Alison Marie Smith

Life, Leadership & Spiritual Formation in Lonely Places

Ten Reasons Why I Love Utah

On Tuesday, I shared vulnerably about how difficult is has been living in Utah.  During our first year, I wrote a bunch of haikus for fun. For a little levity, here is a funny and honest haiku I wrote during our first year in Utah. I realize it doesn’t quite meet the syllable requirements for a haiku but who cares!

I hate the mountains
No I don’t; that doesn’t make sense
They are unfamiliar

(It’s ok, you can laugh)

It can take a long time for a new place to truly feel like “Home”- I’ve learned I have to be patient and seek out God in the midst of discontent and unfamiliarity. Even though I don’t feel quite settled here, I really do love Utah. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Healthy Lifestyles are a high value in Utah.

Sean at the top of the "Living Room" hike in SLC. Rocks have been set up like sofas and arm chairs.

Sean at the top of the “Living Room” hike in SLC. Rocks have been set up like sofas and arm chairs.

Utah is an amazing place to live because there are so many ways to pursue health. Living in Salt Lake City, we are 30 minutes from the nearest ski resorts, 10 minutes from the nearest hiking trails, and within walking distance of several well-maintained parks. Utah is also incredibly bike-friendly. There are several nationally ranked and locally owned running stores. My favorite, Salt Lake Running Company, offers free yoga every week, free running groups, and free informational classes such as nutrition for runners, foam rolling workshops, injury evaluations, etc… Did I mention all of that was free?

2. Along with #1, Utah is one of the coolest places to be a runner.

From the SLC Half Marathon. I included this awkward finish line photo just for you. You're welcome.

From the SLC Half Marathon. I included this awkward finish line photo just for you. You’re welcome.

Running is so much fun in Utah. You feel pretty BA knowing that you can run a 10 min/mile at 4,200 ft. There are several parks with paved trails that make running safe. My favorite place to run is Sugarhouse Park; it has a 1.4 mile paved loop. I also love running in my neighborhood and running up by the University. There are tons of races you can sign up for, including several nationally ranked half-marathons through the National Parks. How could you not love running here with views like these?

Sugarhouse Park, my favorite running spot.

Sugarhouse Park, my favorite running spot.

A pic from a run last summer

A pic from a run last summer

3. There is a large refugee community.

In a previous post, I shared about how I have volunteered with a local refugee non-profit for the past 3 years. Refugees are people who have been displaced from their home countries because of war and persecution. There are over 43.7 million refugees world-wide. Since 1985, Utah has welcomed over 50,000 refugees and settles between 1,000 & 1,200 refugees each year. I love that I have met people from countries such as Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Iran, Nepal, and Vietnam.

This is the family I mentor. Amisi, 2nd from the left, graduated high school this year!

This is the family I mentor. Amisi, 2nd from the left, graduated high school this year!

Refugees are among the most resilient, strong, and determined people I have ever met. Imagine experiencing war, torture, and persecution to such a degree that you have to flee from your home country. Often, you might be placed in a “temporary” refugee camp for years before being allowed to return home or being placed somewhere else permanently. Then imagine being permanently placed in a country where you don’t know the language or anything about how to get your needs met. Intense right?

Once refugees are settled, they have to learn quickly- the language, the cultural expectations, etc…- in order to adapt and thrive in their new home. Refugees are amazingly. To learn more about refugees, click here to read some inspiring stories.

4. There are FIVE National Parks

Yes, Utah is home to FIVE National Parks, wow! All of the parks are in Southern Utah, about a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City- Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef. When my husband and I travelled to our first National Park, Bryce Canyon, 3 years ago, my feelings toward Utah shifted- from hate, to like, to love. The parks in Utah make you feel like you are on a different planet. The colors and features and amazing, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

My man and I in a slot canyon in Southern Utah.

My man and I in a slot canyon in Southern Utah.

In addition to the National Parks, there are many beautiful state parks, such as Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. There are also several nature preserves and national monuments. My favorite is the Grand Escalante National Monument where you can hike to see The Wave. This was the coolest place I have ever been:

The Wave, in Grand Escalante National Monument, picture by my husband, Sean Smith.

The Wave, in Grand Escalante National Monument, picture by my husband, Sean Smith.

5. The climate is fantastic

Blue Bird Day in the middle of winter.

Blue Bird Day in the middle of winter.

