped our bubble and told us to take it down. She may have popped that bubble but she couldn’t squash my excitement.

This trip changed my life in two ways.

First, the road trip was full of mishaps—too many to post here—but it taught me to have a it’s-not-the-destination-but-the-journey-attitude.

These mishaps were a crash course on adapting to sudden and unforeseen changes in travel plans. Sometimes (most times) a trip doesn’t go exactly as planned, or how you envisioned in your mind. And, although it’s not a perfect trip, it’s okay. These trips are likely to become some of the most memorable trips. The kind you can laugh about later, much later.

Secondly, we drove to California through Colorado. I was mesmerized by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the splendor of the tree-lines interstate, the rambling pristine rivers running below, and the fresh air.

Oh, how the air smelled fresher somehow.

Thus, my love for the mountains was born. I would travel through Colorado two more times in my teen years, and each time I would greet the mountains like a long lost friend.

Although, at the time, I dreamt of going to school in NYC, the mountains were calling. I had to go.

It was four years after that first visit that I moved to Colorado to attend art school. It was the ultimate journey of leaving the only home I had ever known and finding the home I can’t imagine ever leaving.

I have called Colorado home for 21 years now, and in a short 30 minutes I can be in the mountains hiking a trail along a stream and breathing in the fresh air.

And, there’s not place I’d rather be.

So, what travel experience changed your life?

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All photos, unless otherwise noted are property of Jeri Stunkard. If you like it, Pin it, but please don't steal or copy it. Thank you.

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