A few years ago, when my friend Nicole and I came up with the storyline for Lost and Found in Aspen, we felt that our beautiful mountain town needed to be the setting, and it would play an important role in the story. Having both grown up in small suburbs, thousands of miles away from Colorado, we landed in Aspen much later in life, proud to call it our home.
My husband and I decided to move to Aspen on a whim. Life was treating us well. We had two small kids, lived in a suburb of northern New Jersey, about thirty miles from New York City, and we had a wonderful group of friends. But we were bored. We wanted to try something new, give ourselves an adventure of sorts, a different experience. Many years ago, after vacationing in Aspen, we planted a seed in our vision for the future: we would move there one day. The seed lay dormant for a long time, until the opportunity presented itself nearly a decade later. And that was it. We put our house on the market and took off in a U-Haul, like pioneers migrating to the west in search of a better life. Once we settled in our new land, we never looked back.
Almost everyone I’ve met in Aspen has a story to tell about how they ended up in our small mountain town. Some people thought they would come for a little while after college, some stopped in on the way to somewhere else. Ski bums came to ski, and some people were looking to escape the rat race. Regardless of what drove each of them to Aspen, there was something that kept everyone planted in the soil for good, along with a willingness to accept the sacrifices that one must make to reside full-time in an expensive vacation destination. With exorbitant real estate prices, proprietors who are dependent on the influx of seasonal tourists face a greater financial burden. In addition, other than the service industry, there are fewer business opportunities compared to major metropolitan areas, unless you can work from home, you’re willing to travel, or you have a large trust fund. Living in Aspen is a tradeoff: residents have given up conveniences at a cost––for a community that values the outdoor lifestyle, embraces nature’s gifts, and appreciates fresh mountain air.
For those of us who have made Aspen our home, we share a little secret. We innately understand that life is more about collecting experiences rather than a race to acquire material possessions. We are aligned with the ebb and flow of the universe. The tourists swell the town, then they go home. Dancing at the sight of the first snowfall in autumn, we look forward to another ski season. And just when we think we won’t have enough snow, it comes. We race for the slopes on a powder day, giggling down runs filled with cloud-like layers.
Winter is long, but then it melts and the flowers bloom. We hike to the top of the peak and relish in the magnificent views. We bike with the breeze blowing through our hair. We welcome and listen to renowned speakers, scholars, authors, politicians, and live concerts. On a sunny day, we sit outside at a restaurant, sipping drinks and watching a colorful array of tourists walk past. In that moment, we’re happy to be alive, elated to be exactly where we’re supposed to be––appreciative and grateful for the blessed wonders that grace and enrich our souls.
Aspen has given me an abundance of gifts, and this was why I wanted it to play a starring role in my debut novel, Lost and Found in Aspen. I wanted to shine a light—for those who’ve never been and for those who have—and celebrate the small town that gives me so much sunshine.