I left Mesa Verde National Park just as a powerful thunder and lightening storm were coming into the area. My goal was to drive from the beautiful and historic park in southwest Colorado over to the city of Moab in southeast Utah that afternoon, a mere two-hour drive (which was relatively short compared to other drives that I have made during this road trip of mine).
But I needed food first, so coming out of the park I stopped at the first place I saw in nearby Cortez, Colorado – a “Classic” Denny’s Diner, with a 60’s-looking outer facade and a classic look in the interior as well.
After ordering an enormous late lunch (a hickory smoked chicken sandwich with seasoned fries and a brownie and ice cream for dessert) I checked Facebook and saw that the friend in Moab that I was going to stay with had posted a severe lightning and flood watch for Moab. As I looked out the window I saw the rain start to come down in buckets.
I was ready to get to Moab, but I was also tired. It was already a bit late in the afternoon, I had spent the entire morning walking around Mesa Verde, and I hadn’t slept all that well in my tent the past few nights.
So as I ate my sandwich I contemplated my options. Through the window, right across the street from this Denny’s, I saw an EconoLodge. With each minute that passed that discount motel was looking more and more appealing. From the first time I glanced up and saw it I thought how nice it would be to drive not two hours in this rain but little more than two seconds across the street in order to wait out the weather in a comfy hotel room, with the added bonus of getting a good night’s sleep.
By this point I had been on the road for nearly three weeks, and hadn’t once checked into a hotel. That was a source of pride – that I’d been roughing it for these three weeks and hadn’t had to pay more than $10 or $15 for a camp site, often less. I’d been either camping or staying with family and friends – about a 50-50 split between the two up to this point.
But on this day of grey weather and low spirits I finally caved. I listened to the rain, to my friend’s warning of disastrous weather on the road that lay ahead, and to my own body. I drove across the street and checked in.
It was strange to have an entire room to myself. For the past three weeks the only spaces that I had been able to call my own were my car and my tent – both cramped living spaces to be sure. So for the first few moments inside my room I danced around a bit, frolicked even, as I basked in this space of mine that the introvert in me had been craving for weeks.
I spent the evening writing, drawing, reading, and even scanning in some sketches as I watched The Karate Kid, Part III on cable TV (it is my theory that at any given moment that movie, or another in the series, is playing in hundreds if not thousands of motel rooms across the world in who knows how many languages). I ordered Domino’s for dinner. I never left my room, and opened the door just once – to pay the delivery guy and accept my gourmet dinner.
It felt amazing to have that entire evening to myself, to get some work done, and to catch up on some email that I had been neglecting, all in the comfort of a surprisingly large hotel room.
That night I slept great.
When I awoke the next morning, the first thing I did was walk to the window and check the weather. Nothing but blue skies and sunshine.
My drive to Moab was spectacular. I was energized from the combination of a productive evening, a great night’s sleep, and beautiful views of some of the most impressive geological features that I have ever seen (southern Utah is a treat – spend some time there if you ever get the chance).
As a made that drive in a state of excited contentment, I was glad that I had listened to those signs from my body and the world around me. It can be easy to ignore those messages. But I’m finding that the more you listen to them (rather than push through them) the more things seem to work out for the better.
So as you work to build a life that you’re proud of, learning new skills and challenging yourself along the way, don’t forget to pay attention to what your own body, as well as the outside world, are telling you. Those two things are collaborators in your efforts to reach your goals, not competitors for you to fight against. Don’t forget that.
Photo Credit: Cristiano Betta