LAS VEGAS, NV—I only can stay in Las Vegas for 72 hours. A minute beyond that sweet spot and my experience sours. I’m just as happy to leave the city Sunday night as I was to arrive Friday morning. But what qualities or experiences make Las Vegas a wonderful weekend getaway?

Below, you’ll find three interconnected reflections illustrating why Las Vegas is a worthwhile (yet brief) travel destination. It’s an newfound understanding garnered through allowing myself to fully enjoy the city while traveling with friends. One only possible through getting up close with Las Vegas.

Opportunity 

Approximately 42 million visitors traveled from around the world for an opportunity to stay in Nevada’s most populous city in 2015. I numbered into that statistic. Driving back last year on I-15 after my brief  36-hour trip’s end, I vehemently vowed to never return to that desert city. Yet, earlier this year I contributed to the grand total for 2016 and found myself reflecting on an amazing experience full of fun times with old and new friends. Had the city changed? Or had I? In truth, both.

As in travel as in life, change is truly constant. Like a river transporting water slowly shaping its environment, change creates new opportunities out of the familiar. A wise old Greek philosopher once typed wrote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.”

Although Heraclitus might frown at the lack of running water cutting through Las Vegas today, adopting this attitude underlines the importance of opportunity in revisiting familiar locations. Besides, with opportunity comes something more compelling than water which gushes throughout this arid desert city.

Risk

Coursing through shimmering pools towered by glass hotels which reach for the bright sky to neon lit streets bustling and capturing the night, Las Vegas flows with an undeniable frenetic energy. At the heart of the city one will not discover a casino, day pool, night club, or restaurant which pumps such vitality to the body of Sin City. One will encounter risk. Risk embedded in these various institutions is equally exciting and terrifying. Will I win or lose money at the casino? Will he/she notice me at the day pool/night club? Will I be happy or sad with the cost of my buffet (Bacchanal!)?

Such conflicting thoughts surround risk. How then does one capitalize on the opportunity of risk and overwhelm its negative side? Take a leap in doing something meaningful outside one’s comfort zone while surrounding oneself with good friends old and new. Go ahead and gamble. Take a risk that excites you and offers the potential of a positive experience. Overcoming risk while traveling, particularly with the support of close friends, infuses a sea of electric energy into every aspect of a trip. It also produces an incredible individual present.

Reward

Letting the unknowns of tomorrow and the complexities of yesterday yield to the realities of today. Simply existing while dancing in the here and the now surrounded by many of favorite people earlier this year truly was an incredible reward. The present of being present. Gained through overcoming risk inlaid in opportunity. Afforded to me by a desert city from which I was self-exiled. Purposeful in its shared quality and euphoric nature. Thanks Las Vegas.

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