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From Southern California to Washington to New York to Georgia, 2016 quite unexpectedly become the year of the United States for me, literally from coast to coast, north to south. When I came home for Christmas last year after being abroad for so long, I thought it meant the end of my trip. I thought it was over, donezo, kaput, and that broke my heart a little bit (/a lot/more than I’m ready to admit!) Little did I know at that time, the wanderlust heart never truly settles down. It may subside for a bit and it may indulge in the comforts of home and family and community, but the underlying need for new experiences, new cultures, diverse foods and breath-taking landscapes does not stay dormant for long.

Now, many would immediately point out that the USA is not that different from Canada. In terms of culture, food and landscapes, Canada and the US can be considered much the same. That said, what has been so unexpectedly beautiful about my travels through America this year has been learning just how wrong that assumption is. My first trip into the US was to New York and Connecticut in January, to visit friends and do some writing while being inspired by the surrounding of being somewhere different. Being someone who travels abroad so often, I didn’t even consider trips into the United States as traveling. Going to the US was a road trip, a weekend thing, the same as I would think of going north to the cottage for a weekend. But as I branched out further and further into the United States, and saw first hand the different landscapes, the differences in the people, America made sure I’d eat my words (/thoughts?)

New York and Connecticut don’t seem to be that different from home, from the people, the views, the weather, and the big city and small town vibes. Aside from the Canadian stereotypes I’ve found to be true (saying hello to strangers, saying pardon instead of America’s ‘what?’ or ‘huh?’, apologizing profusely, even if the other person bumped into you, etc.) I really wouldn’t know I was in somewhere different if someone were to blind fold me and take me into those states.

In February, I made my way to California, to visit one of my best friends from Brantford who has since moved out there. It was the best combination of scratching the travel itch while having the comfort of home, spending so much time with one of my favourite people. I ended up spending two months out there, and thanks to Jess and her husband Jonathan and a few friends, I was able to have such diverse experiences all within one region; from the wine country of Temecula with it’s seemingly endless vineyards, to walking the beach from the Santa Monica Pier into Venice beach taking in its vibrancy and beach culture, to shopping for hours in the Orange County Market, to climbing waterfalls in the San Bernardino National Forest, to camping in jaw-droppingly beautiful dessert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, to taking in the stunning views of the Palm Springs windmill farms. I was blown away by how much there was to do, all so drastically diverse, within a few hours drive.

Joshua Tree National Park

From California, I flew to Seattle, Washington, to take in the sites for a few days before heading into Vancouver. Seattle was the most unexpectedly quaint little gem. A big city with a small town feel, it was the type of place that I can completely understand the allure of living there. If I were ever to have to move to the United States, with all the places I’ve been, Seattle would be the first place I’d look at.

 

Seattle, Washington

Fremont Troll, Seattle

From Seattle I spent more time in New York, a place that is quickly becoming my home away from home; a place I go to find new inspiration and motivation. And I don’t just mean Manhattan, there is so much more to explore outside of Manhattan. From Uncasville to Milford to Stamford, all in CT, down through New Rochelle to Queens to Brooklyn, in NY, there are so many places to discover. Every time I make my way down there, I see new things I would have never found if I had planned the trip. I literally hop in my car, drive down, and come up with a plan as I go. It’s the best way to discover a place. From spoken word nights at vegan Caribbean restaurants, to jaw dropping street art in the back streets of Queens, to coming super creepy statues in Stamford of children putting on lipstick, going without a plan can serve you well, so long as you get out there.

Queens, New York

Next came Nashville, Tennessee, for CMAFest. It took absolutely zero arm twisting to recruit a few friends to drive down to Nashville with me for Country Music Week. Literally all I had to say was “Hey, would you want to go to Nashv” before I was interrupted with an immediate “I’m in!” First though, on the way to Nashville, we did a stop in Kentucky to attend Muhammad Ali’s funeral, both a somber but inspiring experience. Then we continued on our way to Nashville, which is one of those places like nowhere else I’ve ever been. There’s so much history and of course so much music, not just country, but rock and jazz as well. And every single place you go into, you wonder how the person or group performing isn’t already signed and famous. Literally. Every single place you go into has jaw dropping talent performing, looking for their break into the industry. To me, describing it as a musical Mecca would be an understatement. Nashville is a must-see for any music lover.

