I think most of us are guilty of not properly exploring the areas around where we live. Instead we jet off to new and exciting destinations, forgetting that some of the best places are close to home. I live in the United States, a wonderfully large and diverse country that would take a lifetime to fully explore, if that’s even possible. While I’ve seen a lot of America, there is still much to explore and here are some of the places I most want to visit but haven’t yet found the time or opportunity.
1. Route 66 – If there’s an American dream, the road you take to get there is Route 66. This stretch of road originally ran from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California and along the way the sights and sounds have come to exemplify everything that is great about the US. Our adventurous and free spirited personalities are best suited to cars and there is perhaps no better road to recapture this American spirit than this famous road. Made truly famous after World War II when millions of families finally found the time and money for vacations, the kitsch that made it great remains and you will find a classic cross section of American life if you follow the route all the way through. I’ve never done a great American road trip and it’s something that has been nagging at my travel soul for a few years now. My dream is to drive the entire length of the route slowly, taking in the life along the way and hopefully rediscovering what makes America both so weird and great at the same time.
2. Key West – I’ve been to Florida probably hundreds of times and have explored much of the state, all except for Key West. The part of the state I would probably enjoy the most has been elusive for me, although it’s not from a lack of desire. The image I have of the Keys is a relaxed, slow paced part of the world firmly divided between worlds – the frenetic US and the not so frenetic Caribbean. Key West has a long history of accepting into its borders those who didn’t quite belong anywhere else, social pariahs that couldn’t seem to live in modern society found their own paradise in the Keys. That tradition has created a warm, accepting community that fits well against the tropical paradise it is so well known for. See! I know a lot about Key West, now the next step is to actually spend some time there.
3. Alaska – If there’s a last great American frontier, then it is Alaska. This massive state dwarfs its nearest competitor in size and scale, even if only a relative handful of people call it home. Perhaps one of our greatest acquisitions, Alaska has come to personify escapism for many. It’s removed from the rest of the country and the shocking size and beauty of the state are unparalleled. I would love to spend some time exploring as much of Alaska as possible, from the remote towns accessible only by plane to the parks and open space that make it the stuff of legends.
4. The National Parks – In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, efforts were led to conserve certain areas of the nation as permanent areas of protection. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was created as the world’s first truly national park. Over successive generations and the integral leadership of men like President Theodore Roosevelt, a new concept was introduced to the world; one that has benefited man in ways few of us truly appreciate. The North American model of conservation and wildlife management was a new and exciting concept and is one that has been replicated by countries and regions around the world. As Americans this model saved our cultural inheritance from loggers, miners and speculators and it is because of this that we can still enjoy areas of the country so special and so important that without them part of our American identity would be gone. There are now 59 national parks in the United States and many more national monuments and sites that together have saved the physical reflection of what it means to be an American from certain extinction. The national parks of the West in particular have always captured my imagination and I’m sad to say that I haven’t visited even one of them. I would love to one day see the wonders of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Arches and others to witness firsthand the remarkable natural beauty of our country and to say a silent prayer of thanks to those who toiled to make sure they still exist for me to enjoy today.
These are just a few of the many places on my American bucket list – what are yours?