As a journalist and avid news junkie, I’m always hesitant when I read stories that say something is increasing or more people are experiencing something when there are no hard numbers to back the claim up.
Still, this TV story about more 20-somethings battling a quarterlife crisis had some good points to it.
I liked what the psychiatrist had to say about the Millennial generation:
Psychiatrist Drew Ramsey says this generation has spent so much time working toward a life in the future, they’ve skipped living the moment – and now they’re exhausted and dissatisfied.
That’s how I feel right now. I was just thinking about that last night as I was trying to push myself through another day at the gym: wouldn’t it be nice to just run away to a beach for an entire month and do nothing? But even more amazing than sipping a fruity drink while digging my toes into the white sand beach would be to not think about the future, the unknown and the possibilities — to truly live in the moment for an entire month.
Ramsey offered some good — yet simple — advice for those facing a quarterlife crisis:
-Stop putting pressure on yourself and give yourself a break
-Accept that the future is largely unknown
-Know that it’s OK to make some mistakes along the way
The tips seem so simple on the surface, but I know they are a lot easier said than done. Still, I’m going to try to follow them.
What do you think? Have Millennials spent too much time working toward a future that they are unable to enjoy the present?
I came across this story from The Atlantic recently and it amazed me how perfectly it fits into an issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: A nerdy teenager felt like he didn’t fit in in his small conservative hometown so he left the first chance he could. He later went on to become a journalist and moved all over the country as he chased after a bigger and better career. He dreamed, traveled the world and saw and experienced some very exciting things. His sister, on the other hand, stayed in their hometown her whole life. As an adult, she lived down the road from her parents, became a school teacher and was content. When she fell ill with cancer, it was the friends and family members she surrounded herself with and had become close to over all those years who supported her. The guy eventually sees the positives in his hometown and returns there with his wife and kids.
This story has a lot of similarities to my older brother and me. As a nerdy teenager I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown and left at the first opportunity. I went on to become a journalist, travel the world, see and experience things not everyone gets to see and experience, and move all over chasing after a better career. My brother, on the other hand, still lives in our hometown. He left temporarily and returned, developing deep relationships that he has sustained over the years simply because he’s remained in one place.
Ambition is a curious trait. Emily Esfahani Smith puts it perfectly when she writes this in her piece:
The conflict between career ambition and relationships lies at the heart of many of our current cultural debates… Ambition drives people forward; relationships and community, by imposing limits, hold people back. Which is more important?
A few years ago I would have said moving on to bigger and better, no matter the costs, was the most important thing to me. I wasn’t after the material things like money or possessions, but I was after the clout that comes along with being an ambitious woman in her 20s who knows what she wants and knows how to get it. Being ambitious in my career and life means I’ve been afforded a lot of great opportunities.
It also means I’ve said good bye and see you when I see you a lot. As I get older I realize my job won’t be there to comfort me after a bad day or call me up when I’m feeling lonely to go see a movie. It won’t be there for me if I were to get cancer like close family and friends would be.
But does being ambitious mean you’re ultimately going to be unhappy? Not necessarily. “People who are ambitious are happy that they have accomplished more in their lives,” says John D. Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Florida in the article. He and another researcher analyzed data collected from a group of gifted individuals over several decades. They found that the children who were the most conscientious (organized, disciplined, and goal-seeking), extroverted, and from a strong socioeconomic background were also the most ambitious. The most ambitious kids went on to become more educated, attend more prestigious schools, make more money and have higher-status jobs that those deemed less ambitious.
But when it came to the well-being of the more ambitious vs. less ambitious, the researchers found that being ambitious is only weakly connected with well-being and negatively associated with longevity.
Another study found that having frequent contact with neighbors and feeling like one belonged to a group increased feelings of well-being.
But relationships can also constrain. Think about it: How often have you had to go visit family members who live in the same town as you or check in with your significant other while out?
Still, Barry Schwartz, a psychological researcher based at Swarthmore College who I have mentioned many times on this blog because he has been interviewed for several books about 20-something life, believes a lack of constraints is detrimental to human happiness. Having too many choices, he says, is just as bad as having too few.
What do you think? Do you think being ambitious in your career affects relationships? Has it in your life?
Profile of a crisis is an occasional look at 20-somethings who are trying to figure out their future or have worked to overcome the uncertainty surrounding a quarterlife crisis.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the best things about keeping up with this blog is connecting with new people or reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances I’ve lost touch with over the years who tell me they are experiencing the same confusion that I am.
A few weeks ago my old resident adviser from my freshman year at Arizona State (!) reached out to me via Facebook after she saw a blog post.
Jackie was just a year ahead of me in school. She graduated at the top of her class in high school and headed to ASU. Like most of us, she always imagined she’d have no trouble finding the perfect job after college, especially with the grades, honors and extracurricular activities she amassed on her resume.
Graduating in 2008 with a science degree, Jackie found herself heading into the “real world” at the start of a recession. Even with college connections, the only thing she was able to find were volunteer opportunities. Then she realized science was not what she wanted to do anyway.
“So I wandered. I worked at Starbucks, I spent a year in Missouri, I decided to go back for my Master’s in Environmental Management, and then ultimately, I decided to go back to Costa Rica to marry my long-distance boyfriend of three years,” Jackie says.
While the recession was bad in the U.S., it was even worse in Costa Rica. Unemployment in her fiancee’s hometown was 40 percent. So the two decided to move back to the U.S. and Jackie got a handful of interviews for jobs, each promising, she believed. But she didn’t get any offers.
“Newly married, relocated, and completely broke, I desperately went back to the first place I could get hired — Starbucks,” she said.
Throughout all this, Jackie has been working with her husband to help him adapt to a new country, new way of life and obtain a green card and a job. All that work paid off when he got his renewed green card in February and was back to work in March.
And that’s when Jackie had what she calls her quarterlife crisis meltdown.
“Then it hit me. Last Tuesday, I was alone at home with no more excuses or distractions; I had finally finished my Master’s in 2012 (albeit from a foreign university), I no longer had to take the time to care for his needs and immigration issues, and was at the job search (again),” she says.
As for that dream job, she’s now wondering if it’s worth going after or if she should consider going back to school for a different career path.
She’s 28, she’s quick to point out, and while her love story is fully complete, another area of her life is lacking.
“My career is less than amazing, it is non-existent, and after years of thinking I knew what I wanted, I realize I really have no idea,” she says. “I don’t know what I’ve been working so hard for, besides the love of my life. What’s worse, I don’t know how to find the motivation to keep searching, to keep tackling the source of my discontent, and to be the catalyst for change. I suppose that’s typical for the first stage of the quarterlife crisis: feeling trapped, just clinging onto that hope of redemption.”
I’ll be back with some more substantial blog posts soon, but until then, here is another great BuzzFeed look at life in your 20s. This one compares early 20s vs. late 20s. I found it very accurate. Enjoy!
I’m hesitant to write about it, but if I’m writing a blog about my life then it must be said: After three years together — nearly two of which were long distance — my boyfriend and I have broken up.
I’m not going to write about the relationship or the breakup because that is too personal. But instead I’ll write about what it has me thinking about. A few days after it happened, someone asked me if it had to do with the fact that we were long distance. I honestly don’t know. In some ways long distance was very, very hard. In other ways it was good because it let us be together while we both continued on our chosen paths in life.
What really struck me was when I found myself at a bar a few days later surrounded by a group of friends, each of us in our 20s. We came from all over the United States and ended up in South Dakota at that point in time for one reason: journalism. It’s the glue that holds us together, and we often talk about past jobs and internships and where in the world we could be five years from now. There were seven of us there that night — three guys and four girls. Two of the guys had been single for as long as I’ve known them. The third guy and one of the girls started dating each other about nine months ago. That left the three of us girls. I had just gotten out of a long-distance relationship. A second girl just got out of one about a month before me, and the third girl was currently in one and trying to figure out when she would next see her boyfriend. A fourth girl who wasn’t out that night was also in a long-distance relationship.
