When you move to Colorado there are a few things that you’ll need to know:
- Altitude. I know this seems simple, but you’d be surprised how much it affects you at first. There is less oxygen. You will feel tired much quicker and may even take the occasional nap. After a few months you will be running the stairs like you live at sea level. That is, unless you’re carrying a laundry basket. Then you’ll still feel it – no matter how in shape you are. You may want to cut back on your alcohol intake until you acclimate. Or at least drink a water between each beer. It goes straight to your oxygen lacking brain. Be careful. Seriously.
- It’s very dry. You are truly a mile or more above sea level and it’s a high desert – at least in the Front Range. Your skin, your lawn, the air, absolutely everything will be dry. Invest in good lotion and be religious about it. Lip balm too. Don’t be surprised if you get a few nose bleeds when you first get here, too. Good news? No frizzy hair because there isn’t any humidity. Sunscreen – don’t forget it either. Between the thin air and being a mile higher you will burn quickly. Wear it daily.
- Water is scarce. If you want a green lawn be prepared to pay a lot for it. There are very few natural lakes and their level – along with the reservoirs, rivers and streams – vary greatly on the amount of snow we’ve gotten the winter before. We moved here from Minnesota…let’s just say I miss lakes. If you are used to spending a lot of time on the water, are from the coast, etc. this may be a hard thing to get used to.
- 14ers. I had no idea what people kept talking about. These are the peaks above 14,000′ and its quite a feat to reach the summit. You’ll hear people make plans to “climb a 14er this weekend” often. File this in your memory so you aren’t clueless like me and have to ask what the heck they’re talking about.
- Casual dress. If you dress anything above athleisure, expect people say that you look fancy. Office clothes are usually jeans and a t-shirt. If you work from home it’s perfectly acceptable to wear work-out gear all day long. Example: I was wearing an old, ratty sundress with flip flops and someone told me I was fancy and asked if I was going to a party. Take my advice. Invest in jeans & hiking shoes. Get rid of all your dresses, heels and maybe keep one nice dress or suit for weddings. When my husband wears dress pants and a button up shirt to work, people ask if he had an interview. PS – This doesn’t mean Coloradans don’t spend money on clothes. But more likely fleece, ski clothes or pretty much anything North Face or Patagonia.
- Subarus. Not kidding. They are everywhere. I heard once that every 1 out of 8 cars on the road in Colorado is a Subaru. I believe it. Don’t be surprised if you see an old Subaru with a rack on top carrying bikes, kayaks or snowboards worth more than the actual car! They are great in snow, incredibly reliable which is handy when deep in the mountains and have been a favorite of Coloradans for decades.
- Breweries. Hanging out at a brewery with your family is very common. There is a very European feel to it. People aren’t getting drunk, rather socializing with friends and hanging out as a family. My kids love to play board games with their friends, drink root beer and being together. Plan on stopping by your neighborhood brewery after your kid’s baseball game. Trust me, it’s not weird to have your kids there. It’s a family-friendly environment. Colorado is famous for it’s microbrews…so if you don’t drink beer, you will.
- Everyone has a dog. If you don’t have one, get one. Or two. And plan on taking them hiking, camping and everywhere you go. There are more dogs than houses on my block alone. It’s completely acceptable to take your dog into stores with you as well. I am embarrassed to tell you how much money I spent on my dog’s hiking backpack. However, your dog is expected to carry it’s own gear & water. Usually we make ours carry our picnic lunch too!
- Marijuana/Pot/Weed/Ganja. Contrary to EVERYONE we know and love outside of Colorado, pot is not being handed out on street corners. Marijuana became legal shortly after we moved here, but we didn’t notice any change. If you are keeping your eye out, there may be a sign advertising it…if you know what to look for. Otherwise, it’s not any different than alcohol. You can’t consume it while driving, in public, need to be 21+ to purchase, etc. I still know the same number of people who smoke here as I did living in other states. Other than the media hype, nothing seems different.
- Everyone is FIT. Not kidding. It’s completely normal to see a cross-fit mom at the pool in bikini with her kids and look better than you did at 18. Dad’s too (except the bikini part.) Everyone is active. If you are twenty pounds overweight, which feels average in the rest of America, you will feel huge. Positive note: It’s very inspiring to get off your butt and get moving. They also adorn their perfect bodies with tattoos. You’ll feel weird if you don’t have one. If I wasn’t such a wimp I’d probably get one…after I start running marathons or competitive bike racing. Oh yeah, buy a bike. Everyone has one.
- We love the environment! Stay on the trail, don’t tread on natural habitat, don’t pick wildflowers, put your campfires completely out, pick up your trash and keep our precious water resources clean. If not, be ready to be scolded by a hippie or soccer mom to do your part!
- Most importantly – your new neighbors will be the friendliest you’ve ever lived by. I think that’s because the state has grown by leaps and bounds in the past four decades. Most people are transplants and have had to improvise families through their friends. Even now, a generation or two later, that’s the case. People will genuinely include your family almost immediately. After moving twice in the last decade, I can tell you that’s rare. Trust me.
So, go out and get a dog, a bike, a tattoo, environmentally conscious water bottles, lip balm and sunscreen. Load it all up in a Subaru and head to Colorado. It’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make! Welcome home!