The problem with first-time travelers is they often get caught up in the classic Instagram worthy paradise, the black beaches of Hawaii, the Pyramids of Egypt. It’s overwhelming. Where to find the best flight? Where should we stay to be closer to what we want to see? Will we have enough time to see everything we want to see?
I went to Fiji several years ago and learned a valuable lesson. After I’d spent several days on Pinterest saving images to a bucket list I thought I was well informed. Only to get to my island bungalow and find out all the things on my list were on other islands I couldn’t possibly reach. The beach was gorgeous and it was still worth it but if I’d done more research I might have chosen another island.
Or maybe you have done your research, as I did when I looked up Vietnam only to realize that I’m going to need a month to get the full experience.
It’s overwhelming. You haven’t even reached the page to book anything and you’re tired. You give up. It’s too much. It’s too expensive. It’s mostly expensive.
A year goes by and that first image that caught your eye shows up in facebook memories and you. Well, you haven’t gone anywhere, let alone that photogenic hot spring in Iceland.
There’s something you might not have thought about; how many people are Instagramming your home and thinking there’s no way I can afford this? More than you know.
Maybe you should begin your adventurers’ career a little closer to home?
Scoff all you want. I did the same thing. My home town is a three-hour drive from the closest mall without anything but sagebrush and tumbleweeds in between. Vernal, Utah. (Go ahead and look it up later. I’ll be posting pictures as we go.) A town so small even people in Utah have never heard of it. Yet, somehow waitressing in our Mom and Pop country dinner I came across European families road tripping through my small, nowhere town.
Nearly every day during the summer months there were hungry, heavily accented foreigners asking me what a Navajo taco was. Think taco salad but instead of tortilla it’s a warm, delicious, deep fried, giant scone smothered in taco meet, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. You should try one, it could change your life. 7-11 Ranch Restaurant makes the best one in town. Established before the gas station.
They were thinking ‘what the heck is a scone?’ while I was thinking ‘Out of all the places in the United States of America you picked Vernal freaking Utah?’ Why? I truly didn’t understand how they had even heard of my four stop-light town let alone decided to visit. And trust me, no one accidentally stumbles over this place. It’s so far out of the way people trying to get here actually think they’re lost or passed it somehow when they still have an hour of empty highway to go before they get there. It takes an effort. It’s a deliberate choice to drive one hundred and eighty miles into the great wide nothing.
So I ask again, why? Why were so many people from the other side of the world taking up so much of their limited, precious holiday to visit Vernal? Most were passing through in their rented Cruise America RV’s on their way to Denver, Colorado but even then it was a long detour. There are faster ways to get to Denver that will save not only time but gas money.
There’s only one word to explain this continental migration.
Yup. You read that right. No auto correct issues there. Dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, Vernal is gorgeous in it’s on way but so is most of Utah. And Colorado for that matter. But those dinosaurs are, apparently, worth the extra miles.
Growing up I never thought much of it. Our yearly school trip to the quarry was because everything else was too far away and the schools couldn’t afford to house students in the city overnight.
Now that I’ve traveled I get it. I have done some crazy things to experience what I was determined to see for myself. I once spent two hundred US dollars to take a broken down taxi, that never should have passed inspection to drive on public roads, for four hours to get a picture of a waterfall. That’s it. So I can relate to people already on a road trip who would take a long detour to visit Dinosaur National Monument.
The monument allows its’ visitors to watch paleontologists excavate real dinosaur fossils embedded in the mountainside. As a kid surrounded by dinosaurs I wasn’t that impressed but now I know how special it is.
The new state of the art museum is pretty outstanding too. There’s a sandpit for kids ages three through ninety, where they can practice their own archaeological skills. Channel Dr. Sam Neil and pick up a brush. Humming the Jurassic Park theme song is mandatory.
If that’s not enough to inspire hours of highway time, Vernal has more to offer than old bones. Flaming Gorge is one of my personal favorites. There are some world-class fishing and family-friendly river rafting. Amateur to pro level kayaking with rapids ranging in difficulty. And some of the best little known Instagram worthy photo opts.
While you’re up there check out Browns Park and follow in the footsteps of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid along the Outlaw Trail. Rumor has it they buried treasure from a bank heist out in those hills and it’s never been found. Our local treasure hunters can spend days talking about it.
One day is enough but I recommend spending the night to get the full impact. Who knows? My little town might inspire you to rethink yours.
Remember, somewhere someone thinks your home is an expensive dream destination worth visiting. Trust me, the French love my home town. Wonder who’s in love with yours? It could be me. You should take advantage of the easy access. With any luck, you may just rediscover it for yourself. I know I did.
Happy Travels. See you out there.
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