In this world of Instagram and influencers, everyone wants to go to “Instagram-worthy” international destinations like Bali and Saint Lucia. Those places are absolutely beautiful, and traveling for the sake of beautiful beaches and relaxation is important. However, let’s not overlook the beauty of experiencing everything that America has to offer.
When I was still in college, I realized that I had only been to 15 states. I had all these dreams of vacationing in Europe, but I hadn’t even seen half of the country I live in. I set out on a goal to visit all 50 states, and I think you should, too. Here’s why.
This is America
Part of what makes our country so incredible is our diversity. You could hike through the desert in Arizona one morning, and then hop on a flight and push through crowds in Times Square the very next day. You could eat at an expensive Italian restaurant, and then fly to Nashville the next day and have lunch at a family-run “meat-and-three.”
Our freedoms give us the right to live the way we want to, and our commercial transportation system allows us to experience all those different ways of living.
It can be hard to understand how different cultures are across America until you’ve met the native Navajo gift shop owner in Chinle, Arizona, the off-the-boat Italian man at the register at the gas station in New Jersey, and the sweet southern belle waitress at the Waffle House in Cookeville, TN.
That’s not even half of it. Think about the startup CEOs in Seattle, the corn farmers in Indiana, the college students studying at coffee shops in Boston, the veterans, and the immigrants that make up this country. We all live such drastically different lives, all within the same country with the same laws and rights.
Part of the reason why people live so differently across this country is the different landscapes. You can see a million pictures of the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, but you don’t fully understand the different ways of life in those areas until you’ve been there.
You’ll probably find way more hikers in Arizona, but you also may be more likely to find snowshoers in South Dakota. Both places are wholeheartedly American. Both places are full of museums, national parks, great restaurants, and microbreweries…but both places invoke different American lifestyles.
American culture is really just an accumulation of hundreds of different cultures. There aren’t very many other countries that can say the same thing.
See Tourist Traps AND Small Towns
There is no “wrong” way to experience America, but you can definitely learn more by immersing yourself in local cultures. Most of the time, I 100% believe that you should avoid tourist traps in favor of experiencing the true culture of a city. I’d rather visit the tiny local coffee shop that I didn’t see on TripAdvisor than the busy roadside diner that was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
That said, there is certainly value in seeing BOTH tourist traps AND small towns. Tourist traps like flashy restaurants and museums can provide great food and lots of fun that shouldn’t be ignored. However, it’s the more underground attractions and the small town vacations that will teach you about life in whatever section of America you’re touring.
For example, Denver is a fantastic city that I hope everyone can get to experience. However, not nearly as many people actually make it down to Colorado Springs (though that is changing). Colorado Springs is about an hour and a half’s drive away from Denver. The small-town feel will give you a better idea of what life is like in the majority of Colorado than the busy city of Denver will.
You can take that even a step further and drive an hour and a half north of Denver, into Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne is a geographically huge state but is the smallest by population. Cheyenne is an adorable and historic western town that every American should experience to get a feel for life in the American West.
Seeing is Believing!
Everyone learns differently. You may be someone who needs to read to understand, or you may be someone who needs a lecture. I learn best by experiencing and trying things for myself. Setting a goal to visit all 50 states before my 25th birthday was one of the best decisions I ever made. It forced me to check my country off the list before traveling abroad.
Today, I have a better understanding of the different people that make up this country than I ever thought I would.
Now I’ve ridden horses with a Navajo tour guide in Santa Fe, I’ve touched both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and I’ve seen the tiny town of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee was born and raised. I recommend you see all of the above and more to gain a better understanding of who we are as a country and what makes America so beautiful.
Happy travels. ❤
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