The United States of Chile

I’ve lived on the East Coast of the United States my whole life, except for four years at college in Ohio. Both of my parents are from the Midwest, so perhaps this explained why I went to school out there. I still have many relatives in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the United States. But back East, I find it crazy how many people here have never been to the Windy City or other metropolitan areas in the Midwest.

I scrolled through some of my Facebook friends’ “My Places” domestic check-ins and saw a lot of this North-South pattern seen above. It’s like we’re programmed to think only in a geographic North-to-South pattern from Boston to Florida. If you’re a middle class person from the East Coast, it’s like there’s an invisible wall, resulting in a shape that I’d call the United States of Chile.

This map is perhaps more accurate than my “Facebook places map” above. I think a lot of East Coasters head North in the summer and south in the winter. I wonder how this affects our point-of-view on the country?

Some notable observations that I saw in the Facebook data:

  • Arcadia National Park in Maine (this seems to be the farthest North we go)
  • Syracuse & State College, PA — large college destinations for East Coasters and perhaps the farthest West or North we’re willing to drive
  • The Research Triangle in NC (this and SC are big retirement destinations or places with good economies to relocate with good career prospects and affordable houses)
  • Florida. No surprise. From Disney, to Tampa, Miami, the Keys or other retirement destinations, this is our target area, though we skip the Florida panhandle (maybe because part of it is on Central Standard Time).

I then looked at nonstop flight information from some regional airports (not the major ones) in red and their nonstop destinations (even seasonal) in green. Yes, Minneapolis is seasonal for only one airport.

Regional airports in red and their nonstop destinations in green

Most regional airports seem to fly to Chicago or Detroit, but my guess is that many East Coasters use the Windy or Motor cities for a connection to someplace else. So where are the areas outside of the “United States of Chile” that we go to?

  • Outside of Vermont, skiers head to Colorado or Utah
  • Las Vegas, New Orleans and California are bucket list destinations
  • Irish Catholics head to South Bend and many African Americans trek to Atlanta

Chicago is an amazing city that I wish more East Coasters would discover. It’s even a cheaper flight than most Florida destinations! Cleveland has the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Nashville has gotten more recent check-ins because the Music City is really hot, but is still often overlooked. Even Indianapolis and Milwaukee, two cities that Chicagoland people enjoy making fun of, have big draws: Indy for its smart planning and “The Good Land” for its excellent craft beer scene. These aren’t flyover states.

Maybe its our ancestors migratory patterns? Maybe it’s all due to weather?

So my question to East Coasters: Have you visited any Midwest metros for leisure? If so, why?

To people from the Midwest, why do you think we overlook you?

Headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota. Lake Itasca is on the left, and the son and I are standing at the beginning of “The Big Muddy.”