Even during a Colorado vacation

It’s unfair to say that writing completely hijacked my vacation. Other forces were at work.

It should have been pleasant. Destination: Colorado. Reason for going? Because it’s there. The plan: hiking the flora and fauna. Reading mindless vacation novels. Buying trashy souvenirs. For the most part, refusing to think about future writing projects. Not one bit. Or maybe, just a little bit. It’s hard, removing myself from the keyboard for too long.

My vacation abruptly halted with a shock: I’m not used to dry heat. I’ve never had problems like this while traveling and … waitaminute. My long-term memory failed me. In fact, the more I thought about it, one way or another, I always have problems in these climates. I started counting incidents: Rome, 1998. Las Vegas, 2003. California ... oh for the love. How did I completely space that Colorado had a similar climate?

Up to that point, didn’t think of myself as a travel diva. I easily live out a backpack. Throw it into a youth hostel locker. Walk everywhere. Enjoy whatever comes along. Which is why realizing that dry heat was getting to me … got to me. Felt like the locals, who easily meandered in suits and jeans, were passively mocking me. I started longing for a quiet, peaceful moment with my laptop. In a cold dark room.

Regardless, the adventure couldn’t stop for one inconvenience. I’d just tough out the remainder of my vacation. Despite sinuses starting to close off. The on-again, off-again headache. Persistent sneezing. Maybe if I put enough distance between myself and other Rocky Mountain hikers, I wouldn’t alarm them with my rattling approach. Possibly later write about scaring off raging bears with my thundering nose blowing.

  My one shot of the Rockies, right as tragedy struck.

My one shot of the Rockies, right as tragedy struck.

“Hiking” the Rockies, however, delivered another shock. I say “hiking” because tragedy struck again. Five steps outside my car. Shortness of breath. Then nausea. Quickly understanding: I now have altitude problems. “When did this happen?” I protested. “I’m only at 8000 feet.” It was so confusing. Years earlier I’d traveled to Quito in Ecuador—elevation 9350 feet—without hint of problems. I swear. 

  Proof! One time I easily managed over 9000 feet in elevation. Plaza de San Francisco, in Quito.

Proof! One time I easily managed over 9000 feet in elevation. Plaza de San Francisco, in Quito.

I briefly thought about pressing on, but that would be ridiculous. In the struggle of man versus nature, nature always wins. I know this. And resigned myself. Started the drive of shame back into town. Deciding to axe all other plans for adventure. Began narrating to myself how I’d write about my defeat—because writing was all I could do for the rest of my vacation. It felt like a moral failure. Who in their right mind would exchange traveling one of the most beautiful states in the country, for hiding out with a laptop?

I’d read that Stephen King writes 10 pages a day, regardless of holidays. Originally, I thought it was horrible. How can you circumvent even a day off by that mad desire to put words on a page? Then I got into a writing habit. Consistently building one word onto another changed me. Started resenting interruptions. Weighed whether a concert would be good enough to sacrifice those precious keyboard-pounding hours. Friends now lug their laptops to coffee dates with me. Interspersing working with catching up. King makes sense now. My thwarted vacation was gift. Those ignored writing projects? Isolation in a far-away land was what I needed to finally focus.

Spent the remainder of my vacation holed up in a Denver coffee shop—exactly like the ones I left back home. Surrounded by other folks avoiding sunshine. Also frowning into their laptops.

Words came together. I continued typing.