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Road Tripping Around North America: What I Learned in 9 Months

Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona
Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. The town was made famous by the Eagles' song.

In 2013, I spent the better part of a year road tripping 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.

A boy running the doorways in the ruins of Chaco Canyon.
A boy is running the doorways in the ruins of Chaco Canyon.

1. People Are Nice

I have always been amazed at the fantastic generosity I've experienced from strangers in certain parts of the world.

I've been invited into homes to break the Ramadan fast in Yemen and shared a bottle of Aguardiente at a corner store in Colombia.

I would often wonder, why isn't it like this in the United States?

It 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:

  • A sweet old couple invited me over to dinner every night while camping in Joshua Tree.
  • A handful of rides I received while hitchhiking back to my truck after hiking in Zion National Park.
  • Strangers stopped 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.

The road stretching to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, near where I got my flat tire.
The road stretches to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, near where I got my flat tire.

2. It's a 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 nine 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 more significant 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.

Road tripping around North America. Pictured here in Death Valley.
My trusty road trip companion in Death Valley.

3. We Do Nature With Public Access Like Nobody Else

It is feasible and quite popular to road trip across the United States or road trip across Canada while bouncing from park to park or public area to public area.

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 affordably, if not for free.

During my lengthy travels, I only paid to camp or stay somewhere a handful of times.

In many parts of the world, that is not an option. I feel fortunate that one can readily find stunning places open to all, all across the American West.

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip.
The lights of the Las Vegas Strip

4. Adventure Can Be Found Everywhere

Too often, we think that we have to set out on some big overseas expedition 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 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 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 stunningly beautiful Canadian Rockies in Field, British Colombia.
The stunningly beautiful Canadian Rockies in Field, British Colombia

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 cultural identity as they are within the United States.

Whether you are native-born or a visitor to the US, you should 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.

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Tuesday 5th of April 2016

can`t beat traveling threw the U.S.A. , so many beautiful things to see!!! People to meet everywhere!!!

The Wandering Cs

Tuesday 20th of January 2015

We couldn't agree more! We have been traveling throughout the US full-time since May of 2010, with many shorter trips prior to that, and we feel like we are still scratching the surface on all there is to do and see in this great nation. We have found that even though there is an increase in the big box stores across the country, we still get enjoyment out of the small things, like shopping at small local stores and chains we've never heard of in other parts of the country. I like what you said about international travel being a shortcut to adventure but travel is about more than adventure and you captured that perfectly!


Thursday 9th of October 2014

I actually just got back from a trip to Seattle where I rented a car and got to drive along the coastline and I have to agree with all of your points. There is nothing quite like exploring your own country to really get an appreciation for it


Sunday 28th of September 2014

The US and Canada have so much potential for a Road Trip by RV. The ideal way to explore both countries, whilst getting away from the big cities.

Rachel of Hippie in Heels

Tuesday 23rd of September 2014

I roadtripped across route 66 from NC all the way west to the sea! It was great. Living in India for the last couple years, I miss home more than ever. I love that eagles song too!

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