Note: I write the following from the perspective of an American traveler
There’s somewhat of an unspoken belief in the world of hardcore travelers that domestic travel isn’t “cool.” That when it comes to travel it’s more important to collect passport stamps than play the “how many states have you visited” game. I should know as I was one of those types for many years and am still in some ways. But as the saying goes, the older you get the wiser you get and I definitely feel this is applying more towards me now.
During my four years of college, I traveled to and lived in seven countries on three continents, five of them being “new” country visits. At that time, I had an insatiable urge for wanderlust. The farther the countries were from my native country of the United States, the better. The more exotic the country was, the better.
My freshman and senior years of college were the only two that I stayed the entire time actually “on campus.” You see, during both my sophomore and junior years, I was on campus for the fall semester, but then come December I packed up my dorm room and returned home because for the spring semester, I would be studying abroad, first in Costa Rica and then in Spain the following year. So by the time my senior year rolled around and it was devoid of any study abroad applications and subsequent preparation, I was in a bit of a shock. Like, how would I possibly spend ALL year on this boring campus? One where my passport was never needed. One where trying new foods, speaking new languages, and seeing incredible sights were not part of the plan?
Once I was back at school following the Christmas holidays, I was in full on travel planning mode. I just needed to go somewhere for my spring break. While I had desperately wanted to go abroad (preferably the European continent as college spring break in a beach resort didn’t appeal to me in the slightest), prices were somewhat high. So I turned my attentions to my homeland, but more specifically to somewhere I had never been. And that’s how New Orleans came about.
Visiting the state of Louisiana marked the first new state I had visited since I was a child. Growing up on the East Coast, I had checked off almost all of the Mid-Atlantic states but seeing as how huge the United States is, anything more than a 5-6 hour drive from Philadelphia just wasn’t done (my family was never the “drive for days” kind; we flew). I’m not going to lie, it was somewhat exciting to visit a new state in an area of the country that was so geographically and culturally diverse from where I had lived all my life. As special and neat as the city of New Orleans was, I also really loved the day trip a friend and I took to Oak Alley, one of the country’s most famous Antebellum plantation homes. Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, it was just the essence of Louisiana, eerily quiet, swamp land all about, and people who spoke English with a unique distinction (mixing of English and Acadian French).
Since that visit to Louisiana in 2007, I have also visited seven new states, many of them hundreds of miles from my home base of Pittsburgh, all on separate trips. While obviously my to two trips to Hawaii were utterly fantastic (I traveled to a different island each time), I also greatly enjoyed the time I spent in Kentucky and North Carolina. Being a foodie, each of these two states offered incredible culinary explorations.
Now that I’m older, I know there’s nothing wrong with not “getting stamped” (well, I’ll still get mild twinges of sadness if a whole year goes by and my passport is never used but I’m learning to cope with it more). I’m lucky to be a citizen of a country that just has so much to offer, a country that with its varied and distinct regions, almost has a slew of mini countries within its borders.
I’ll be traveling to a brand new domestic destination in just a few weeks. It’s an area of the country I’ve never visited and I am beyond excited so stay tuned!
My three top domestic travel wishlist
- Visit Charleston, South Carolina and the nearby Lowcountry
- Visit San Francisco (I’ve been to how many great cities of the world but never here)
- Visit Yellowstone National Park (I’m just entranced with images I see of it)