One of the most reckless and euphoric weekends of my life had a bizarre beginning. As my flight was landing at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, I removed my headphones. First, I hear the woman next to me, talking to her teenage daughter about how tired she was, having been traveling for 15 hours. “I’m going straight to bed as soon as we get home”. Less than half a second later, I hear the two guys sitting in the row behind them talking about something going on in their Vegas-bound lives. “She was seriously a hoe”.
I wondered what it’s like to live in a place like this. I visit Las Vegas regularly, but never think of it as a place where people live. Most visitors just think of it as some sort of crazy amusement park-like place of gambling and entertainment. Nobody thinks of people working, raising a family, and doing normal life things here, but it does happen.
Do people who live in Las Vegas just become accustomed to being surrounded by talk of partying, gambling, and debauchery, the same way New Yorkers don’t think much of crowds and pollution, and people in West Texas don’t think much of the smell of feedlots? How would one go about raising a daughter in this town?
The majority of trips to Las Vegas don’t go anywhere beyond the Strip. However, Vegas does have more to offer. Like most other cities in Western North America, Vegas is surrounded by mountains, and recreation opportunities.
Only half an hour West of town is Red Rock Canyon National Preserve, the most high profile place for hikes and scenic drives in the vicinity of Las Vegas.
Before getting mired in the standard Las Vegas activities, I explored the place a little bit, driving to a few scenic overlooks, and going for a moderate length hike.
It was a good opportunity to get a little sun and exercise.
And even draw on the rocks to gave myself some good vibes for my upcoming gambling.
After last year’s trip to Vegas, I concluded that “The common thread to everything that goes on here is that people are enjoying themselves, embracing their wild sides, in their own way, and letting go of at least some component of the restriction they live under during their normal lives…” This year, possibly due to my current frame of mind, I felt even more free spirited, even more liberated. It felt like ALL THE RULES WERE LITERALLY GONE!
Nothing felt off limits.
It was as if everything external that had been stopping me from ever doing anything was just gone. Expectations from others. Fear of bad outcomes. Even the law of averages.
I rolled for 30 minutes at the craps table, winning myself some money, but winning some others at the table some obscene amounts of money. Some even made bets on my behalf out of appreciation!
While there were a couple of places where I lost a little bit of money, the winnings just kept on coming. All three nights I won big!
The drinks just kept coming, free when gambling.
Unlike in normal life, hangovers never set in, and I never felt like sleeping.
Normally, if I sleep only six hours (as opposed to the usual 7.5) on a given night, I am drowsy. On this 72-hour binge of over-stimulation, 90 minutes felt sufficient.
The overall stats for the trip….
- Three days in town
- Approximately 75 alcoholic beverages consumed
- Total sleep 7.5 hours
- Approximately 26 hours of total gambling
- Winnings of approximately $850
- Nearly all of which was on $10 tables
- Everything else: Well, as the saying goes “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”
Except my money! That comes back with me!
To make that happen takes self-restraint. When people win money in Las Vegas, Las Vegas tries to take it back! First, by getting people to gamble more through a combination of free drinks and making it difficult to find the exit to any casino. It takes some discipline to “Quit while you’re ahead”.
If one can leave the casinos without gambling away those winnings, Las Vegas will try to get it back on the Strip. I found out first had that Las Vegas has a way of spotting a winner. Maybe they can see it in people’s eyes, smiles, behavior and expressions of confidence. But they seem to know who is winning, and come after them.
Promoters trying to get people to go to clubs, sex workers, people trying to sell stuff both legal and illegal, even random strangers. They came for me, and, it felt like the more I won, the more aggressively they came. After the second night of wining, a promoter walked with my friend and I six blocks up the Strip trying to convince us to go to a strip club. After the third night of winning, I had to navigate through what felt like a mine field of sex workers who, when I told them I was good, responded “No you’re not, you’re alone.”
I did not need a set of rules, government involvement, societal pressure, or anyone watching over me to restrain from most of what Las Vegas was trying to get me to do. Nor did I have to take advantage of every single opportunity presented to me to feel as free spirited as I had felt in my entire life. I was liberated from external rules and expectations, not my own judgement. I confidently decided for myself what activities I wanted to take part in, without letting fear stop me, but also without letting fear of missing out (commonly referred to as FOMO) get met to do things I did not want to do or spend money I did not want to spend.
Going back to regular life after a weekend like this is difficult. Regular life, the average day, well there is no way it will ever compare.
Of course, this all was not in the least bit sustainable. My body could not handle even one more day of this. Anyone remotely close to my age seemed to be in suspended disbelief that I could handle what I did.
It is such as crazy mystery of life. Why are unsustainable habits frequently more desirable than sustainable ones? Why does it seem like the things we are told are good for us make us feel bad, and that the things that we are told are bad for us make us feel good? And why does the result of such things rarely seem to fit the narrative we are given?
I don’t profess to know everything about life, but this year I finally processed through a lot of what I had been observing over the past decade. We are taught so many things, through school, work, media, etc. about the way life is supposed to be lived. Assumptions are ingrained into our heads to the point where we do not even realize we are making them in our life decisions. These assumptions can, at times, be misguided, and even hold us back from making the most of our lives.
With no assumptions. With no “you should do this”, or fear of what happens when you “don’t do that”, life made more sense. It is just about getting over the fear of the unknown that lies beyond the divide. I do not know what is going to happen when I return to normal life. And, while I have no plans to run on two hours of sleep, or start drinking at noon, I do hope I can bring the confidence and spirit of self-determination back to “regular life” going forward. Many people look to rules to protect them. Like my weekend in Vegas, I would rather trust my own judgement to bring me to the right outcomes.