I had the best intentions, honestly. When I first wrote a post about the places in my own country I wanted to visit, I meant it as a way to take action, to get out there and see more of the U.S. I listed places I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, but for one reason or another just hadn’t made it happen. Last year I took a look at my original list and was slightly horrified to realize that I had visited none of the places in the roundup. Not good. So, in another effort to get my butt in gear I wrote a follow up post; surely then I’d start taking action and try harder to see some of the amazing places found around the country. Well, I just read through that post and it’s been yet another failure. Two posts over three years and I haven’t visited any of the places on my so-called American bucket list. I’m getting a little fed up with myself, so this is it. This is my final attempt to wake up, book a flight and get out there and explore more of my own country. Why haven’t I though? Because in all honesty, my interest has always been overseas. I love exploring new and foreign places, learning new languages and trying new foods. It’s exciting and just thinking about visiting a new country is enough to put a smile on my face. The same hasn’t been true of planning trips around America, which I guess is a little shameful of me to say, but it’s true. I’m blessed to live in a country so large and so amazing and it’s part of my duty as a good citizen to see more of it. So, with this last and final list, I hereby give myself 1 year, 365 short days to complete at least half of this list. In one year I will report back, but I really and truly hope that this time is different, that this time I really do make more of an effort to get out there and explore more of the U.S.
This was the first one listed on my old post and it still holds top place in my heart. Steinbeck once called it The Mother Road and from the Dust Bowl to the American Renaissance in the 1950s, this road has held a special place not only in the hearts of Americans, but of people around the world. It hearkens back to an era when anything seemed possible, when taking to the open road was an adventure and the fun truly was in the getting there. While Route 66 technically doesn’t exist anymore, it’s still possible of course to drive huge parts of it as you meander from Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, California. Along the way are quirky roadside attractions, strange motels and national wonders that rank amongst the top in the world. Yes, I want to see and experience all of those things but I also want to reconnect with my own country, one I love dearly and of which I am fiercely proud. Just as people did in the 1950s and 60s, I want to experience a great American road trip and to discover aspects to the American experience that I don’t even know exist.
I’ve been to Florida scores 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.
The 9 Remaining States I Haven’t Visited
Well before I adopted travel as my profession, I traveled a lot around the country both for work as well as personal enjoyment. As a kid I lived in a lot of different states and my parents’ aversion to flying meant long road trips whenever we went on vacation. Through all of those travels, I was lucky enough to visit most of the country. However, I haven’t been to every state and this year I am determined to see them all. On the list are: Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas, Iowa, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming. As you can see, most of them are situated next to each other in the northern-middle part of the country. There’s no specific reason why I haven’t visited these states, the opportunities just haven’t come up. While I’d very much like to see them all, Alaska holds a place higher up on that list than the others. There’s just something about Alaska, an allure that calls not only to me, but thousands of others from around the world. It’s America’s last outpost, our final terrestrial frontier and I’d love to spend some time exploring it.
Speaking of which…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.
I love Hawaii and have long ached to see some other Pacific possessions, many of which most Americans don’t even realize are (sort of) part of the country. The territories in the Pacific include: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands as well as many other reefs, islands and atolls that are dependent areas. The problem so far is that these places are all far away, small, hard to reach and expensive to do so. Still, I’m very curious about them, their cultures and how being (sort of) a part of the US has affected them – or not. This is a long-term goal, but one I hope to someday achieve.
I know, I know, but it’s not on here for the reasons you think. In the last few years Detroit has been a favorite destination for the frequent-traveler set because they sadly wanted to participate in disaster tourism when Detroit was going through its darkest days. The city is doing much better now and I want to go because 1) I’ve never been and 2) it looks like a lovely place. A result of the economic downtown in the city is that new and creative businesses have sprung up in the most unlikely of places and I want to see them, I want to talk with the folks who live there and I want to learn more about this, one of the most iconic cities in the country.
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.
Revisit the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is one of my personal favorite areas of the country and I think a great spot to visit for any first time visitor. Seattle in particular is a fantastic option because there’s so much to see and do both within the city limits and just a short drive beyond. Like any city, just walking around Seattle is part of the fun and a visit to the touristy but enjoyable Pike Place Market rewards folks with fresh fish and the original Starbucks. I love quirky museums and Seattle has plenty of those like the Experience Music Project Museum. Great daytrips include Mount Rainier, San Juan Islands and the Olympic Peninsula and once you’re back in town the food options all around town are plentiful with a little something for everyone. I think of the Pacific Northwest as America’s fun-loving, outdoorsy side and it’s an important aspect to our personality about which everyone should learn more.
What’s on your American travel bucket list?