Featured image: “The Challenge Ahead” Swan Valley, Idaho

“Interesting Flagpole” near Hoback Junction, Wyoming.

When it comes to conferences, the last thing I want to do is get on a plane, fly to somewhere special, and go from the airport to the resort complex (granted, they are generally very nice) – and then, for the next two or three days, spend the bulk of those days seeing the resort from inside conference rooms.  When it’s over, I go back to the airport and return home without seeing the place I went. THAT WAS BEFORE COVID-19, but that is another story.

“Just before they closed the road”. Bridger-Teton National Forrest, Wyoming

The trip that prompted this article was in 2017. The Nazrudin gathering was held in South Dakota. Nazrudin is a very special collective of people from different backgrounds that mostly deal with people and their money stories.  We come from various fields. These include holistic financial planners like me or therapists, life coaches, authors, and others.  

“After the storm” Swan Valley, Idaho
“Between the Rain and the Snow”. Caribou-Targhee National Forrest, Idaho

Our view is there is more to the life planning issues that involve people and their money.  It is certainly more than asking a dozen or so questions.  The solutions are also a lot more complex then buying a Our view is there is more to the life planning issues that involve people and their money than choosing investments.  It is certainly more than asking a dozen or so questions.  The solutions are also a lot more complex than buying a few mutual funds. Some of the leading thinkers in financial planning in the world are Nazrudin members. This group changed my life and for the past twenty years has been my haven. These are my people.

“Wyoming Farm” Fall Creek Road, Wyoming

What’s near South Dakota? Yellowstone National Park of course, a place that has been on Donna’s and my bucket list forever.  We planned a road trip around the conference. What started as a three-day conference became a two-week holiday. We extended an invitation to Yvonne, Donna’s friend from high school, to come along. Yvonne has travelled with us to Greece, Turkey, Amsterdam, and on our safari to Tanzania. She has been a delightful travel companion. 

Before the sunset” South River Bend bridge
“Gand Teton NP

Once Yvonne accepted, it was a matter of planning the trip.  We would fly to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and spend three days. Then drive up through Yellowstone and use Gardiner, Montana as our home base for three days. After Gardiner we would head to Cody and then the conference in South Dakota.

“T.A. Moulton Barn” Mormon Row, Gand Teton NP

There are two takeaways from this trip: the first is that we made the time to add to the conference and included our friend, Yvonne. Yellowstone was not exactly a half an hour down the road, but we would be able to pack in so much more than just the conference. As a bonus, I would be able to include three more states on my life list (including that trip, I have now been to 44 states).

“Back in the Sunshine”.  Crowheart, Wyoming 

The bigger takeaway is how we faced adversity head on and dealt with it. 

“On the way to another beautiful spot” Boyson State Park, Wyoming
“The stories that these drawings can tell us”. Legend Rocks Petroglyphs State Park, Wyoming

September, the weather can be spotty. Jackson Hole sits at an altitude of 6,200 feet. Yellowstone’s plateau averages 8,000 feet with the mountains around the plateau reaching up to 12,000 feet.  The mountain passes that we had to travel through had to be from 9,000 to 10,000 feet.

We had great weather for an hour after we landed, then a freak snowstorm hit the area during our first day. All around Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks roads were being closed.  The timing was interesting as we managed to be one of the last cars that managed to get through the pass between Jackson, Wyoming and Victor, Idaho. The Idaho side was a valley with lower altitude and had intermittent rain which also made for fantastic photo opportunities like the title photograph.

“The unbelievable variety of landscapes in Yellowstone” Mammoth Hot springs, Yellowstone NP

We had another day planned around the Grand Teton area to see that park and Mormon Row another must We had another day planned around the Grand Teton area to see that park and Mormon Row, another must for my photo portfolio. The Yellowstone was still open, but none of our access roads through the park to Gardiner, Montana were open. I did not understand how six inches of snow managed to close the park roads. After all, I was Canadian and knew how-to drive-in-snow – I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WRONG!”. Eventually, six minutes on those roads convinced me they should have closed them after 3 inches.

“Sun sets over Gardiner, from Yellowstone” Gardiner, Montana

One consideration was to travel miles and hours out of the way to get to Gardiner. Another was to skip Yellowstone altogether. We found a third, out of the box solution, by reversing the sequence of accommodations. We would go to Cody first, then access Yellowstone from the North East direction versus South to North. We would need to reach out to the two places where we had accommodations booked, grovel, and change dates.  The hotel was no problem and accommodated us right away.  We could not reach the Airbnb host for another day. However, she too accommodated us.

“Strange Terrain of Mammoth Hot spring”. Mammoth hot spring, Yellowstone NP

The biggest takeaways are that we could have let the weather ruin our plans, but we changed and adapted to something we had no control over. In fact, some of my best images took advantage of the dramatic lighting caused by the rain clouds.

These challenges are tests and part of the lifelong learning we do on our journey. 

Yellowstone’s Exciting Roads

Yellowstone NP

Big Boy

Quite often, the “lessons” carry over into the financial planning realm.  In this case, we did a lot of planning to fit all those special places into the limited time we had. We set our goals of things to see and do. As can happen in any journey, things did not always work out as we planned.  There will be challenges and setbacks.  There are always things that are out of our control – it is our reaction that we can control. 

Dramatic Roads. Yellowstone NP

We can absolutely predict that long-term assumptions will have twists and turns. Being prepared for most situations is important. Understanding what is happening and how it impacts us is equally valuable.   

That’s why they closed the roads during the snow storm.  Yellowstone NP

NOTE: This is not a complete article if we do not address the 600-pound Gorilla currently in our lives – COVID-19. By most accounts, this is a “Black Swan event,” something so dramatic that it impacts us in unpredictable ways.  They are high profile, disproportionate, and beyond normal expectations. Another example was the “9/11 Twin Tower” plane strikes

More Exciting Roads

Yellowstone NP

How do we handle COVID-19?

Dramatic hillside. Yellowstone NP

Frankly, I am still a work in progress on this one. Here is what I do know. I cannot change it, so I must learn to cope with whatever is needed. I wear a mask, quarantine myself if needed, keep a safe social distance from others – even these three things are new to us.  We did not have any idea about any of these previously, but we adapted.

Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, Yellowstone, NP
Hide and seek, between the sky and mountains. Yellowstone NP

How does this relate to planning? We need to not panic and know that this too shall pass.  We can read or listen to people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle discuss how to cope in times like these. There are lots of examples of support programs and people helping each other. Take advantage of this opportunity to grow.

Our last photo stop in Yellowstone.

Life will be different; we are an indomitable lot and will overcome the adversity. We have no choice.

Old Faithful Geyser

Yellowstone NP

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