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.
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.
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.
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.
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.