“Am I super worried about you getting coronavirus and dying? No. But for those of us who have the privilege of being healthy, young and financially stable, our actions now are more of a moral question than a question of health.”
I had never thought of it that way. While I packed my bags, I kept coming back to Kayden's words: Values. Vectors. Curves.
What do you do when you don't know what to do?
In the outdoors, I have one inalienable rule: Always listen to my intuition.
So I turned around. I turned around because in that moment I realized it wasn't about me living or dying. It was about my community and my relationship to it. It was about honoring my values of responsible visitation even in this unprecedented situation. While I was OK with the risk to my own health, I couldn't tolerate the idea that I could be an unknowing participant in someone else's sickness. It was about being part of the solution in flattening the curve for those on the frontlines who don't have the option to stay home.
It wasn't until a few days later that it became clear how quickly things would escalate. Now with the benefit of nearly a month of hindsight, a month of living under voluntary, and eventually mandatory, shelter-in-place orders, I'm just now grasping the importance of that decision.
The Temporary Now
While I won't be traveling anywhere for now, I do plan to one day make it back to Utah.
When people ask me “What is it about Utah?,” I answer: It's diverse and dramatically beautiful.
Of course it means different things to different people, but for me, Utah is the place that invites me to push myself. It's where I learned to snowboard. It's where I tried indoor climbing for the first time and experienced some glorious knuckle-scraping outdoor climbs, too. It's where I highlined for the first time, nervous tears dripping down to the sandstone 500 feet below me. It's where I have cried many happy, triumphant tears and shared my love of the highlining sport with many friends.
Some of my favorite Utah adventures over the years include: Getting completely stuck on a dirt road in Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and being covered from the neck down in mud from digging us out, overnight backpacking with five of my friends to Jacob Hamblin's Arch (stunning), seeing purple fields of flowers against the red rocks of Indian Creek, taking a helicopter over Moab (seeing the sandstone structures from above is wild), night snowboarding at Brighton Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and watching dozens of paragliders silently gliding around Fisher Towers at sunset.
My favorite places also always seem to have something to do with the people I meet there. In Utah, I've sat across the dinner table from female base jumpers, documentary filmmakers, a founder of a global nonprofit, as well as outdoor sustainability advocates, professional ski mountaineers, climbers, women who live in their vans full time, and women who regularly testify at Congressional hearings. So many incredible women who have humbled and elated me with their stories of facing their biggest fears. Somehow, by some kind of magnetism that attracts similar energies together, they all live in Utah. (Read: From Sparkles to Sparks)
Happily Ever After
What will we all do after this pandemic fades and the need to social distance recedes? As we emerge from The Great Indoors once again to The Greater Outdoors, I know I will approach with an increased sense of wonder, a renewed sense of commitment to keep spaces pristine, and a desire to keep access open for future generations. In Utah, they call this ethic Forever Mighty.
As the world inches towards recovery, I've started thinking about when I will feel good about traveling again. I'm sure, much like the night of March 12, it will be hard to know what's completely right in the moment. Risk gives decisions consequences. That's what makes them matter.