Swapping City Lights for Starlight

I came to Denver for the sunshine, really. I came to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, to escape the New York buzz and breathe some fresh air. But I never imagined that the noise of traffic would be replaced with the perfectly harmonious sounds of nature. I never imagined that the lights of the billboards would be traded in for the brightest stars I have ever seen.

I met Ari by chance, at a Kiddush in the local synagogue. It was my first weekend in Denver and I knew no one. All I knew was that I wanted to experience something new and rejuvenating. I spoke to some of the locals (actually, they approached me, so warmly!) and they all pointed me in Ari’s direction, explaining that he was planning a camping trip beginning just the next day and that it might be exactly the experience I was looking for.

The next morning, I swung by Ari’s home early. To say he was prepared would be the understatement of the century. The home was filled with tents and backpacks and sleeping bags and food…everything anyone could possibly need over the two days in the wilderness. Ari’s charming wife, Miriam, had the appropriate clothing ready for me: I was coming from New York, and I had no camping gear with me!

And just like that, only hours after I landed in Denver, I found myself hiking the four miles up Lost Creek Wilderness, surrounded by some of the kindest people on earth.

But this trip into the mountains, where there was no cellphone reception, no plumbing, and only an ice-cold creek to cool the beer, was much more than a typical wilderness adventure. It was an empowering journey of introspection, connection and reconnection. Sleeping under the stars, roasting marshmallows over a crackling fire, listening to the crickets and frogs in the distance…it gave me the chance to form a strong bond with my newfound friends and to reconnect with myself in a way that is often totally impossible in today’s boisterous world.

The vastness of the mountain was a space in which I could think, really think, about myself, about my life, about the people I love. It was a space in which I could ask myself questions and find answers, a space free of judgment and cynicism. Am I content with where I stand, emotionally, spiritually, academically? I wondered. Are my priorities straight? Am I focused on my goals or have I gotten lost in the mess of a busy life? While these were not new or groundbreaking questions, they were important. Over time, I have found that answers to questions like these need to constantly be reevaluated and reconsidered. And there is no more crucial time to delve deeply into such questions than in the throes of a rigorous college career and in the midst of the thrilling and exhausting world of dating. Ari created a haven for me in the enormity of the world, a sanctuary of peacefulness and simplicity that inevitably accompanies such an experience in the wilderness.

As a Jewish woman, it is rare to find the time to take such a deep breath. Between holidays and family life and school, the opportunity just doesn’t seem to present itself. In today’s world, the fight for equality in the workplace and on the social ladder is in full swing; but there are undeniable and precious responsibilities, ones that I personally cherish every single day, that women continue to bear.

But there are those times in life when such a breath is exactly what we need. It is as necessary as water and shelter. There are moments when a clear head is important, indispensable. And there is no better place to clear your mind and refresh yourself, no better place to open your eyes and heart to the world around you, than in nature.

I should tell you – I met my husband the following week. With a renewed excitement about life, and the energy and boldness of a Jewish woman, I was propelled by my trip in the wilderness into a whole new adventure. One of truth, love, and (still today) a deep appreciation of nature.

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