Kentucky

Nashville Tennessee

And last, but not least, was Georgia. This was a bit of a whim trip, as a high school friend needed someone to drive home from Georgia to Canada with, and which of her friends was crazy enough to fly down and make the drive with her? Ding ding ding, this girl! I fly down to Georgia, had just over a day to take in the sites of Savannah, before hitting the road home. While the most important part of the trip was spending quality time with a friend I hadn’t seen for years, I also got just a glimpse of what is known as southern hospitality. The Southern food (oh good heavens, the food!), the kind heartedness, the level of customer service which is so often lacking in the other states I’ve been to, everything. While the South is so often stereotyped, especially amongst Canadians, for their more right-winged lack of progression with the rest of the West, I got to see a bit of its appeal, the positive side. As with my travels to Egypt, I strongly believe it’s important to experience a culture before you can accurately speak about it, so for that, I’m so thankful to have been to the South.

From New York to Connecticut to California to Washington to Kentucky to Tennessee to Georgia, I may have only experienced a small portion of the USA, but a diverse part nonetheless. From bustling megacities to desert drylands to quaint small towns, the United States has so much to offer that people often go over seas for. So well played USA. Despite your crazy politics and the plethora of issues you need to work on, you have an inherent beauty which can not be taken away that gives you an unending appeal. Given that it’s only September, I can not wait to see more of you.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “2016: The Year of the USA”

  1. Herbie Zucker says:

    Omg sounds like u had the best time. Was reading hockey’ and ran into this. I have a house in Palm Springs but live in Chicago xoxo

  2. TJ says:

    Love reading about your U.S. experience!

    I live in California, but I’ve been to more countries than states, 2017 is going to be the year of exploring my backyard so to speak. Maybe I’ll make it into Canada too, I’ve always wanted to go to the NHL hall of fame, and I don’t exactly need my arm twisted for poutine, maple cream cookies and BeaverTails…

    A lot of the places I haven’t been to in America are a lot of those Southern and Midwestern states where things probaly are “a little different’, but I did do a brief road trip this summer from New Orleans to Mobile Alabama earlier in the summer and I really enjoyed the hospitality of the locals.

  3. KennethBob says:

    1. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
    Entitled as the shark capital of the world by the Guinness book of world record, the New Smyrna Beach is listed as one of the top 10 Florida beaches by the Florida International University. Out of the 112 shark attacks worldwide in 2007, new Smyrna beach reported 17 of them.
    2. Heart Island, Antarctica
    Known for its intensely cold waters, the Heart Island is actually a Giant Volcano, 4100 km South West of Perth. Although owned by Australia, it’s much closer to Antarctica than anywhere else.
    3. Cape Tribulation, Australia
    This Northern Queensland Beach is a dwelling place for a number of exotic creatures one may need to be wary of. Besides crocodiles, the emu-like Cassowaries and Box Jellyfish also swarm the waters near the beach.
    4. Praia De Boa Viagem, Brazil
    Before the year of 1992, Reports of Shark Attacks were unheard of along the sandy beach near Recife, Brazil. Environmentalists suggest that the appearance of fishing boats that may have disrupted the ecosystem of the area, are to blame.
    5. Shenzhen, China
    Shenzhen Beach, located just across the border from Hong Kong, is locally well-known tourist hotspot which can get challengingly congested at times. This sometimes makes the area accident-prone.
    6. Playa Zipolite, Mexico
    This amazing beach centered around a comforting environment is located on the Southern Coast of Oaxaca. This beautiful stretch is humorously known as “the beach of the dead”. The shore is sometimes prone to hugewaves that cause undercurrents. Specially trained lifeguards are deputed along the beach, owing to which the number of drowning cases have lowered.
    7. Staithes beach, Yorkshire
    While it may not be the most popular beach, the Staithes beach in the UK is known for its surfing culture. The marine conservation society states that its water cleanliness level doesn’t match up to the basic European Standards for bathing sports. The residual deposits from the farmer’s fields could be the likely cause. Most activities on this not-so-famous beach includes surfing and paddle sports.
    8. Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii
    The Hanakapiai Beach is one of most beautiful known beaches in Hawaii, although its rather remotely located. Lifeguards are yet to be stationed on this beach. The beach waters are calm and tranquil for the most part, with powerful rip currents surfacing from time to time. 83 known drowning cases have been reported over the years mostly due to underestimation of the wave current.

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