Growing up in Michigan, I was used to frigid, icy winters and horribly humid summers. Salt Lake City is considered the high desert, with dry summers and FEW mosquitos (hallelujah!) and fairly mild winters. We have beautiful white winters but the temperature rarely dips below 20. Last winter I scraped my windshield a total of 2 times- crazy huh? Most of the snow accumulates in the mountains which is why our license plates brag that we have “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” We get to experience all four seasons and the sun is almost always shining. Cloudy days are few and far between, blue-bird skies are the norm.

6. Utah college students are the best

I love these humans!

I love these humans!

Utah is a hard place to start a Christian ministry. Many people have invested here for years without seeing any progress or growth. I am so blessed to have such amazing students who are part of Greek InterVarsity. I have wanted to quit many times over the last 4 years and my students are often one of the only reasons why I don’t. Students who go to school in Utah know how to serve, persevere and take risks. They care for me in such amazing ways and lead with integrity and passion.

7. In-N-Out Burger

The coveted burger place of the west has several locations in Utah. My favorite is the cheese burger, animal style, with no pickles or tomatoes. That is heaven on a bun right there.

Animal Style, om nom

Animal Style, om nom

In addition to In-N-Out there are SO many good restaurants in Utah owned by well-known chefs and celebrities. Ty Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, owns 2 local bars, Bar X and Beer Bar, that frequently win dining awards. Because of the high refugee population, we also have a diversity of dining experiences such as Ethiopian, Tibetan, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants. There is a Salvadoran restaurant right down the street from my house- mmmm pupusas… Here are just five of my favorite restaurants:


The Wild Grape

9th South Deli

The Chow Truck – AMAZING Asian fusion food truck

Bruges Waffles & Frites

8. Our church community and friends are wonderful

Sean and I have been members of Capital Church for the last 2 years. Capital is a growing church in Salt Lake City that is incredibly hospitable and cares in sacrificial ways for the community of Salt Lake City. The women’s ministry has been such a support system for me and they serve my students with prayer, home-cooked meals, and lots of love. The church as a whole is very supportive of InterVarsity and loves college students. Most of my students attend Capital Church and serve in various ways.

We also have supportive and encouraging friends. My BFF Mariah is my running buddy and soul sister. And my sorority has a wonderful local alumnae club. We are blessed by the community the God is beginning to grow.

Mariah and I after the SLC Color Run- love this lady!

Mariah and I after the SLC Color Run- love this lady!

Sweet Valentine from my Pi Phi sister, Ashlee.

Sweet Valentine from my Pi Phi sister, Ashlee.








9. It is good for my marriage.

Moving across the country was one of the best things for our marriage. Without friends or family nearby, this transition forced us to rely and depend on each other, growing our trust and respect for one another. For the first year or so we would joke that we had no friends but each other; moving not only deepened our love but it also strengthened our friendship. Also, while being away from family has been difficult, it’s also been a blessing in many ways. I have some complicated relationships in my own family. I certainly love my family but it would have been difficult for us to establish healthy boundaries and ways of relating to my loved ones had we stayed in Michigan. The geographic distance gave us a chance to develop as a couple and define what we value and how we want our family to operate.

You know you married a winner when they take you to urgent care AND take this beautiful picture of you.

You know you married a winner when he takes you to urgent care AND take this beautiful picture of you.

10. It is good for me. 

An award I got for work a last year- yes our awards are wooden paddles...

An award I got for work a last year- yes our awards are wooden paddles…

This is probably the best and hardest part about living in Utah. As I’ve stated in previous posts, the last 4 years in Utah have been hard and painful- both personally and professionally. I’ve battled anxiety and harbored feelings of anger, bitterness, hopelessness and uncertainly. Even though it was been so hard, I would not trade any of it for how it has formed me as a person.

Over these last 4 years, insecurities have been exposed and healed. God has developed me into a more confident and assertive person. I am more secure in my identity and I feel empowered as a woman in ministry. I have encountered God in new ways that have deepened my relationship with him and strengthened my faith. I’ve experienced God’s peace in amazing ways and I’ve learned what it means to be content and patient in times of uncertainty and confusion. I love myself and God far more than I did when we lived in Michigan. If we had never moved to Utah, I’m not sure if I would have grown in the ways I have. I am grateful to God that in his sovereignty knew that moving would be deeply painful but deeply good for me.

For all of its heartache and loneliness, I love living in Utah because it is good for me. 


What do you love about where you live? Share your thoughts.

1 Comment

  1. I had no idea In-N-Out was in Utah! You DO live a good life, haha.

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