Resiliency Road Trip
Building Inner Strength One Mile at a Time
Exiting the Comfort Zone
The sun will soon set on the red rocks of Moab. A revamped military cargo truck revs up at the head of the ominously named Hell’s Revenge Trail, poised to climb a steep fin of sandstone dubbed Devil’s Backbone. In the driver’s seat is Mike Ballard, former marine and helicopter pilot turned off-road adventure guide. If you happen to be a passenger in Ballard’s rig, you’re about to get a lesson in letting go. “Usually people are the most scared during the first big obstacle," he explains. "When people are on a tour, they are not in control. They don’t get the option of turning around, so they’ve got to face what they’re afraid of."
And so an off-road adventure with Big Iron Tour Co. begins. The rides are all about having fun in a beautiful place, with the added benefit of fostering resilience. Overcoming obstacles is an important literal and figurative theme in Ballard’s company and life. Born and raised in Moab, he’s keenly aware of the town’s history of reinvention — from a booming uranium-mining hub that went bust to a popular international tourist destination. As the founder of a new business navigating through turbulent times, he draws upon that energy. "Moab really is a resilient place," Ballard says. "We will get through hard times. The great thing is, for a lot of old-timers and locals, this is not the first time they’ve been through major adversity. It’s amazing the amount of outreach and support we're all receiving from each other."
Thriving Through Boom and Bust
Resilience is a hallmark of Utah cities and towns, places where people have chosen to evolve and innovate through challenges. That inherent ability to adapt in the face of difficulty is often the key to success and happiness for individuals and groups. "I think we have a special sense of community in our small towns here in Utah," says Em Capito, an integrative psychotherapist and resiliency expert based in Salt Lake City. "I find there is much to learn from tight-knit communities that truly rely on one another. There’s an awareness that we can learn from and bring to our relationships within larger cities where things can feel less connected."
Capito has spent over a decade researching and specializing in mind-body resilience, recently culminating in the development of her six-point Hierarchy of Resilience© and a Utah TEDx talk on Resiliency Field Trips. She defines resilience as "the space between what happens to us and how we respond," emphasizing that it’s a skill more than a trait, something anyone can learn with awareness and practice. "Whether it’s happiness, peace, less anxiety, feeling robust wellness, being able to pursue our goals or creating meaningful relationships — all of it comes back to being able to choose our response under stressful conditions.”
"I find there is much to learn from tight-knit communities that truly rely on one another. There’s an awareness that we can learn from and bring to our relationships within larger cities where things can feel less connected."
How can we actively develop resilience in ourselves and, by extension, our communities? Capito offers a wealth of advice, with travel high on her list. Travel taps into the idea of intentional discomfort — creating wildly uncomfortable experiences on purpose — which is the highest level of Capito’s resilience hierarchy. She describes the process as a matter of facing fears: "When we engage in challenging experiences with mindfulness, we experience fear from a different perspective, overcome it and build up a more resilient mindset. These exercises expand our comfort zones or, more aptly, our resilience zones, and the resilience you generate transfers to every other area of your life." So taking a road trip can be both an escape from daily routines and a prescription for personal growth.
Creating a Resilient Itinerary
Based on Capito’s Resiliency Field Trip model, a resiliency road trip has three main ingredients:
It’s a new experience, which can be a variation on something you’ve done before.
It’s slightly scary, stretching your comfort zone just a bit.
It’s intentional — the idea is to embrace discomfort instead of avoiding it.
Keep in mind that even the smallest experiments count. The simple act of traveling automatically qualifies, as you will always encounter the unexpected. You’re making gains every time you navigate new directions, settle into an unfamiliar space, or decide to check out a new restaurant, shop or trail. And whether you want to make incremental changes or launch a major transformation, Utah offers plenty of scenic routes and levels of adventure to reach your goal.
As the folks at Big Iron Tour Co. demonstrate, Moab is an excellent destination for testing one’s mettle. There are endless outdoor options to explore — hiking, mountain biking, river running and climbing — as well as more cerebral pursuits, such as perusing regional literature at an indie bookstore or attending a tasting at the local winery. And, the visitors embarking on the four-hour drive from the Wasatch Front will find inspiring examples of resilience all along the way.
Doing Your Part
Take a holistic approach to resilience by making a conscious effort to help the places you visit stay strong and vibrant.
- Do Your Homework: Read up on rules and restrictions related to COVID-19 and other emerging developments before and during your trip.
- Buy local: Tourism is an important part of Utah’s economy. Make an effort to support small businesses and buy locally produced goods. (Read: "Supporting Women Entrepreneurs While Traveling in Utah.")
- Stay safe: Always carry adequate water, food and a first aid kit, and take care to learn about health and safety tips specific to your activity of choice.
- Recreate responsibly: In a nutshell, leave no trace. Preserve Utah’s natural wonders by showing respect for the environment, wildlife, and others.