Apparently if you’re a resident of the greater Teton area you live in a “vacation destination.”
I know that because one of my friends was reading one of those lists of “17 Vacation Destinations You Should Visit Before You Die” and sent me a note that read something along the lines of, “Holy Cow! You never told me you lived in such a cool spot, I want to come visit you on vacation!” I sighed, shook my head and tried not to respond with a snarky line like, “Duh, I live in a cool spot. I sent you a picture of the Teton view from my living room. Why did you need some dumb website to tell you that?”
The most obvious downside of the “destination” status, though, is all the vacationers who come with it. But that gets enough airtime without me chiming in. We live in an area that has distinct tourist seasons. Many local jobs and businesses and all sorts of other good things depend on it. If that’s not your jam there are plenty of other places in the West that don’t get this sort of tourist traffic. (See: The rest of Idaho and Wyoming.)
But a less obvious downside of living in a “vacation destination” is that it can cheapen vacations. If every day is Christmas, Christmas gets pretty boring, and if you wake up every day in the sort of place people save for years to visit, well, it’s bound to lose a little bit of that magic.
It’s not that these mountains get any less incredible and awe-inspiring. It’s just that it’s possible to reach a point where you’re actually using that grandeur as an excuse to get complacent about your time off. I’ve been there. Here’s a sample internal conversation:
Me: “I have 48 hours off from tonight to Sunday night. What should I do?”
Lazy me: “Well, you live in the Tetons. I’m sure something cool will come up. Don’t bother making plans.”
Me, 48 hours later: “Wow, I can’t believe I just ate three family-size pizzas on my own and then spent 48 hours aimlessly scrolling on my phone! Oh, well, time to get out of my pizza box cave and back to work!”
That’s a rather stark example, but the broader concept often plays out in smaller ways that leave us with wasted weekends and time off. I used to be way better at seizing those golden opportunities. In college I lived in a town without too much in the way of outdoor recreation, so we had to travel to do anything really fun. That meant we always made the most of free time.
“Three-day weekend? Well, what if we cut class on Thursday afternoon and got a head start on driving to Whistler?” “Mount St. Helens is only five hours away? Cool, let’s leave Friday night, drive over, sleep a few hours in the car, climb and ski the thing, and then drive home. If we imbibe enough caffeine we’ll be home in time to go to the river on Sunday, too!” Anything within a five-hour radius was fair game for a weekend.
Living in the Tetons raises a different set of questions. “Grand Teton or Yellowstone national park?” “Should I run in Grand Teton or bike in the Big Holes? Or maybe float the Snake?” Too often, though, we fail to take advantage of the myriad recreational opportunities. “Yeah, that sounds fun, but maybe I could get more friends to do it with me next weekend.” “I don’t know, what if we did something shorter and then I can get a little work done over the weekend?” “Yeah, that would be neat, but a million other people are going to have thought it’s neat, too, and will be there with their screaming kids.”
Don’t make excuses. Your friends will be busy next weekend, too. If you’re not getting paid to work Saturdays you need to put your soul-sucking phone down and do something fun with your day. The tourists will always be here — that’s a fact — and you’re either going to have to get used to it or get better at planning your vacations than they are.
Stop basing your weekend plans on a short list of activities that everyone else wants to do and expand your radius a little bit. It’s not a vacation if you’re checking your work email before you go to sleep in your bed at home. Heck, that’s barely a weekend. So look at a map instead of making excuses. Find a place where the topo lines get really close together and the splotches of USGS pine-tree-green transition to alpine-rock-white. Call your friends, fill your cooler, pack the car.
Get your butt off your couch and go run up a mountain, or ride down one, or float on a river in front of one, or throw a fake fly at a stream near one, or just sit in a lawn chair on the beach with a beer and a book. Just do something other than complaining about all the people who love to visit this place for all the same reasons you love to live here. At least they were smart enough to go on a real vacation.