As someone with an innate sense of curiosity and a case of wanderlust that can’t be ameliorated, I find my thoughts naturally flowing to the trips I will take once this quarantine is over and the pandemic threat has abated. Given the uncertainty of open borders around the world and a lingering threat of contagion though, it is likely those first few trips will be domestic. And you know what, that sounds great to me. A few years ago I realized that although I’ve visited all 7 continents and nearly 100 countries, I had done a poor job of exploring my own country. Many of us are guilty of this though; we tend to ignore that which is familiar or close to home. I’m very lucky though, I live in one of the most diverse and dynamic countries in the world. The U.S. offers just about any type of travel experience imaginable and its incredible size guarantees that no one will ever be able to fully explore and experience everything it has to offer. With this in mind, today I want to share an update to my American Travel Bucket List; experiences I can’t wait to enjoy once these challenging times have finally passed.
Caveat – My First Trip Post-Pandemic
This quarantine has been really tough on me for a variety of reasons that I don’t plan to explain here. That means that when this is over I went to get out of town as quickly as possible but I also want a trip that will help me forget the stresses of this time. I don’t want to think, I don’t want to fret I just want to have fun. Since I’m not really a beach person per se, that means for me a trip to Disneyland will be my first trip after the quarantine has been lifted. You can roll your eyes all you want to, but for me it’s a happy place and always provides experiences that are fun and allow me to escape all of my daily stresses. After that though, the U.S. is a big country with lots to see and do, including the following bucket list trips.
More 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 62 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 have only visited a few. I would love to one day see the wonders of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwood 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.
6 Remaining States
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 I am determined to see them all. On the list are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa, 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. Maybe a road trip would be the best way?
Niagara Falls and the Erie Canal
While interviewing someone for my podcast recently, I remembered that I still haven’t visited one of the country’s first tourist attractions – Niagara Falls. Yes, I understand the area is fairly kitschy but, honestly, isn’t that part of its charm? I also just would really like the see the natural wonder for myself. Plus, as an added bonus my inner history geek was thrilled to be reminded of the fact that the Erie Canal is close by. Completed in 1825, it was the second largest canal in the world but, more importantly, it changed forever the fortunes of the U.S. It greatly enhanced the development and economy of New York and the entire country. This was a game changer for any number of reasons, and today you can learn more about its history but you can also experience the Canal in more active ways.
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.
Another Epic Drive
It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s almost been two years since I completed one of the best trips I’ve ever undertaken – driving the entirety of Route 66. From Chicago to Los Angeles, the two weeks I spent exploring the back roads of America was as gratifying as anything I’ve done in my life. It’s not only Route 66 though, I tend to do a lot of road trips in a variety of different countries and it’s my preferred way of experiencing new places. Since America is huge, there are several other epic drives available and while I know they won’t be as impactful as Route 66, I’d love to do them all. One in particular has piqued my interest, U.S. Route 50. Actually longer than Route 66, Route 50 is a massive 3,000 mile East-West route spanning from Sacramento, California to Ocean City, Maryland. It actually reminds me a lot of Route 66. Like the Mother Road, it was largely replaced by the Interstate Highway System, but it still exists today and it takes drivers through some fascinating parts of the country. You may have actually already heard of it, in Nevada it’s called the Loneliest Road in America thanks to the fact it runs mostly through desert. Route 50 though also goes through 12 states, a huge swath of the country making this a drive unlike any other.
Remaining Hawaiian Islands
Before I first visited Hawaii, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. I imagined it would be just like any other tropical island and, while nice, also somewhat predictable. I was wrong. Hawaii is an intensely special place and the fact that it is part of the U.S. is something for which every American should be thankful. Hawaii has a personality, a vibe that is uniquely its own. Sure, it’s physically beautiful, but it’s so much more than that. There’s a spirit, an ethos, a way of life that makes Hawaii a place no one soon forgets. I’ve only been to three of the inhabited islands where tourists are allowed though, and I’d love to return one day and experience the others and be reminded of why I fell in love with the state in the first place.
While on a tour of the National Air & Space Museum I learned a very important fact: There exists a Space Camp for adults. Growing up in the ‘80s, I remember very well the slightly hokey and fairly awful movie “Space Camp” and wanting more than anything to spend a week enjoying this incredible experience. My parents would have none of it though and I passed through into adulthood without ever having visited and I frankly forgot all about it. But then the tour guide mentioned that adults can go to Space Camp too and I was immediately thrust back to the ‘80s and the wide-eyed dreams of a youngster. I don’t know what’s involved, how much it is or anything really, but attending Space Camp has now very quickly made it to the top of my American travel bucket list.
More of California
To be honest, it took me a while to like California and I’m not sure why. If you think about it, its immense size guarantees a number of different types of experiences that run that gamut from urban exploits to rural retreats that are as special as any other. I’ve been to Southern California and San Francisco, but that’s about it which means there’s a lot more for me to experience throughout the state. If I had my druthers, I’d love to spend a couple of weeks and do the ultimate California road trip, starting in the north and working my way down. I have a feeling that there are a lot of stories to be told and I’m excited to discover them all.