Four weeks ago, my partner Tim, our two dogs, and I embarked on what we are calling “the great drive-about”. We gave up our house in the Seattle suburbs, purged a lot of our stuff, placed some things into storage, and packed essentials into a small trailer to travel the next 6-12 months throughout the West. We plan to work remotely and stay one to two months in various locations and immerse ourselves in the local communities. Our first stop is just outside of Missoula, Montana where we have been enjoying country life, the beautiful scenery, and the noticeably happy people wherever we go.
The idea for the drive-about surfaced about a year and a half ago when my son was a junior in high school, my daughter was a freshman in college, and I was thinking about what was next. I grew up in the Seattle area and then moved away for ten years to live in New York City and Los Angeles, where my kids were born. I never planned to raise my children in L.A., so we returned to my hometown 14 years ago.
Tim moved to Seattle from Phoenix around the same time that I returned, and we met eight years ago. And while Seattle will always be a special place, we came to recognize that it doesn’t support the quality of life we aspire to have. We decided that it was time to explore what else is out there and this drive-about serves as that scouting expedition.
Wide Open Spaces
From day one in Montana, we could feel that it is a special place. Our dogs could feel it too. They were joyous in the yard rolling in the fall leaves and sniffing the new and wild smells. There was an immediate sense of ease and space and a companionship with nature.
The place we are staying near Missoula is located on three acres with mountain views in every direction. It’s down a dirt road and is so quiet it’s like the world exists only on the other side of the pasture fence. Tim and I have never slept so well, and while it could be the darkness, silence, and fresh air, I sense that the shift in our energy and in our surroundings has a lot to do with it.
We’ve taken day trips to drive around Flathead Lake and through the Bitter Root Valley and we’re in Missoula nearly every day at the gym, yoga studio, or a local restaurant. It’s a charming town with a (surprising) number of health & wellness focused businesses. The people here seem genuinely happy and content. We wish that we had more time here and I’m surprised to feel a sense of attachment to the area.
This weekend we depart for Cedar City, Utah, but before we hit the road, I’m sharing some of our fave spots from the past month:
Flathead Lake – We drove around the lake and had breakfast at Echo Lake Cafe in Bigfork. The entire drive is beautiful, especially the views from the west side of the lake with the Mission Mountains in the background – a great scenic lookout is at Volunteer Park. The area is known for its cherries, so that’s a bonus if you happen to be there while they are in season.
Bitter Root Valley – we drove through the valley and stopped in Hamilton for a delicious lunch at Suzette’s Organics and shopping at Chapter One Book Store (where I was delighted to receive a wonderful book recommendation and an invitation to join their book club!). Next, we explored Lake Como where we hiked with our dogs and were in awe of nature’s beauty.
Hot House Yoga was my ‘home’ yoga studio this month. I returned to my yoga roots with the 26/2 series in a HOT room and became more familiar with the Ashtanga primary series.
I met Glenn Tousignant as a yoga facilitator at Hot House and we had a private session together. Glenn is a wise, generous and wonderful human and I highly recommend scheduling time with him if you visit Missoula.
An alternative to hot yoga is Inner Harmony Yoga which is a lovely studio which I found has an organic style and community vibe.
Tim and I had our first experience with red light therapy and whole-body cryotherapy at Cryo Method. We both agreed that cryotherapy is unpleasant in the moment but the “chillness” we felt afterwards was worth the three minutes in the cryo chamber.
Basal cafe was my go-to spot for healthy quick fare, made easy by being located across the street from the yoga studio. Delicious salads, smoothies and stir fry in a delightful setting with pleasant staff.
Our most memorable meal was at Porte Rouge, a French brasserie with chic decor and delicious food. Memorable because of the quality and uniqueness of the menu and because we did not anticipate eating French food while in Missoula!
For comfort food I recommend The Empanada Joint, a casual spot featuring a vast variety of empanadas created from ingredients sourced at local farmer’s markets.
For more than 50 years, the Good Food Store has been Missoula’s homegrown, independent source for natural, organic, and locally-sourced food. I love this grocery store and shopped there often during our month-long stay.
We arrived in the sun and will depart in the snow, a considerable temperature change in one month! I sense that it’s not “goodbye”, but rather “see you later” Montana, you’ve been a spectacular host.