A few weeks have passed since returning from our 6,725-mile journey, and I think I’ve processed the trip. Of course, the point of the adventure was to see the things and drive the roads, which we did. Memories from the trip are the best souvenirs, as well as the thousands of photos I shot (some of which are actually quite nice). But every road trip I’ve taken, and there have been many, brings home a similar fundamental lesson; people are generally kind, and I need to stop being judgemental!
One of my favorite travel quotes is from Mark Twain; it decorates numerous travel blogs and probably some coffee mugs and tacky wooden signs sold in various tourist traps. It goes like this:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.Mark Twain
This quote is something more people need to read and heed during our current explosively divisive public discourse. I try not to judge people by their appearance, place of origin, or bumper stickers, but I fail a lot. It’s important work because judging is an easy trap to fall into, but the more people you interact with, the more you will see that stereotypes often apply to a small number of people.
I have traveled to all 50 states in the United States and visited over a dozen other countries, and every time I travel, I am reminded that people are pretty much the same, and no one country or state has a perfect way of doing things. So I shake my head when I hear people disparage folks from another state or part of this country, let alone another country. The odds are they haven’t visited that place and have only anecdotal evidence (if any) to support their opinion. If only they took the time to visit and meet people, they might find the truth is different than they think.
Our journey took us through a wide swath of the US, driving through areas ranging from what I would classify as extreme poverty to the poshest mansions. We encountered people of all walks of life; we saw many stereotypes personified (good and bad), but we also met so many good people trying to make their slice of the planet a better place.
Small businesses have had a rough go for the last year and a half, but we were encouraged by the establishments holding things together and poised to flourish in the future. So when you do hit the road, make sure you visit these places in your travels and prioritize your purchases with these vendors over the big-box chains.
The varied landscape of the US never ceases to amaze me. We drove through the forest, desert, high desert, mountains, geological formations that I can’t accurately classify, and the flattest of plains. All of this, and we were still only in a relatively small portion of the country. The United States is a rather amazing place to live. You really need to get out of your small portion of it to remind yourself how great it is.
I may be a romantic, but I love a road trip, and every time I return home, I feel refreshed and reinvigorated. There is so much out there to do and see. I will spend a lifetime trying to cover everything. I will fail gloriously, but enjoy every minute.
Not that this road trip, or any for that matter, was perfect. I had some issues with my car that I documented in earlier posts. The unplanned expenses of a new convertible top on the Boxster were enough to sully my mood for a good bit, but in the big picture, it’s all part of the game. We had to end things a little early because Crystal got sick. She’s healthy now, and that matters far more than hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Anything we couldn’t accomplish just gets added to a future trip plan. All is good.
I know not everyone can hop in the car and drive around the country for two months, but you can have a great adventure for much less commitment. Travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. A solid adventure that will expand your horizons can be done for not a lot of money with proper planning. Honestly, you may not even have to go that far; state parks are located throughout the country, check them out!
I cannot encourage you to hit the road and explore enough. There are great things to see and people to meet. A simple road trip to a place you don’t know might be enough to ease your stress levels and give you a new outlook. It may even be enough to break down some barriers you didn’t realize were in place. Even if it isn’t life-changing at the time, it will add to your experience and help you understand this crazy world and the people in it a little better.