Colorado sometimes feels like two different states. There are the uber rich that have vacation homes, a time share or home in the mountains for skiing, a home in Cherry Creek or City Park.
Then there is the rest of us.
As a born and raised Colorado woman I have lived in the realms of the later. Sort of just getting by, living in my own slice of beauty, Little Pinewood, as a child, and then moving to the Front Range for college and work. I have got by. Never wealthy, but rich in the Colorado that I love.
Colorado has a lot of wealth from a variety of industries, and as most beautiful places that offer skiing and fine dining, it is an icon for wealthy travelers. Some stay for a week, others permanently plant roots in 12 million dollar homes and visit a few times a year. I have never known this world.
As a result, especially as a child, we avoided many of these “expensive” places as we could not afford to 1) ski or snowboard 2) the dining options in most places 3) the shops that sold luxury items and gifts 4) the temptation of taking three kids to such a place was overwhelming for a family that lived below the poverty line.
So, I didn’t make it to a lot of places, including the famed Aspen, Colorado. We maybe drove through a few times, I was probably too young to remember, on our way to something else in Wyoming. Yet, I always felt I needed to see and explore the area for myself. I also struggled with feeling welcome or that I fit into a place I had heard so much about, and often negative stories.
Most notably, I wanted to see the iconic Maroon Bells, but more on that another day. I also wanted to see what the hullabaloo was over this notoriously ritzy location.
Aspen is a nice, historic mountain town. That’s really the story. It is well manicured, close to prime skiing, home to some fantastic resorts, some of the best dining in Colorado, and high end shops. Want to shop for some Louis Vuitton while picking up a few joints? You can pretty much do that across the street from each other.
My preconceptions on the town were that it would feel entirely like the snobbery of locations I have encountered in the Cherry Creek Burberry shop, or other locations around the state. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised that coffee was not $20 a cup at a charming little eatery, most people were actually friendly and welcoming (even though we had been camping and looked a little rough), and it was in fact a beautiful town.
We took time to see the John Denver Sanctuary, which is a beautiful open park in the city center (worth walking through even if you are not paying your respects because your grandma loved his scruffy blond self oh so much). We did a little shopping and found an amazing wildlife photographer that is from Argentina, and has a passion for photographing Icelandic horses, Guadalupe Laiz. We found a restaurant that looks like it fell out of the sky from Alsace. We had a good time just wandering around and enjoying a Colorado legend.
The point of the story – is don’t feel held back from visiting a place because you don’t think you will fit in. You may not, but oh well. Don’t put yourself in danger, but don’t hold yourself back because you don’t think someone will appreciate your presence. The truth is that you will likely always run into someone that does not appreciate your presence in a situation, and I say, let them be uncomfortable so you can enjoy the world you have as much right to exist in.