In 2013, I spent the better part of a year on a road trip around the western half of North America, primarily in the United States but also parts of Canada.
Like most, I love traveling overseas and learning about new cultures, trying new food, and seeing new corners of the earth, but I also realized that I hadn’t seen even a fraction of what there is to see in my own country.
Thus I set out by truck to explore some of the quiet corners of the American West, the dusty towns and outposts that dot the landscape, and the amazing parks and natural areas that the American West is so famous for.
I covered 20,000+ miles over the Western half of the continent, visited some 15 National Parks, and spent more time camping in a single year than perhaps in my entire life.
In the process I learned a lot about myself, about road trip travel, and about this big, beautiful country that I call home.
1. People Are Really Nice
I was always amazed at the amazing generosity I experienced from complete strangers in certain parts of the world –from being invited into homes to break the Ramadan fast in Yemen, to sharing a bottle of Aguardiente at a corner store in Colombia–and would often wonder why isn’t it like that in the United States?
Turns out it is. Or at least it can be if you are putting yourself out there and are receptive to it.
I found myself surprised time after time by the generosity of strangers in my own country, from the sweet old couple who invited me over to dinner every night while camping in Joshua Tree, to the handful of rides I received while hitchhiking back to my truck after hiking across Zion National Park, to strangers stopping to help me out when I got a flat tire in the cellphone reception free land in the wilds of Colorado.
If you put yourself out there and are open to the generosity of your strangers, you’ll be surprised at what you find.
2. It’s a Really Big Place
There is so much to see and do within North America that one really can’t do it justice in just one trip. Maybe not even in one lifetime. I spent the better part of 9 months tick tacking my way across the western half of the USA and Canada and still only saw a fraction of the major cities, National Parks, and wide open spaces.
That’s to say nothing of everything that lies between the Rockies and the Eastern Seaboard.
Traveling overseas often gives us a bigger appreciation for some of the things we have back home. But traveling widely across your own country can also instill in you a greater appreciation for what lies a little closer to home.
3. We Do Nature With Public Access Like Nobody Else
In the United States there are vast swaths of land within the public domain from the National Parks, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and more. You can easily travel around the country and camp for free or quite affordably.
During my lengthy travels I only paid to camp or stay somewhere a handful of times.
In many parts of the world that simply is not an option, and I feel fortunate that one can readily find absolutely stunning places that are open to all, all across the American West.
4. Adventure Can Be Found Everywhere
Too often we think that we have to set out on some big overseas expedition in order to find adventure and explore new things while overlooking all the opportunities that lay right outside our doorstep.
International travel can often be a shortcut to adventure–everything is new and different, and even the simplest of tasks like running errands can be a big challenge in your day-to-day life, especially with the added language barrier.
Adventure and travel are less about where you go, but how you see the things the around you. The more you can cultivate an open and interested attitude about the things that surround you and your most familiar places, the more you will get out of your far-flung adventures and out of life in general.
The road trip is the classic and most iconic way to see the United States. From Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley–the road and the automobile are perhaps nowhere else so inextricably linked to a cultural identity as they are within the United States.
Whether you are native-born or a visitor to the US, you should absolutely make it a priority to see the country as so many generations before you have–from behind the wheel and on the open road.
This post was brought to you in partnership with Motorhome USA.