Many Americans think they must leave the United States in order to experience the ultimate adventure. While it is understandable to seek experiences that differ from our familiar stomping grounds, we often overlook what we have available to us at home in the process.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Canadian — a fortunately-situated one I may add. I live in the gorgeous, world-famous Rocky Mountains, surrounded by an entire province of greenery, lakes and rivers. Yet, to me, my surroundings are commonplace; they have become so normalized that it takes awestruck tourists to remind me of how lucky I am to live in Canada.
While I would hesitate to call myself a world traveler, I do hold several excursions under my belt, including the United States; I still add new American destinations to the bucket list constantly. I hope that not too many Americans take their nation for granted, but if you do, let me — as a Canadian outsider — remind you why it should be exciting to explore your home country.
Geographical Diversity in the United States
The U.S. might not be as vast as Canada, which is fine because we’re primarily covered in snow and maple trees anyways, but it is expansive. It’s a huge country, and unlike other nations, it is geographically diverse; small enough to cross in a coast-to-coast road trip, but big enough to offer a variety of beautiful, transformative landscapes. While most countries feature only a handful of environments, Americans are lucky enough to witness snowy mountain tops, steaming marshlands, cracked desert floors and breezy beaches, all of which are one domestic flight away.
In the Northwest, the U.S. boasts the stunning, domineering Rocky Mountains, while the West Coast is covered in a refreshing temperate climate. Water shapes the land, blanketing the peaks and valleys in the winters, replenishing the creeks, streams, riverbeds and lakes for the spring and summer. Americans enjoy beach-basking summers, crisp autumns, snow-glazed winters and rejuvenating springs.
When water drains on the other side of the Rockies, it finds its way to the Gulf of Mexico, saturating marshes, swamps and bayous. Unencumbered by the inescapable humidity, the land, much like the people of the South, adopts a certain charm. Time is cherished. Water meanders and puddles throughout the land, slowly dispersing as wet moisture that wallows in the air or flows away with seasonal floods.
To the southeast, Florida offers a tropical, colorful and vibrant paradise, one that includes marshland alongside white sand beaches, palms trees and mesmerizing ocean sunsets. This territory of the U.S. is truly made to vacation in, despite seasonal rains and the threat of tropical storms; it is here that nature reminds you of its dynamism.
Furthermore, the absence of water creates four major deserts in the American Southwest — the Mojave, the Great Basin, the Sonoran and the Chihuahuan — all of which feature sun-bleached rock formations, lazy reptiles and more sun than you can handle.
Where the East Coast has to worry about hurricanes, Mother Nature declared the Midwest, with all of its rolling hills and dusty dirt roads, home for tornadoes. This destructive force is not only a threat to homes, but it is also a hazard to the fields and farms that carpet the area where the heavens meet the earth with no interruptions and the beginning and end of each day is obvious, since they are marked by the unforgettable rising and setting of the sun.
But let’s not forget about the East Coast. Salty and brisk, fresh and thunderous, the East Coast provides more variety (at least with regard to the weather) than the West Coast, but is less relaxing than the South. The sea breeze that is synonymous with the Atlantic seaboard embraces all the senses, and its beaches are wide, bordered by sand dunes and patches of wild grasses. The ocean even permeates the local cultures where generations have lived and died by the ocean.
The best part is that this is still an incomplete description of the landscapes of U.S. — I didn’t even start to delve into Hawaii and Alaska — but I wanted to prove that all temperatures, seasons and landscapes can be found in one country, and that amazes me. As a Canadian, our landscapes do not transform so quickly or drastically. Moreover, it costs more for me to fly across my country than it does to fly to Europe. In fact, I’ve been to the United States more times than I’ve traveled across Canada.
World-Renowned Meets the Serene and Secluded
Disney World, the Vegas Strip, Times Square, Hollywood — these are amazing tourist sights renowned around the globe, immortalized by film and broadcasted for millions online. The aforementioned landmarks are larger than life and absolutely mesmerizing.
Consequently, resorts like Disney World predominantly compose an outsider’s perspective on the traditional American vacation. Even Americans themselves flock to such locations, and they cannot be blamed for such.
Nevertheless, not all of these landmarks are corporatized and flashy. A quaint fishing village in Maine, a secluded hunting cabin in Alaska, stargazing under the Nevada sky, a horseback trail tour in Montana or even a brewery bike tour in small-town California allow for the same type of excitement. Better yet, these quieter spots are more likely to be overlooked and uncovered by non-American tourists and showcase an escape from the grandeur of commercial destinations. America might be busy and oversaturated, but one can still find solace away from its sprawling cityscapes.
The Legacy of Immigrants
Immigrants from across the world arrive in the United States every day, but some forget that modern North America was built by immigrants. America is embedded with a blend of divergent cultures, traditions, languages and foods, and while the path to this diversity has been, and still is, rooted in conflict, the variety of ways of living that one can discover in America is a gift. Within the U.S., one can uncover the richness of Irish, Scottish, Italian, Latin American, German and even Canadian culture.
It is essential to appreciate each other in these politically tense and challenging times. Traveling might seem foreign at first (no pun intended), but it can be an absolute thrill to immerse oneself in another culture. Although many tourists travel thousands of miles for this type of exposure, this culturally diverse experience can be found within America itself.
I would never attempt to discourage anyone from traveling outside of their home country. However, sometimes what we have available outside our front door should be recognized and cherished accordingly. Many people look forward to being challenged by an unfamiliar environment, and Americans possess the opportunity to completely satisfy that urge without paying for international flights.
Whether you have to take a step back or a step outside, the United States encompasses a winning combination of characteristics that vacationers, explorers, escapists and soul-seekers can be satisfied by. So take the advice of this Canadian and go have an American holiday.