We make promises to our children. Sometimes big promises we have no idea how we’re going to keep. Yet we make them—because we believe so strongly in something or we know we would give anything to make those things happen.
The promise I made to my children is that we would travel. Far and wide. Domestic and abroad. We would witness the wonders and we would shake off the mediocrity of daily life with new sights and sounds and moments that remind us that the world is a much bigger place. And that while our own back yard is quite wonderful, there’s nothing like experiencing oneself on new and uncertain turf. To discover new paths and roads and pit stops. To summit the terrain and get a new view, a new perspective, another chance to look at life in wonderment.
The ‘educational nature’ of the trip
Some years ago I told my oldest son, Cooper, who was then about eight years old, that I would take him “some day” to Utah, to visit my company’s headquarters in Provo and see those glorious Wasatch Mountains as you fly into Salt Lake City, dusted with snow in the winter months yet gleaming and golden like they’re on fire when the sun goes down. A visit in September meant taking him out of school for a few days with an emphasis on the “educational nature” of our trip. I wrote something to the effect of, “Visiting science lab of a multibillion dollar life sciences company and attending entrepreneurial business training with global business leaders.” Followed by, “A trip to the Utah desert to observe the arches and canyons worn away by the oceans 150 million years ago.” We also bought a guidebook for reference and I let him pick out his own travel journal—required for recording thoughts, feelings, experiences and observations in a new land.
During two days of business training, including personal stories of achievement and defeat, champion moments and leadership, I got my mojo back and my son—though plagued with “boredom”—heard so much about accountability and commitment, he was whispering in my ear about goal setting and being in the game. Later, when we were driving in the desert, I acknowledged him for sitting through nine hours of business training with no electronics, no books, nothing. He said sheepishly, “I looked around at all the babies that were there and I thought, if they can do it, I can do it.” Maybe that’s why he sat up a little straighter on the second day!
Looking for the golden arches in Arches National Park
We rise before the sun and drive from our home base, a desert motel called Robbers Roost in the town of Green River, Utah, which happens to have the most divine little coffee spot (Green River Coffee Co.)—a rarity in caffeine-free Mormon country. Robbers Roost recollects the daring days of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who robbed and plundered, then hid out in these Utah desert caves and canyons.
As we roll into Arches, the sun peeks over the canyon skyline, bursting orange over the entire scene: the towering red rocks, the desert sand and shrubs, the fins and arches and plateaus far off in the distance as far as the eye can see.
Delicate Arch is our first destination, ideal in the early-morning hours before the heat and throngs of people arrive. It will be our most demanding hike, a mere three miles round-trip but requires navigating sandy terrain and a lot of ups and downs, then a steady climb at a 45-degree incline up a massive smooth rock to an additional climb along a narrow ledge (not as daunting as it sounded in the guidebook but certainly something to pay attention to). We secure our footing and watch where we step, soon rounding a bend to the magnificent Delicate Arch. The golden sun casts rays perfectly against the red rock and every picture we take more beautiful than the one before it.
We stay awhile. Watching people make their way down to the arch itself to take photos and seeing if there were any “arch hogs” per the guidebook. I remind Cooper to be present to the air, the warmth, the beauty, the magnitude. “You might never come here again in your entire life,” I tell him, “drink it up and remember this moment for the rest of your life.”