Chautauqua in Boulder: Exploring alternative lifestyles

Since we’ve been driving around the US, we’ve had time to reflect on the life we live and how we can improve it.

Not working full time for the past six months has meant that we’ve been a lot less stressed and have become to realise that working a desk job from 9-5 isn’t the life we want for ourselves.

We’ve also met some amazing people on the road who’ve inspired us to live more creatively and healthily.

Dogs at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

There’s no ‘one way’ to live your life but we’ve been busy exploring the best ways for us to live our lives

 Embracing creativity

In Seattle we stayed with an artist and her husband. Lori had quit her corporate desk job some 20 odd years earlier and had a studio in her basement where she made ceramic art and jewellery that was exhibited in local galleries.

She’d simply followed her passion – and even though she is completely self-taught – this love for art had paid off.

Getting healthy

In Crescent City near the Redwoods Forest we stayed with Patri who was a vegetarian and fed us delicious homemade fare. She looked 10 years younger than what she was and she had radiant skin.

Soon after we watched the documentary Forks over Knives which is all about a plant-based diet and its health benefits. Although we’ve struggled to give up dairy (no eggs?! No way!) we have been vegetarians for nearly two weeks now and are loving the results. Dave has dropped five pounds and my skin has never looked so good.

 Couchsurfing

Then when we were in San Francisco we went along to a screening of the Couchsurfing documentary, called One Couch at a Time, and met a bunch of people who both open their homes to travelling strangers and crash on stranger’s couches when they are travelling.

Regrettably we still haven’t couchsurfed but it’s certainly an experience we WILL do before we return to Australia.

The documentary was very inspiring and explored the ‘share’ economy which, rather than portraying young people as selfish – something the media is great at doing these days, shows that young people are innovative enough to find ways to meet people and share experiences of their local community with them.

We really enjoyed that night and it certainly peeked our interest in the couchsurfing lifestyle and the characters who do it.

Dining Hall restaurant at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

The postcard perfect Dining Hall at the Chautauqua in Boulder

Chautauqua in Boulder

Anyway, after experiencing all these alternative ways of living, we were really looking forward about going on the Chautauqua tour in Boulder, Colorado, to experience an alternative lifestyle from more than 100 years ago.

The Chautauqua (pronounced SHH-TAR-K-WA) movement was originally founded back in 1874 to teach Methodist Sunday school teachers how to improve their classes. But soon the movement grew and began to teach not only religion but all different types of adult education from literature to science and included topics from the arts to public affairs.

The movement set up camps around the US and also turned into travelling gypsies in some regards, hitting the road to teach people in different communities around the country.

A squirrel enjoys his food at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

A squirrel enjoys his food at the Chautauqua in Boulder

Towards the end of the 19th century, a Chautauqua was built up in Boulder, Colorado – a location which was thought to be chosen because of its spectacular mountain setting and ‘health-giving environment’.

If you visit the Boulder Chautauqua today it’s easy to see why the location was chosen. Backing on to the Flatirons – a section of mountain that has jagged rocks sticking up into the air – and surrounded by mountainous hiking trails, it is spectacularly beautiful.

Although in the mid-1930s the movement sadly died out because of the rise in radio and car culture meaning people could easily have access to mass media and travel, the Boulder Chautauqua has been beautifully restored so you can see just how life was like more than 100 years ago.

Future tearooms at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

One of the buildings at the Chautauqua – which is going to be turned into a teahouse this winter

 Our tour of Chautauqua

As part of the walking tour we were taken around the grounds and had the opportunity to look in one of the rustic cabins and the admin building.

Our guide Kent showed us historic photos and told us that on the opening day thousands of people flocked to the grounds to enjoy the celebrations.

Thousands of people still enjoy the grounds today – as it’s open to the public – and it’s easy to see why.

The admin building at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

The admin building at the Chautauqua

There are music events held in the hall and the dining room restaurant is a cosy setting from which to enjoy the spectacular views.

After the tour Dave and I went hiking up the Flatirons for a good couple of hours. We had views overlooking the valley and Boulder. Although many of the trails had been damaged by the recent floods, enough of the paths were still in a good enough condition to hike and so hike we did!

It was a great way to finish exploring yet another alternative lifestyle in the US – albeit one that is non-existent these days.

Have you ever visited a Chautauqua in the US? What was it like?

What alternative lifestyles have you learnt about recently?

The hall at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

The hall at the Chautauqua – it was built facing down into the valley for a type of old-school marketing

What you need to know:

Cost  $18 for adults.

When to go  Boulder Walking Tours offers the Chautauqua walking tour about twice a week throughout the months that aren’t winter. Rug up warm in the fall because it certainly gets chilly – it was quite cold when we did it. Most of the tour is outside.

How to get there Chautauqua is located a short drive from downtown Boulder at 900 Baseline Road, Boulder, CO 80302. There is limited parking on the grounds so it might be best to park on Baseline Road.

Boulder Walking Tours provided us with two complimentary tickets, but as always our views and work are our own.

A building in the playground at the Chautauqua in Boulder Double-Barrelled Travel

A beautiful building in the playground at the Chautauqua

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

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