<strong>December 2022/January 2023 Edition Note</strong>

At the beginning of the pandemic, I started experiencing derealization. I felt like I was watching my life go by, like it was a movie. As the world was put on pause for almost two years, I fell into an everyday routine of questioning: Am I really living? Am I making the most of my life? 

After speaking with my therapist about this, she understood my concerns. She knew I loved to travel and see and experience new things. So she asked, “The world is beginning to heal, Makaela, so what’s stopping you from experiencing something brand new?” 

I was contemplating what that brand new thing could be for me. Then in September 2021, I knew what I wanted: to take my first solo trip. And I had two rules for my destination: go somewhere I’d never been and where I did not know a single soul. This is how I was going to start living again. 

I don’t know why, but something was pulling me toward a specific city: Denver. I booked all the accommodations just two weeks before leaving. And when I got off the plane and jumped into my rental truck, it felt right. It felt like an escape from reality — a breath of fresh air in the Mile High City, which is ironic since there’s usually altitude sickness when you first visit. I made a list of places I wanted to go to and things I wanted to see. I went horseback riding, visited the Garden of the Gods, University of Colorado Boulder, the Denver Zoo, and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Took the truck out in the mountains to see the stars at night. Drove for miles, turned down unfamiliar roads, and got lost on purpose. Tried local coffee shops. Dressed up and went out to eat by myself, and never went to the same restaurant twice. 

I had a magical moment at Red Rocks. I thought I’d spend 15 minutes there — instead, I spent three hours sitting in one spot. It was 90 degrees and the sun was beating down on me. But I was in awe. You could see everything in front of you for miles — lakes, the entirety of Denver, and nature all around you. It felt like you were on top of the world. 

About an hour in, the stage crew began testing sound for an upcoming concert that night. I felt at peace just listening. I didn’t question things that came up on a daily basis — anxiety, where I want to be in 5-10 years, etc. Some songs made me think how blessed I am to have what I have. And a specific song they were testing has become my favorite song to this day. Although it was hot and humid, I got goosebumps from the lyrics and the bass hitting against the rocks and wooden bleachers.

It’s that feeling when you hear your favorite song for the first time, and you wish you could experience it for the first time again and again. Every word spoke to me during that moment. A feeling deep inside was telling me, “You’re at the right place, at the right time,” and so far that’s been a rare occurrence. After two years of watching my life as a movie, I finally felt like I was back in my own body

Within a week, Denver captured my heart, and I hope to be back one day. Because of this trip, I promised myself back in January of this year that I would put my own priorities first. I may never be able to describe the feelings I had at Red Rocks or in Denver as a whole. But it will always have a special place in my heart.


Where are you happy, centered, and free? Where do all of your worries disappear when you’re there? What setting makes you realize not to take life for granted? What spot gives you that feeling of tranquility and rejuvenation at the same time? What does it look like? What sounds come to mind? Do you feel the sun crisping your skin? The waves touching your toes? Or do you feel a calm breeze on the top of a mountain? Or do you hear snow falling from a branch in the cold, winter forest? We all have that one place that brings us happiness and peace. It’s a breath of fresh air amongst life’s chaos. A spot that has changed you forever. 

For the next two months, we’ll be exploring our magical spaces. It could be physical settings, interior places, moments in time, spaces of this world, and beyond it! Where we find joy, serenity, and can be our authentic selves. Make sure to be on the lookout on our Instagram page when we ask you to tell us about your special place and why it’s unique to you.

When you close your eyes, where do you see yourself?

—Makaela Douglas
Web Content Strategist

Be in the know with Grotto