International travel vs. domestic travel

Tips for visiting Biltmore

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.

La Mezquita

There are few sights as impressive than that of La Mezquita in Cordoba, Spain

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?

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Oh Andes, how stunning and exotic you are.

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).

French Quarter architecture

The buildings in New Orleans’ French Quarter are simply beautiful.

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.

Tips for visiting Biltmore

Biltmore-America’s own Versailles.

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.

Byodo-In Temple

Japan? Nope. America! (The Hawaiian island of Oahu to be exact.)

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)

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  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    February 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Sure, some travel bloggers may be jaded about traveling within the US. Great! More opportunities for those of us who appreciate this amazing country. I have been to all 50 states but by no means do I think I have seen anything close to most of it. So much more to see and do.
    Charles McCool recently posted…15 Hour Stopover in Oakland, CaliforniaMy Profile

    • Reply
      February 23, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks for commenting Charles! And you could not have said it any better. Those bloggers that “eschew” the US for destinations abroad definitely do not know what they are missing out on! That’s great you’ve been to all 50 states, I still have a ways to go but as you also said, there’s still so much to see in states you have already been to.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    I was the same with thinking my own country was boring when I was younger. I really had no idea why people on the other side of the world would want to come to New Zealand when there were places that were just as good or better so much closer to them. I’ve always been more interested in history than natural attractions, and we don’t have a lot of that. Now, I’m much more interested in natural attractions than I was before and I’ve realised how many fantastic destinations there are here and that just because something is in my own country doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

    While it still sucks that it takes so long to get to the majority of places internationally, I have an ever growing list of NZ places to visit on long weekends and can’t wait.

    You’re lucky you have the time/ability to see so much of the USA – there’s so much to see.
    Emma recently posted…Topdeck Winter Rhapsody Tour ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 1, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      That’s really neat about your perspectives changing from when you were younger! For me, I grew up surrounded by a ton of history so historical sights were something I was “always” visiting. But as I’ve gotten older I really have enjoyed visiting natural attractions too. There is something so majestic about them.

      And you’re right, there’s nothing worse (in a first world problem kind of way) than not knowing your own native country or having seen only very little of it.

      My dream is to visit New Zealand one day, that is if I can endure the long plane rides! I hope you get to continue exploring your own native land 🙂

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