Estes Park: Live Life like a (Conscious) Tourist

Over the past four years, I’ve been blessed to call Estes Park home. Choosing to leave has been a process of grief, learning how to distinguish intuition from fear, and then finally, of gratitude.

Among many things, Estes Park has taught me how to “life life like a (conscious)* tourist”, to slow down, to be in awe of everything around me (and take a million pictures), and to truly enjoy “traffic” jams (aka. elk in the middle of the road)… those times life just asks you to stop. To stop, so there’s nothing else you can do but to contemplate how painfully beautiful life is.

Every time I’ve gotten a little annoyed at being stuck in a quarter of a mile long line at the grocery store or when a jeep tour drives up my road while I’m trying to peacefully walk with Pacer, that feeling has always been quickly replaced gratitude when I remember “…and I am lucky enough to live here. A town where everyone else only gets to come for vacation.”

Estes Park is surely not an easy town to leave. I still believe it has some, if not the best, 13ers and lakes in the state. And my counseling clients (many of who I will continue to see online)…well they all have places in my heart. While there has been grief in this choice I made, right now I much rather celebrate my time in Estes Park with some things I’ve learned living in a tourist town.

*I’m obviously not going to try to pet an elk, park in the middle of the road, or use 20+ plastic bags from Safeway in one trip.

Here are my tips on “How to Live Life like a Tourist”:

-Stop at the first sign into town and take a picture because you’re so excited about the day ahead. Really. Commemorate each day you’re alive by bringing enthusiasm into the day. There are adventures, big and small, ahead of you.

-If caught in traffic, whether from elk or other tourists, take it as extra time to gaze in wonder at the beauty of the mountains. Remember that everyone else in traffic is simply trying to experience the magic too. (And if you’re running late, remember it’s your own fault for not taking the tourist traffic, that you 100% know is going to be there, into account …but still driving the speed limit because there may wildlife trying to cross the road. Then still using one of those reasons as an excuse as to why you’re late.) (Okay, okay, that may be a local… or just a personal piece of advice.)

-When feeling overwhelmed by the amount of people in the tiny downtown, focus in on the good. People are outside enjoying themselves and time with their families. Tune in to their happiness. That family eating ice cream together on a winter day…that image will be one in your memory almost as long as the view of Hallet’s Peak.

-When hiking, even if you only making it to the first lake a quarter mile up the trail, be as excited as if you hiked 5 miles to get there. Celebrate with the elders, people with disabilities, and those people out of their comfort zone just being outdoors, who rarely get to witness such stunning scenery.

-Do all of the “tourist things”, because they are truly fun to do: Sssllooowwllyy drive up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, play with the chimes on the walking path leading into town, ride the mountain coaster, take pictures of the elk (even though they are everywhere), try all of the restaurants with a vegan option, get a selfie with the statue of Enos Mills and his pup, slowly sip your coffee at InkWell and stock up on greeting cards for the next 6 months, and go into all the Christmas stores downtown (maybe, or maybe not, skipping the taffy stores…is taffy even real candy?).

-Be thankful (and patient) when people stop at the “yield” signs, rather than actually yielding. They are just being extra safe and trying to make town more pedestrian friendly.

-When leaving town, make sure to glance one more time out the rear view mirror and be grateful for the amazing time you had. The day may be over, but each moment you spent in the mountains and with loved ones will be ingrained into the DNA of your soul.


In the end, we’re truly all just tourists, in these human bodies, on this physical plane. We could despair at this thought, of the impermanence of it all, but wouldn’t the better option be to choose joy? To be in such deep, deep gratitude that we get this experience, in such a miraculous place, with so many interesting people, that we simultaneously want to cry, laugh, and scream in excitement?

2 Replies to “Estes Park: Live Life like a (Conscious) Tourist”

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