Fate vs. Force – Montana

My trip to Montana will not bear as much weight if I do not tell the story of how I ended up choosing Montana. A bit of a story for context, I am over three years alcohol-free; I took my last drink on July 2nd, 2019. I should also preface this by saying that my last “big” trip was back in 2017, just after my brother suffered a massive brain aneurysm. I have done a weekend in MN or CA, but nothing close to a solo journey, let alone a trip without alcohol. Going through recovery and deciding to quit drinking was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have been through trauma, grief, depression, and constant anxiety, but nothing could have prepared me for this. Bound by the safety of my home and the comfort of daily life I had not been ready to travel on my own until this day in June 2022. The time had come for me to jump out of my comfort zone to reconnect with my love of travel which occupied so much of my time in my 20’s.

The weekend of Father’s Day, I got an email with a dog boarding promotion at Knox’s daycare. Mind you, I had already been tossing the idea of traveling again and this promotion had an expiration date of August 31st, 2022, which would force me to use this by the end of summer. Learning to trust my gut and intuition has taken a lot of time, but this was it, and I knew it was. I bought the boarding promotion and now I was off to races to plan my first adventure in five years. Constantly on my brain was wanting a new “experience.” Whether it be a tree house, an igloo, a tiny home, a lakefront property, or something else new and exciting I could try to see how I enjoy living “a bit off the grid.” At this exact moment, I got a marketing email from Southwest Airlines – a lightbulb goes off. I had to cancel a weekend trip to CA and never used my credit. I logged in to my account, the credit is available for approximately $300 and is due to expire on September 3rd, 2022. How ironic that it expires a mere days after my dog boarding promotion… I will soon figure out that “ironic” is not the word to describe this trip.

I spend days researching locations and experiences in destinations. I am not considering going out of the country at this point. Just an easy 4-day weekend to dip my toe in the water. Drawn to the pacific NW for peace and beauty or a city near an established friend might make this whole thing a bit easy on me. My goal is not to spend an arm and a leg over $300 to get there, not spend all day in an airplane while also finding a unique experience, as I mentioned. CO, FL, OR, WA… I spend days reviewing these locations and they are simply not working out. Either airfare is too much, the experience isn’t quite right, or flight options aren’t ideal; I keep in mind that this will work out the way it is supposed to, and I don’t give up hope.

I’m outside taking my dog out one morning around 730 am, and the air is crisp. I think, “I wonder what my aunt Sharon likes so much about Montana?” My aunt Sharon is a tenured traveler. We even missed each other by a couple of days while I went through Asia when she was on a month-long cruise. Our conversations are always full of passion, discussing countries, things we have done, and as I have gotten older I have noticed I am more like her than I imagined. She has been living in Montana my whole life, so she is the “most distant” of all my relatives, which again is interesting because I am now shifting my focus and thinking we may be pretty similar. I head off to work and that was all I thought about Montana at that moment. I get home from work the same day and I do a simple google search “relaxed small city, coffee shops, cafes, great food.” I find a list of the top five cities under this topic and number four on this list is Bozeman, Montana. Hm. That’s interesting. I toggle to my flight app and see what is available. The flight there doesn’t even require me to get off the plane as it’s going straight on to Bozeman the weekend of August 26th – 29th; the cost is $333.33, minus my credit of $33.33. I toggle to Airbnb, click “experiences,” and the number one option on my list is a container home next to the Crazy Mountains. Another fun fact, I have never had a desire to live in a single-family home. I have always been a city dweller and “ironically” have been considering different types of home architecture to build myself, including a container home. The home has incredible reviews, stunning photos, and limited availability. The house is booked solid for the next three months with only two weekends open… August 26th– 29th and the following weekend.

Let’s recap – I have to use my dog boarding by 8/31 and my flight credit by 9/3; I don’t want to spend much over $300, minimal flight time, and an experience that happens to be available the single weekend I need it to be to not to lose all my promotions… “Ironic?”  Silly me thinks, “Bri… just double check all of the experience options in MT to be sure this is the one”. I make it to the end of page one when that little feeling in my gut says, “Bri… it’s the container home”.  It is now 9 pm on the same day I had a single thought in the morning “what does aunt Sharon like about Montana?” My dog’s boarding is booked, my flight is booked, and my container home is booked.  I’m going to Montana.

I briefly touched on my recovery at the beginning of this story, but I am not sure I can quite put into words the evolution I have gone through these past three years. Learning to get out of my own way, be still, and let life unfold on its own have been very tough lessons for me. This trip is a first in many aspects, but most importantly, it is not a trip out of force but a trip out of fate.

Next Stop – Montana.


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