Americans have an ongoing love affair with the car and great open road.
To Americans, there’s nothing that holds more appeal than the classic road trip. It’s built into our cultural DNA dating as far back as the 1920s. In Jazz Age America, the car was a symbol of freedom — a chance to escape your small town and the watchful eyes of parents. It allowed men and women to sneak off together in a way never possible before. As the highway system was developed in the 1950s, a wave of kids set out on the road to explore the country, giving new life to America’s car and road trip culture.
And no road trip holds more mystery and allure than “the cross-country.” It’s the king of road trips. In 2006, as part of my original round-the-world, I drove across the United States before I went abroad. I left my home in Boston and spent close to two months traversing the country, getting as far west as Arizona before turning back east, driving across the Great Plains, and finishing in Chicago.
I wanted to get to know my country before I got to know others. But I barely scratched the surface of what the United States offered. I saw and experienced a lot — from the Rocky Mountains, to the Grand Canyon, Denver, post-Katrina New Orleans, and the Great Plains — but you don’t realize just how vast the country is until you’ve been driving for 12 hours and notice you’re still in Texas.
This country is big, and there is still so much more of it I want to see.
I decided to use the release of my new book as a chance to take another road trip across the country. From Memphis to Montana, Yellowstone, California wine country, Utah, Mardi Gras, and much more, it’s time to my gaze homeward and explore my own backyard again.
I have quite the long route in front of me:
I have a number of goals for this trip:
- Learn how to travel the United States on the cheap. I have a number of questions in my head: how do you get around easily and cheaply? What do you do for accommodation in a country not known for hostels? What are the optimal routes? How to find free parking? There’s so much I want to figure out.
- Write more content on the United States. Most of the U.S. content on my site dates back to that first trip in 2006. Back then, I didn’t look at travel with a writer’s eye. There’s going to be a lot of U.S. content coming up on the blog now!
- Hike a lot of national parks. I’m finally going to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, and Monument Valley, and see the giant redwood trees!
- Visit as many kitschy roadside attractions as possible (i.e., the world’s largest ball of twine).
- Most importantly, better understand the people in my country. I’m a deeply political person, and I want to know if the country is as politically divided the media makes it out to be. Are we really that far apart or do blowhard pundits make it seem that way?
Over the next few months you are going to see posts about cities, national parks, and regions in the United States. I have no international travel planned until June. (The general tips, thoughts, and advice articles will still occur with the same frequency, though!)
I remember the long, long drives across the States from 2006, so this time I’m looking forward to having friends (and readers) join along the way. If anyone wants to join for part of the trip, I’m open to having travel buddies on the road. Just send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll try to work something out.
To me, travel is more than visiting some far-flung exotic destination. It’s about exploring the unknown. It’s seeing new places and coming to a new understanding of how the world works together. Sometimes that means flying across an ocean and exploring a new country. Other times, it simply means getting in your car and driving off to explore your own country and learning to appreciate where you come from.