One rainy evening during our final weeks in Chamonix, we met up with guides Adam and Caroline George for a drink at a chic little bar. Caroline asked who I’ve worked with at Climbing magazine, and I asked what topics she’d covered for Climbing.
“My first story was about post-expedition blues,” she said.
I’d never heard the term, but I instantly knew what it was–and wondered whether the hub and I would have it since our 2.5-month adventure in France was an expedition (even though we were never in danger of being eaten by polar bears).
We climbed in the Aiguilles Rouges on the morning of our last full day in Chamonix, stopped by our favorite sandwich shop, and then returned to the cramped apartment we’d called home since mid-May to pack up.
Packing for a trip that long is an epic endeavor. I’d learned that in May, when suitcases and clothes and climbing gear covered our ample floorspace back home. Somehow, nearly everything we’d needed (and several things we didn’t need) made it into two bags under 50 pounds and two carry-ons each. Repacking for the return was easier–everything must go. (Though easier, it’s still best fueled by one last Euro espresso.)
The morning we left, we didn’t have much time for wistful glances at the glacier-torn peaks we’d seen in sun, storm and alpenglow. Our shuttle driver hustled 200 pounds of clothes and gear into the back of his van and we were off to the Geneva airport.
Our first day back in Longmont, we drove to meet friends for breakfast. That’s right, we drove. And the next day, we drove down to Eldorado Canyon to go climbing. Drove. We didn’t drive once while we were in Europe. I could count on one hand the number of times we rode in cars in Cham. When we wanted to go climbing in Chamonix, we walked to one of three places: the local crag, the train station, or a cable car.
We didn’t want a car in Chamonix. It seemed like a huge hassle to have one–streets are closed for pedestrians, there’s nowhere to park. Coming home to a land of exurbs and massive parking lots and forced driving was a bigger culture shock than not saying “merci au revoir!” every time I left a shop or restaurant.
But despite the pains of our car-dependent culture, despite missing those morning walks to the crag or cable car, the post-expedition blues haven’t set in. Why not? Here’s my sole revelation on the topic:
I spent most of my summer in one of my favorite places in the world. And I’ve returned home to one of my favorite places in the world. Want to avoid the post-expedition (or post-vacay) blues? Live somewhere that makes your heart race. Plant roots where there’s so much to do that your mind boggles. Make friends who have the same passion for the place and go play together. Often.
For me, living in Colorado has fit all of those criteria. In the nine days we’ve been home, we’ve climbed, hiked, ridden our bikes and caught up with friends. Yeah, I have to drive, and I don’t walk out my front door and see glaciers leading up to Mont Blanc. But I see mountains I haven’t visited, and I can drive to them this weekend if I like. The expedition continues.
This summer, I conducted a work/play experiment in the Alps. I moved my home office from Colorado to Chamonix, a lovely but sometimes insanely touristy town at the foot of Mont Blanc. This post is the seventh in a series about temporarily living and working in a premiere trekking and climbing destinationâ€“and another country.