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I hear this a lot. And each time it’s said, I smile sheepishly and nod knowingly, because I agree wholeheartedly. I’m ridiculously lucky to be a travel writer and photographer.
I’m lucky because I am afforded the opportunity to have experiences all over the world — manatee swims in Florida, football matches in England, seeing Hawaii from a helicopter, an Alaskan cruise, Lady Gaga concerts in Vegas. And I don’t pay for any of it.
It’s weird, wild and wonderful.
What’s left on the cutting room floor of these brief interactions, however, is the fact that there’s a lot more to it than luck and that it’s not all sunshine and roses out there. But it’s not always necessary to go there, not with everyone. Simply put, they are right: I’m a very lucky guy to be a travel writer and photographer, and I try to never take my good luck for granted.
In my experience, I’ve come to believe that every place on Earth -- from Norfolk, Nebraska to Norwich, England -- has something worthwhile, something worth seeing and something worth doing. The truest test of that place, though, is whether a travel writer like me is there only because he or she was invited and living completely on someone else’s corporate account, or if they would cough up their own money to return to that place.
This summer I added a Cheyenne notch in my travel bedpost and simply put, I cannot wait to come back, on my own dime. Here’s why I’ll return to Cheyenne:
—To eat more La Paz tacos, and play ‘bags’ on the backyard patio at Blue Raven Brewery (formerly Danielmark’s) as the sky goes from baby blue to strawberries & cream.
—For another serving (or two) of The Metropolitan’s divine spinach and artichoke dip—seriously, this is the best spinach and artichoke dip in the known world.
—To partake in the Knights of the Turntable on First Thursdays at Phoenix Books & Music. There are many records with songs I hold dear, and I have stories of why that is. The chance to mingle with likeminded discophiles, with Don the owner, and with the knitting club in the back, and to swap tales of musical devotion alone is honestly worth the price of the roundtrip flight from Philadelphia. I have goosebumps just thinking about being in that room for a Knights of the Turntable event!
— I hiked around it a bit, but I have to learn how to climb Vedauwoo. I want a guide to teach me how to connect on a physical and spiritual level with this spectacular patch of wind-blown nature a short drive from downtown Cheyenne.
—Play games at Flippers arcade. This place is a time machine standing in as a proxy for the fountain of youth we all eventually begin to search for (hello, 40!). Gimme those retro pinball games and perfect skee-ball tosses; let me bathe in the sound of youthful exuberance. I want to be a kid again, Cheyenne.
—To continue celebrating women’s suffrage with the new mural downtown, and also at the Cowgirls of the West Museum, the placards of which I only had time to half-read during my stroll through this summer.
— I want to feed bison again at Terry Bison Ranch. Holy cow, er bison, this is so cool! I want to see those weird, long tongues curling upward toward the sky in search of their food; I want to be that close to those majestic creatures again.
— Finally, I’ll return to Cheyenne for the chance to spend more time with a brilliant new friend, to meet her family, to laugh and walk and hike too fast and buy books and records and to share spinach & artichoke dip at The Met and introduce her to the love of my life and to say goodbye with a hug after a warm cinnamon twist donut from Dad’s Donuts again, just like we did last summer.
Cheyenne charmed me in a way few American towns ever have. I want to do everything I did, again, and have handfuls of new experiences in this amazing place. So yes, I’ll return to Cheyenne, sooner rather than later. And yes, this travel writer will spend his own money for another rodeo in the Wild West.