apropos of our trip to the western slope last weekend, i’m delighted to have a guest post by my dear friend, jill, who lives in glenwood springs, a town you couldn’t miss if you’re traveling to the western slope or aspen. jill is a dear friend of mine from college, my roommate at my first apartment in the city, the lady who showed me all the treasures there are to explore in chicago, and the one who taught me how to navigate public transportation gracefully and safely while inebriated. i’m also honored to have had her as one of the amazing women who stood up as a bridesmaid at our wedding. in her post today, jill explains her transition from a big city to a small mountain town. it is an extremely interesting read, even to me, because this girl, as she explains, loves chicago more than anyone i know.

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Two years ago, my husband and I came plummeting over Vail Pass in an 18-foot moving truck, towing our Jeep behind us. Two weeks prior, I had been offered my dream job after what felt like an eternity of searching. The catch: said dream job was located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado (population 9,614), literally a thousand miles away from anything I considered to be, well, normal.

A self-professed city girl, I had spent the past six years of my life living and breathing everything CHICAGO. My passion for that city literally had no limits – my husband will not-so-gladly tell you that I basically refused to get married until he was able to move in to the city from the suburbs, because I simply wouldn’t budge. The diversity, the opportunity, the music, the architecture, the FOOD, the cacophony… good god, it was glorious! Every last bit of it. Over those six years of city living, I had lived in nine apartments – all in different neighborhoods – constantly moving and experiencing different corners of the city that I loved.

And then came the day for my friends to help us pack up the last moving truck that would carry us West, into an unknown, and an entirely new adventure.

There are a lot of adjustments one has to make when moving from a city of 2.7 million people to a town of less than 10,000. For example, there are no amazing Puerto Rican salons that can actually deal with my untamable hair. I can count the number of decent restaurants in this whole valley on two hands – maybe one. Want to find a home to rent? You pretty much have two options… in the whole town. You generally don’t have to worry about your bike being lifted or you car broken into… unless you’re car camping, and a bear wants to get at your cooler. Don’t even think about going to the grocery store and not running into someone you know. One day running errands, I ran into the same friend four times at four different locations. Anonymity is just not an option here.

It took about a year for me to notice that this place was changing me. When you don’t have thousands of options of where to shop, where to eat, where to drink, who to meet, life becomes a lot more… simple. Instead of rushing out to try “the next big hot spot” (because those don’t exist), my husband and I spend our weekends charting out new trails to hoof in these amazing mountains. We learn to cook our favorite ethnic dishes and invite friends over to eat with us. Fashion trends literally do not exist in this town, so I’ve essentially let that part of my life go and regularly rotate about five outfits. I can bike to work in 10 minutes flat, and so much of my life has been reclaimed by not having to sit in traffic to go anywhere.

I must confess that on my last trip to Chicago, when out to a very fancy meal in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, I felt a bit like a bumpkin. I had borrowed one of my best friend’s dresses to wear out that night, because I had packed the same dress from Target that I have owned for (at least) the past four years. I didn’t know that this restaurant had been featured in Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the most important restaurants in America – information I seriously prided myself on knowing in my Chicago days. On the cab ride to the restaurant, I couldn’t stop staring up like a tourist at the towering buildings – and gasping every time the driver cut someone off in traffic. I’m accustomed to moving at a much slower pace now.

There are things about my Chicago-ness that I will never let go of, and are very un-bumpkin. I will forever celebrate diversity and remain open-minded. I will always favor walking or taking public transportation over driving a car. And, should a new restaurant ever open in Glenwood Springs, you can be certain I’ll still be the first to review it on Yelp. But the parts of me that have turned bumpkin, those which I embrace: not caring about trends, not feeling pressured to be in a rat race over my career, not spending every last dime on fancy food and drink, staying in more than going out, favoring the outdoors, growing my own food, enjoying an unspoiled landscape that stretches for miles, having conversations in quiet and uninterrupted spaces. It’s peaceful here, and this has allowed my husband and I the time and space to get to know ourselves better, and grow. We hope to continue to grow into this mountain lifestyle for many, many years to come. I guess I really am a city girl, converted.

Thank you, Emily, for allowing me the space on your blog to process some of these ponderings and sharing some thoughts from over the mountain.

That was then.  Chicago winters were real rough.

This is now.  Free to roam in the wide open spaces.

4 Responses to CITY GIRL, CONVERTED.

  1. Jillian says:

    I should mention – I don’t think of anyone who lives in Glenwood Springs as a “bumpkin!” so I hope no one takes it that way! It’s actually a very cultured town, especially given the size. I was simply trying to use a term to describe the way I was feeling, as I have admittedly become a bit, shall we say, “country.”

  2. I loved reading this. So much 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    what a great essay! thanks for sharing. I moved from Seattle (4 million) to Longmont (90k) and had some of the same experiences, thought not as extreme. I love the Colorado lifestyle so much, though, and would never trade it back! 🙂

  4. Hails says:

    I also left Chicago after 7 years (and my childhood and family in the suburbs) to move to Colorado Springs a year ago. And while still a decent sized “city”, there was definitely an adjustment when I realized that to go to nordstrom rack, I had to drive to Denver. But overall, I’m so much calmer and have way less stress. And besides, with so many friends in Chicago, I can visit whenever I want 🙂

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