It really got me thinking about being in this industry in your 20s and trying to maintain a relationship. It’s hard. If you want to climb the journalism ladder, you more often than not have to go where the jobs are. There usually aren’t two newspapers in one city anymore, and while there are often multiple TV stations, most require employees to sign non-compete clauses, which basically forces you to move to a new city when you want to move up.
I know some people who are in journalism who won’t even consider seriously dating in their 20s simply because they have no idea where they will end up. While I respect that decision, I don’t think I could do that.
Then I wonder if this is just a symptom of an industry influx or if long-distance relationships are a growing trend among Millennials, since they are usually better able to pick up their life and move to follow their dreams and are increasingly forced to move to where the jobs are.
The following day a journalism friend who lives in another state contacted me. He was preparing to work a night shift and we started talking about the industry and the effect it has on maintaining relationships. The weird hours and abnormal schedules, the travel and the deadline pressure are all relationship hazards, he told me. I agreed.
I don’t think journalism killed my relationship. Not at all. But I do think the life I’ve chosen has brought about some unique challenges for someone in their 20s.
What do you think? Are long-distance relationships becoming the norm for 20-somethings trying to follow their careers and keep some semblance of a normal life? What other career fields have some of the same issues as journalism?
The second installment of the book notes about “Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?” focuses on children, the brain and body, friendships and parents. Read part 1 here. And read author Robin Marantz Henig’s controversial New York Times Magazine piece about 20-somethings here.
-Millennial women don’t seem too worried about their biological clock. A survey of 1,000 women between the ages of 24 and 35 who talked to their doctors about getting pregnant found that many had a low IQ when it came to fertility knowledge. For instance, most of the women surveyed thought the chance of a 30-year-old woman trying to conceive getting pregnant at any time was about 70 percent, and that the chance for a 40-year-old woman was nearly 60 percent. In reality, the chances are about 20 percent at age 30 and 5 percent at age 40.
-One of the main similarities between Baby Boomers and the Millennial generation is that money is still a major factor in the decision to have kids. The difference today, though, is that women tend to contribute to the family income more than ever before. So quitting work or cutting back to take care of a child will be even more consequential.
-Women with advanced degrees who waited to get pregnant until age 35 had annual salaries $50,000 higher than those who had a child at age 20, according to an analysis of Census data.
-And let’s not put women at the center of all of these important decisions. Men can also encounter age-related problems. Studies show that men over age 40 increase the chances their children will have a variety of problems, including childhood cancer, schizophrenia and autism.
Brain and Body
-Some studies say the best way to retain information is to write it out. In one study, a researcher had students transcribe a passage by writing it out in cursive, by writing it out using print or by typing it. The group who wrote the passage out in cursive remembered the passage better when they tried to recall it a week later. I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything outside of my name in cursive, but I may start trying.
-Olive Robinson, a psychologist at Greenwich University, says there are four stages to the quarterlife crisis. Stage 1 is the locked-in stage. It’s when you feel stuck and like you are living someone else’s life. Stage 2 is the traumatic separation, which can leave you feeling lost and confused. The third stage is the chaotic period. That’s when all the options are before you again and you feel like you may be backtracking. The final stage is the resolution, when you experience committing to a new partner or career and a better sense of self.
Friendships in Real Life
-The friends we make in our 20s are the first group of friends we chose completely on our own. Our friends become our friends based on decisions we make on our own — where we go to college, where we live after college, what job we do and what activities we participate in — and not our parents.
-One woman made it her New Year’s resolution to meet all 325 of her Facebook friends in real life. By the end, she traveled to 51 cities in 12 countries and still only met up with 292 of them. I actually saw a 20-something guy on the “Today” show the other day who is attempting to do this too. I think he’s giving himself three years to meet all 700-something of his Facebook friends. I do like this challenge. I sometimes have to remind myself how I even know one of my so-called friends on Facebook. “Oh yeah, I said hello to them during freshman orientation.”
-A number of studies have shown that social media sites like Facebook attract narcissists. This is not that surprising. I think Instagram takes it to another level. Sadly, I do think I’ve become more narcissistic in the nine years I’ve used social media. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Samanthan Henig pointed out, if success is tied to likes, followers and retweets (and in my career field they are), it’s no wonder you want to spend a lot of time thinking about how you’re portraying yourself.
-Those same social media sites that are connecting us to tons of new people and making us more narcissistic are also making us bad friends because we have FOMO (fear of missing out). With everything posted online for everyone to see, 20-somethings are always on the prowl for the next better thing.
-According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar of Oxford University, the maximum number of friends any person can really have is 150. Anything more and it’s too hard to keep track of everyone.
Parents as Co-Adults
-Millennials still living at home may be called slackers by their Baby Boomer parents. But, in fact, they aren’t that different than their Baby Boomer parents’ parents. Twenty-somethings often remained at home in the 1930s and 1940s to help with the farm.
The Henigs ended the book by giving a sampling of responses to the question “How will you know when you’re an adult?” Below are some of my favorites because they are a testament to how confusing this time period can be:
“I can no longer find a significant difference between myself and other people that I consider to be adults. So, I guess it’s time to call it what it is.” From a 32-year-old female.
“I am not sure. I definitely have some adult responsibilities. Also, I have a beard.” From a 25-year-old male.
“I have this idea that buying a new couch will make me feel like an adult. I still have an old hand-me-down. But as soon as I do that I’ll probably come up with a different benchmark.” A 29-year-old female.
“I see nothing wrong with staying in on a Saturday night. This makes me feel like an adult.” From a 28-year-old male.
How do you know you’re an adult? Do you? Did you learn anything new or you thought was interesting?
“Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?” is THE book I’ve been waiting for about 20-somethings. Written by mother-daughter team Robin Marantz Henig (who is probably most well known for her controversial piece two years ago in The New York Times about 20-somethings) and Samantha Henig, it offers, in my opinion, the definitive examination of 20-something life in the 21st century. Sure, other books offer a lot of the same studies and similar anecdotes, but this book stood out to me for many reasons:
1. The fact that this book was written by a Baby Boomer (Robin) and her 20-something daughter (Samantha) offered different perspectives on the Millennial generation that other books lack.
2. Like me, the Henigs appreciate simplicity: each chapter is focused on one area of 20-something life with an easy to discern title. For example, Schooling deals with college and getting a degree; Love and Marriage deals with ….Love and Marriage; Baby Carriage deals with children and Parents as Co-Adults examines the relationship 20-somethings have with their parents.
3. In addition to looking at how technology and the recession have affected the lives of 20-somethings, the Henigs also take a close look at whether or not the media has exploited the idea that the Millennial generation is worse off or somehow different than previous generations going through their 20s. Each chapter is broken down into a section about what is different in today’s world (“Now is new”) and how it’s the same as generations past (“Same as it ever was”). At the end of each chapter, the two offer a bullet pointed overview of the chapter of new vs. same and conclude whether our generation does face more hardships compared to our older siblings, parents and grandparents. It’s very helpful for 20-somethings like me who have a short attention span or simply want to skip ahead and find out the end without reading the whole chapter.
There was so much good, timely information in this book that I’m breaking down the book notes into two parts. This first book notes will look at the first four chapters of “Twenty Something”: The Twenties Crossroads, Schooling, Career Choices and Love and Marriage. Because I like lists and find that’s the most fun for me as I write these blog posts about books, I’m going to just list the statistics/anecdotes/stories/bits of information in the book I underlined as I read the book.
The Twenties Crossroads
-Remember “Ally McBeal” from the 1990s? I never watched any episodes but was well aware of the show and how popular it was. I knew she was a lawyer living in New York City (I think?) and seemed to be so grown up. Guess how old she was? 27. Today a similarly career-focused woman is on TV: Liz Lemon from “30 Rock.” She’s another woman freaking out about whether she’ll never have the opportunity to have kids because of her age. She was 36 when the series started, a full decade older than Ally McBeal.
-Choice overload once again made its appearance. Having too many choices to choose from is a very real problem that can be paralyzing because you’re afraid you will make the wrong choice. In addition to too many choices, there’s also a phenomenon called decision fatigue. Basically, constantly making decisions can zap all the mental energy needed to remain rational and prudent. I definitely feel like I have decision fatigue at times and want someone to just tell me what to do.
-In a 2011 survey, one out of every three young adults said the Internet is as every bit as important to the human race as air, water, food and shelter. Another 48 percent said it was “pretty close” to being as essential as the basics for survival.
-College tuition is out of control. In 1968, a student wanting to attend a four-year public university could work a minimum-wage job for about six hours a week to cover tuition and fees for the semester. Today, a student wanting to attend a four-year public university while working a minimum-wage job would need to work 40 hours a week to pay for tuition and fees.
-Advancing in school typically means delaying adulthood. A study in Michigan followed 1,410 kids from birth onward and found that educational choices set many of them apart. By the age of 24, 12 percent of them were making good money in jobs they were in for the long haul. Called “fast starters,” these study participants seemed to be pretty grown up: 73 percent were married, 57 percent had children and 55 percent owned their own homes. But the “fast starters” had gotten to the major life milestones so fast because they didn’t go to college and instead went straight from high school to the working world. Does that mean the least educated reach the milestones fastest and those with the highest education grow up slowest? Possibly.
-I’m sure your parents have said it to you, mine certainly have: “Start at the bottom.” “You have to pay your dues.” “Any job is better than no job.” Turns out, in today’s new economy that might not be true. Austin Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist, says recent evidence shows that in today’s economy starting at the bottom means you will most likely be underpaid for a long time. He says the traditional advice of work hard, pay your dues and move steadily up the corporate ladder is bad advice. “While they may work their way up, the people who started above them do, too,” he says. “They don’t catch up.”
-Telecommuting, g-chatting, tweeting and Facebooking are all average daily behaviors of 20-somethings workers. Older generations may look at these activities as time suckers and laziness, but in reality, these activities might make 20-somethings more industrious and willing to work longer and harder. Think about it: Aren’t you more willing to work late when you can at least tweet and Facebook your friends if not see them in person, especially if those friends aren’t even in the same town as you?
Love and Marriage
-Online dating is now the third-most common way for people to meet and accounts for one in six new marriages, according to a study commissioned by Match.com. The fact that a dating website commissioned this study makes me question its veracity, but honestly, the statistics don’t seem that surprising or unreasonable.
-The beginning of a relationship is all about making choices: a choice to call, to go out, to date exclusively, etc. But after a while, instead of making choices, relationships can turn into another style: “sliding.” Sliding is navigating a path by going with the flow instead of making deliberate choices, like deciding to live together because you already spent five out of seven nights a week at one person’s apartment or deciding to get engaged because you’re already living together.
-Sliding into marriage is more common than I thought. Two out of three first-time brides are already living with the groom on their wedding day.
When I was younger I loved looking at the many medals I accumulated over the years from gymnastics and running. It wasn’t so much that I won something; it was just that I had something to show for the hard work and dedication I put in. Today I don’t get medals, but I do still have a soft spot for awards and honors. (Honestly, I think anyone who tells you they don’t enjoy recognition is lying.)
So that’s why I was honored when Rebecca Fraser-Thrill, who writes a blog about career avoidance, recently nominated me for The Liebster Award. The award doesn’t come with any money or fancy hardware, but it was does come with the satisfaction of knowing that someone thought enough of my blog writing to acknowledge it.
To accept it, I have to answer 11 questions and nominate other bloggers for the award. Below are my answers to the 11 questions posed to me:
- What is your definition of “career”? To me a career isn’t just a job. It is a job, but it’s also more. It’s a passion. It’s something that gets you out of bed every morning and gets you excited. It’s also something that helps you live and pay the bills.
- What did you want to be when you were in elementary school? A teacher
- What major did you expect to have when you started college? Journalism
- What major did you actually graduate with? Journalism
- Why did you change, if you did? –
- If you didn’t have to worry about any practicalities, what career would you pursue right now? Travel writer/blogger
- What one thing holds you back most from your dream career? Money and lack of available positions
- Whose career do you admire the most? Why? Let me get back to you on that one.
- What does work-life balance mean to you? Work-life balance to me means being able to go to work during the day and at the end, going home to another life full of friends, family and interests outside of work.
- What could be done to better encourage/support career and identity development during college? I think improving instruction on how to have work-life balance in the 20s would be a start.
- What’s your current incarnation of your All I Want to Be statement? All I want to be is someone who is productive, happy, hard working and smiling.
Now I have to list some blogs I think you should consider reading:
Beautiful Nonethingness: http://beautifulnothingnessblog.wordpress.com
Twenty-something Condition: http://twentysomethingcondition.wordpress.com/
Sweetly Indecisive: http://sweetlyindecisive.wordpress.com/
Camels and Chocolate: camelsandchocolate.com
Angie Away: Angieaway.com
I’ve stumbled across this website more than a few times as I read about 20-something life. The idea behind the site is great: 40-something women give advice to confused 20-something women like myself about careers, relationships, finances and body and self.
Who knows better about making decisions than women who have been there, done that and lived to tell about it?
One post I recently read on the site had a 20-something girl write a letter to her 40-something self. I’m taking that idea and putting a bit of a spin on it by writing a letter from my 40-something self to my 20-something self.
Dear Kristi in her 20s,
Hello there! I hope life is treating you well. I know your 20s have been exciting, nerve-wracking, confusing and awesome. Embrace it. Never again will you live in a decade in which your life changes so much and you have so many possibilities before you. Think back to where you were at 20. At that point you were a sophomore in college. Did you ever think you’d have lived the life you’ve lived over the past seven years and ended up where you are today? I didn’t think so.
I know this decade has been fraught with confusion, some apprehension and lots of worries about whether you’re doing the right thing. As you 20 years from now, I’d like to give you some tips I’ve learned along the way:
-In your 20s, staying out late on a work night won’t kill you or your career. But the next morning will come very quickly. Do it on occasion and make no apologies.
-On the other hand, there is no reason to feel bad for passing up that 11 p.m. text to go drink when you have to get up at 8 a.m.
-Regular exercise is good for you and something you enjoy. Make sure you keep it fun so I’m still doing it at 40.
-True friends — even those you don’t talk to regularly — are those who will answer a phone call, email or text from you when you’re having a bad day and will sit and listen to you for an hour.
-It’s never too late to make lasting friendships.
-Those amazing pictures from the night out you see of that one person on Facebook? It’s once every few months, not every weekend. Trust me, you’re not the only one spending their Saturday night surfing the Internet, eating take out and watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory.”
-Develop a variety of interests.
-Stop thinking about how you’re behind major life milestones. The people who have reached those milestones often wish they could have waited a little longer.
-Drink more water.
-Don’t take life too seriously.
-It doesn’t matter what others think about you, because truthfully, they probably are thinking about you a lot less than you think.
And remember that Lee Ann Womack said it best: I hope you dance.
What would your 40-something self tell your 20-something self?
If you know me personally, then you know I love to travel. There’s something about seeing new places and meeting new people that puts a smile on my face and makes everything seem like it’ll be OK.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to travel two days for work to cover some stories in the central and western part of South Dakota. I then had four days off and traveled for three of them to see parts of the country I’d never been to before.
My five days of travel started bright and early Wednesday with a six-hour drive to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to cover the 40th anniversary of the Wounded Knee occupation. I’ve been to Pine Ridge several times in the past year and am constantly amazed by its beauty. Growing up in Oklahoma, people usually assume that I’m a farm girl, or at least that I’m someone who knows her way around the dirt roads. I assure you, I’m not and I don’t. Yes, I grew up in Oklahoma, but I grew up in suburbia, in the outer edges of a city of 300,000. I don’t know my way around farming, agriculture, ranching, horses or small towns. But since being in South Dakota, I’ve learned to appreciate it and see how breathtakingly beautiful it is.
The Wounded Knee occupation occurred in 1973. It was a 71-day standoff between members of the American Indian Movement and the federal government. Wednesday was the first anniversary since one of its leaders, Russell Means, died in October from throat cancer.
Reporting on Pine Ridge has its challenges, including lack of resources like bathrooms and electricity and having to drive vast distances. But I love it.
The next day I woke up at 5 a.m. and headed to another Indian reservation, this one about four hours away. I had never been to Lower Brule and was excited to see how it compared to the others I’d been to. It was much smaller but still had character. I wrote about the deputy Agriculture Secretary meeting with tribal leaders and toured a Native American-own company that makes and markets its own popcorn. Lakota Foods is seen as a success story with lots of potential in South Dakota’s Indian Country.
Once I had my story filed for the day (completed at a local Arby’s), I officially started my road trip adventure. For the next four days I didn’t worry about deadlines, interviews, appointments or bills. All I worried about was enjoying the solitude and exploring new areas.
I went ahead and stayed around the area because I was so tired after two days of working more than 10 hours. One of the best things about traveling in the off-season in South Dakota is that it’s much cheaper. I was able to stay at one of the nicest resorts in town for about $80. I spent my evening switching back and forth between the hot tub and the heated pool before heading out to a local restaurant to try walleye for the first time.
Friday morning saw me driving through the Badlands. If there is only one reason to visit South Dakota, it’s to see these stunning creations. I’ll drive hours out of my way just so I can continue to drive through Badlands National Park and gaze out my window.
About four hours later I arrived in Rapid City and to another hotel that I snagged a great deal on. The Alex Johnson Hotel, which was built in 1928 and is on the National Historic Register, is located in the heart of downtown Rapid City. In peak season, rooms can go for up to $200. I got mine for $60. It was also where I spent that evening. You see, the Alex Johnson also has a rooftop bar with an amazing view (and overpriced drinks!), and it’s where I met two new friends I had connected with on Pine Ridge a few days before.
On Saturday, I drove through Wyoming to catch sight of Devils Tower National Monument, the first national monument created in the United States. The site is considered sacred by the Lakota tribes and there are several different theories about how the formation was created. One Lakota story says that a group of girls went out to play and were being chased by bears. To escape the bears, the girls climbed up rocks and prayed to be saved. The Great Spirit, called Wakan Tanka, heeded their pleas and made the rocks rise from the ground to the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears then clawed at the sides of the rising rocks, which created the deep grooves.
After Devils Tower, I continued north along the desolate interstate to snap more photos of the flawless sky. I might have danced in the middle of the road a few times, too. Don’t worry, though, there were no cars in sight.
Amazingly, the temperature was about 60 at this point. I had to turn the AC on in my car at one point and could only smile to myself as I thought about the suckers dealing with snow and freezing temperatures in eastern South Dakota.
Montana was next on my list. I had initially just planned on crossing into the state, but after looking around the tiny town of Broadus and realizing I still had a few hours of light left, I decided to head to Miles City, population 8,000, where I walked around downtown and spent the night.
It was another early morning on Sunday as I prepared to drive 12 hours through Montana, North Dakota, down through central South Dakota and back to eastern South Dakota. I finally got to see what North Dakota’s booming oil patch is like. Because it was Sunday morning there wasn’t a whole lot of oil activity going on, but I did see many of the wells and lots of trucks pulling equipment through the streets. New apartments seemed to be popping up all over to keep pace with the growing population, too.
Then it was on to Bismarck and down to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation where I stumbled upon this monument to Sitting Bull:
After that, it was a straight shot back home through freezing rain and snow to collapse in my bed.
All told, I drove more than 2,000 miles over five days. It’s not something I’d recommend to do all the time, but it was great to get away, see new parts of the country and leave some of my worries at home for a bit.