Domestic Travel Explorer: America Edition
After traveling abroad for so many years, my last few have been consumed with domestic travel in America, exploring its many people, regions and landscapes. This is such a large nation, filled with so many different aspects of culture and landscapes, exploring your own back yard may continually surprise you, as it has me.
America is complicated. It always has been with a most violent history but also for all of the promises of freedom and opportunity for all. These days I feel pulled between the negativity of political strife, education issues and systemic racism, and yet propelled by the positivity to champion it more than ever to share the many beautiful diverse stories, backgrounds, goals and ambition for the nation that is still young and forging a new path. To paraphrase Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost” – “[America]… you in danger girl.”
I am many generations American (Spanish & Native) on one side of my family, and Canadian (English & Irish) on the other, two countries which share many overlaps with some very different (& similar) outcomes. I have chosen to live the entirety of my adult life thus far in the United States, which has brought me both many gifts and frustrations, yet I love it still and feel compelled to improve it for everyone, and explore the many variations and landscapes throughout to better understand it, to connect to its people and places. There is no “one America”, no single type, town, or “All American”, but rather a beautiful mosaic that can only find itself stronger together if it can just move past its antiquated propaganda of divisional messaging. For all of the turmoil and negativity we have experienced over the last couple of years, I feel shaken awake from any lingering apathy and driven more than ever, propelled by the many people speaking out, and up, for each other, and the culture connection I have experienced in many towns and cities through my exploration over the past couple years has been beautiful indeed. I enjoy being a conduit for people’s stories — through writing, photography and the podcast — and hope that the American dream is still here in the ether, just waiting to evolve, be redefined, made better and find its light for everyone. So let’s get it together. With that said, let’s travel America….
Recently Skift founder Rafat Ali wrote about “The 21 Uncomfortable Truths That I Have Learned About the Travel Industry” which included this: “Domestic travel is completely ignored by all (in the travel industry), much to the loss of the plethora of small businesses that power the ecosystem of local travel.” This is a TRUE STORY. People live in judgment and fear when they don’t open themselves to new experiences and people. Of course this seems obvious on a global scale, but given the current state of America, what’s to say that isn’t also as important right here? I fancy myself open-minded but found some lingering misconceptions in the back of my mind that needed to be addressed, and the conversations I have had around the country from South Carolina to Montana, New York to California, Seattle to Miami, Nashville to Denver, have been illuminating.
Not only did I find people curious about me, traveling solo to their region from NY/LA (which is alien enough in some parts, yet strangely familiar through beloved tv & movie images), and learning about CO/AB roots (which oddly made me more relatable in other parts, perhaps because it lacked an assumed judgemental attitude) – but I found a lot of people from the big cities curious about those other places beyond the skyscrapers too, asking about my experience and plotting to visit themselves imminently, as though there was a part they were longing for. It seems we are all curious about each other, but still trepidatious about starting a conversation, siloed in our own familiarity of circumstance. (*I should note that I am aware that I can travel more easily than others can within certain communities, and that that privilege/responsibility I take seriously and use as an opportunity to try to break through maddening prejudices whenever possible. Though being a progressive woman in some parts has been interesting to say the least.) I live for those unexpected moments or conversations, which is why I embrace road trips at every opportunity to take in something new, which reminded me of this Gloria Steinhem quote from her beautiful book “My life on the road”:
As I have previously written about, there is a shift happening where people are moving and exploring new places/ways to live that ever before (Denver, Austin & Nashville are all growing like crazy for a reason), and I hope people continue to explore towns or all sizes and heritage, and support local businesses. I have driven by abandoned small villages to unexpected new tech towns, I have bonded with cowboys in the New Mexico desert, to tribal leaders in the Navajo Nation, to waitresses in Texas diners, to NASA female engineers in Alabama, to gay activists in Georgia, to miners turned coders in Kentucky, to jazz singers in New Orleans. You never know who you will meet next and what their story will be. Never assume you know. So if you are interested, some of the cities I have been asked most about – and my accompanying posts about them – include: