We were on the ski lift at Deer Valley Resort and my guide was telling me about her life, how she came to live in Salt Lake City. She told me she moved from Michigan, that she has no plans of returning to her hometown. I told her I followed a similar path a few years ago when I left New Jersey and moved to California, fulfilling a life-long dream to bask in the blue skies and sunny days under the palm trees, to live beside the ocean. I told her that I bought a sailboat, but that it’s now resting on wood planks in the side of my yard outside of Philadelphia, wrapped up tightly under a cover.
Things have changed a bit for me recently – I’ve given up on a hometown and have taken to the road – and she said she thought that was an important asset, the ability to take control of your life and make big decisions. It was a conversation that stuck with me, mostly because I support the idea of basing your life around what you love rather than watching the clock at work and living for the weekend. I skied on, but it was far from a passing thought.
Later, as the lift again carried me up towards the noticeably blue sky for my final run of the four-day trip, I filled my lungs with the fresh, cool air of the spring afternoon. The warmth of the sun enticed me to unzip my jacket halfway down, but once I began my descent and picked up speed I pulled it back up to the bottom of my neck.
Having spent most of the day attacking the mountain, I loosened my grip on the poles and turned down the intensity of my form, standing more upright and easing the aggressiveness of my downhill lean. I made slow, sweeping turns on the quiet trail that led back to the lodge, knowing full well this would be my last run of the year. I kept my head up, taking in the views of the valley. I felt like I was standing on top of the world, looking down upon all of it as if I was its creator.
It was easy to see what the locals loved about their land, and thoughts of the earlier conversation swirled in my head. The views and beauty are one thing, but that’s only half the appeal – the rest is in the attitude of the people who inhabit the area. My friend put it best when she said that everyone wants to be here, that no one arrives by accident. Many people I met over the course of the week decided to move out for “one winter” to work the ski lifts. One, two, three, four, ten years later, here they are, sitting next to me on the lift, going up for another run.
Looking back on my time in Santa Barbara, I suppose that’s what ultimately made me love the area. Not just the ocean and the mountains and the sailing and the wine, but the positive perspective and energy of the people who inhabit the small central coast town. I’ve met people in other cities who spend their time looking for a way to move on, for greener grass. It’s the other way around in places like Santa Barbara and Salt Lake – people spend their time trying to find a way to stay, doing whatever they have to do to remain a part of the culture in which they believe so deeply.
Within the next year I plan on making a decision about where to set up shop, a place I can feel comfortable when I’m not on the road. As I continue my research, I’m finding more and more the most important thing is not where it’s reasonable to live, but where you find yourself connecting with the people on a higher level.
Returning to Santa Barbara in a few days should be a good reminder of that, as was my stay in Salt Lake City. Denver has made quite the impression on me as well – I’ve been here two days and I already feel like a local. Stories to come, including a visit to arguably the most beautiful music venue in the country.
Photos from that final day in Salt Lake at Deer Valley Resort: