Believe it or not, Utah has become a hot vacation destination this year — at least for my family and friends.
Moving to Utah last October opened up another state for exploration for my loved ones, especially with the allure of free room and board. It probably doesn’t hurt that temperatures have been unseasonably warm here and bitterly cold in much of the Northeast, either.
My wife and I are in the midst of a gauntlet of visits, which includes my best friend, parents, sister, sister-in-law and college friends. It started in February and may run right through May, with family and friends descending on us about every other week.
I can’t really blame them for looking for an escape — New York has been doing a fairly convincing Arctic Circle impersonation this winter. My parents came to visit this past week, escaping 30 inches of snow on the ground and a February that had the coldest average temperature since that statistic has been recorded in many upstate New York cities.
Considering you can count the number of times it snowed here this winter on one hand, with fingers to spare, Utah feels like a tropical paradise by comparison.
I’ve done my best to not rub in the fact that I’ve eaten ice cream outside in shorts a few times this February. For someone used to frigid, windy winters, I feel their pain.
Beyond the abnormal weather, another draw for friends and family has been the chance to see a new part of the country.
When you live on the East Coast, traveling out west isn’t uncommon. Most of that travel ends up in Oregon, Washington, California and Arizona, however.
As a result, Utah remains uncharted territory for most of my friends and family. That lends an extra novelty factor to experiencing life elevated.
Some people may even be visiting to see my wife and me, though that’s been hard to prove with any confidence. Regardless of the reason, it’s going to be a busy few months with one whirlwind visit after the next.
I’ve found hosting, especially for someone who has only lived in Utah for a few months, can be a stressful experience. I want everyone who comes to have a great time and worry our guests will be bored while I’m at work.
Lucky for me, Utah is a state with plenty of things to do, especially with the unseasonably warm temperatures. The snowboarders and skiers will be a bit disappointed, but there seems to be a state or national park just down the road from anywhere.
The state is beautiful in a way that is alien to the East Coast, which is dominated by rolling hills, green trees, rivers and lakes. Once you’re in the desert or salt flats, you can see why Hollywood used those areas as stand-ins for other worlds in films like “John Carter” and J.J. Abrams “Star Trek.”
If you’ve had your fill of nature, Salt Lake City provides entertainment, shopping and culture. Even the Jazz are playing better, their end-of-season turnaround promising a good show for our visitors.
The visits are exhausting, exhilarating roller coasters. Seeing familiar faces is always welcome, but especially when you’ve moved 2,000 miles from home.
The high of picking someone up from the airport is followed by a sense of normalcy. You can fall back into routines and interactions easily when you’re with people you care about.
When the weekend of a visit arrives, you’re suddenly compelled to cram as much as possible into the few hours that are left. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’ve crossed off nearly everything on your guest’s to-do list and everyone is exhausted.
Suddenly, you’re dropping them off at the airport and left wondering where the time went. A week just doesn’t seem long enough once you’ve readjusted to having your favorite people back in your life.
By the time we return to our empty house, my wife and I are ready for a vacation ourselves. There isn’t much rest for the weary, however, as the next visit is around the corner.
I’m doing my best to enjoy the inundation of visitors, since I know in most cases it may be a one-time thing. People get busy with their lives; they move, have kids, start new jobs and buy homes.
As a result, week-long trips to Utah start becoming less common. If we want to see family and friends, it will be when we make trips back home on the holidays.
Then we’ll get to do our own version of whirlwind trips; visiting both our families, which live over three hours apart, and squeezing in time for friends on free evenings. If we have kids, the difficulty will only ratchet up a few notches and we’ll have even less time to see everyone we’d like.
It’s just part of growing older and apart, which seems inevitable. I’m just glad I live in an era where communication is quicker and easier than ever before.
It’s amazing how well a call on FaceTime or Skype can fill the gap of time between seeing loved ones. It sure beats writing a letter or a phone call in my opinion.
So don’t confuse my description of these visits as some sort of nuisance. They may be a roller coaster ride but it’s a great feeling to have so many people care enough to come visit (even if it’s for the free room and board).