My friend Karen once set me up on a blind date. She told me that this guy loved traveling as much as I did. During the date he asked me about my travels and where I had been. I told him about my trips to Africa and South America and Europe. He started naming U.S. National Parks to see if I had been to them. Yosemite? No. Yellowstone? No. The Badlands? No. He couldn’t understand how or why I would leave the U.S. when I hadn’t experienced everything this country had to offer. “Why would you bother to go overseas when you have not even experienced the U.S.?” he asked me. Well, his condescending tone and his holier-than-thou attitude turned me off enough to not pursue a second date, but his words stuck with me. I do want to see and understand this country before I take off internationally. So I started my journey from San Francisco with a road trip to New York. I did see Yellowstone and The Bandlands and Mt. Rushmore and St. Louis Arch.
For three weeks I soaked in the U.S. and learned as much culture and history as I could stand. When I got to New York, I pulled out a map/Facebook app and realized that I was only about a half dozen states away from hitting all 50. I joke that there is probably going to be a parade and some confetti and a medal or something for me if I am able to hit all 50. With this parade as my incentive, I have set out again on a road trip to visit the rest.
At this point, two months into my travels, I am 4 states away for solidly visiting every state in the union. I am not sure if I
am going to get all of them on this trip, but I am going to try. (Oh, North Dakota, why are you so far from north?) I met a guy tonight in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who told me that Oklahoma is the best state there is, so I can stop right now. It made me laugh and realize how much pride Americans have not only in their country, but also in their states. Although some call pride a sin, I think it is kinda sweet and heartwarming, not a deadly in my book. So far, my takeaway is that in every state I have been to, I have found a different culture, a different set of values, a different language, and I think this is a good thing. America and the world needs diversity. I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is the same and everyone thinks the same way. I like how different Americans are wherever you go. My goal when I meet people is to find out how they are different than me, and then how they are the same. Common ground and a broader understanding and appreciation of my fellow man is the goal. There is something special and amazing about our country, and I will continue my journey around the U.S. and around the world with pride and love in my heart. Happy Birthday U.S.A.! Have a safe and fun 4th everyone.
P.S. If anyone knows someone in New Mexico, Wisconsin or North Dakota with an open couch, please let me know.