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Ashley and I have finally made it. We have crossed the United States with our life packed in our car, lugged it onto a plane, and have landed safely in Iceland, the UK and now Holland. We are now almost two months into our journey and I can’t believe our drive across the states is over. Now we are at our friend Rory’s house in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Farewell to the states and farewell to our homes. We have finished our first chapter and we’re now on number two. So what did Ash and I learn about crossing the nation that we both call home? I guess it is time to reminisce on our home and our reflection on America.
First, the states are huge, I mean fucking huge! I don’t think that even covers it. We drove from April 22nd to May 20th and we barely saw any of our own country. We drove through 17 of 50 states and we only stopped in 12 of them. I mean yes we saw a lot, and saw more than even most Americans will ever see but in the grand scheme of things that’s not a lot.. Ash and I are from the states, but we’re from California and that is where we call home. California in itself takes up a good chunk of the western coast of the United States. Every state varies in people and culture and depending on how large the state is, like Texas and California it can vary depending on where you are in that particular state. If our common language was not english you would think we were each our own country.
When you’re dealing with the states you have to understand how much land we are dealing with. Where Ash and I lived in Healdsburg, California we could drive four hours in each direction and still be in California. Rory can drive for a little over four hours and hop on a ferry and all of sudden he is in London. He is able to go through four different countries in the same span of time it takes me to still be in California. I think at the heart of it, this is why so many Americans don’t ever leave the states. The simple fact of how big the US actually is. I knew that the states were large but I did not fully understand the immensity of them until this drive.
I also came to the realization that to try and generalize the American people is quite foolish because it’s impossible to represent everyone. Ash and I are here to explore countries and their cultures but how do you sum up a country that does not have a singular culture? The answer is quite simple you don’t. We all carry the same Passport and maybe some similar ideals but we might as well all be from different countries. It was a great reminder for us that there might not be just one culture in a country.
What fills up most of the space in the United States? It would be easy to think that the country is just one major city after another but in reality it is quite the opposite. We saw vast emptiness, nothing but miles and miles of what seemed to be untamed land, endless miles of forest, mountains, plains and desert. I was wondering where the hell all of the people went. When you escape the city you get thrown into back country where almost no one lives. As I said before it is easy to see the states as a huge metropolis. The cities are what people are most familiar with; Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, so on and you tend to forget what fills up the space in between.
Outside of the cities the only civilization we would see were small honkytonk towns here and there, but mainly what seemed to be uninhabited land. I found myself just staring out into the vast landscape in a bit of a trance, which is not good when you are operating a motor vehicle. Our drive was gorgeous and it was unbelievable to see how different the environments and the climates changed so drastically. If you love nature and love being out in nature the states is a great place for one to travel.
The people who populate such a vast area, Americans, in general, are very proud people and very protective to what they hold dear. We are very proud even knowing that there are flaws in our country. At times that is a very good thing but it also can be a bad thing. People don’t always take lightly to other people pointing those flaws out. The attitude is that we can make fun of our own family but if a stranger says something bad about my mother they should not be surprised to receive a bop on the nose. Through my travels I have noticed that attitude in many countries as well. Its not that rare of a trait for people.
To be cliche, the U.S. is a melting pot and we experienced a mix of people from all at different points in their life during our road trip. We met some who were content with their life, not looking for much more, and people who were still trying to figure it all out, caught in a limbo of where their place was in life. It was nice to find people who have similar issues to us as well as different Issues. It was nice to see other people just trying get bye and be happy.
I felt a tension in people, influenced by the media I am sure. All the turmoil in the U.S. and the rest of the world has unsettled a lot of people in my opinion. The tension could have easily been all in my head. Yet, I still felt as if people were waiting for the ice to crack without knowledge of what to do when it finally does. It felt like a hushed silenced. I saw anger and a lot of people who feel that things need to change but don’t know how to go about it. Their only solution is to get out of their bed and keep moving forward and struggling to hold onto the hope that things will change.
Change what? Not really sure but just something other than what they are experiencing. Always trying to find an answer for something I don’t think we have the right question for. Maybe that’s our generation, a generation that is lost and angry. A generation looking for answers without the proper questions. Some are trying to find the right question and answer; others are just focusing on getting through everyday and being happy with what they are doing. It would be naive of me to think only our generation has gone through this. I know many generations have but where we are right now what seems to be on the brink of great change, whether it is positive or negative.
Our country was built off protestant work ethic, an idea that work comes first and one’s life is defined on how hard of a worker you are. Again sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. It was dominate in our past and I think it is still lingers here in our culture. Our generation has changed the way we look at work though. We are no longer working for works sake. Instead we are quitting (what is considered) our traditional jobs and focusing on having a fulfilling lifestyle.
The people we met in the states, despite their individual problems, were welcoming. People wanted to focus on the good times of life and not on the despair. They wanted to help out; they wanted to talk and know about our story just as much as we wanted to know about theirs. I think despite all the tensions I was feeling it was nice to see that people were as friendly as can be. They still had no problem in helping out when it was needed.
In Santa Fe, we were out for dinner and one of the other patrons sitting next to us started up a conversation so we started talking to him. He was from Albuquerque and we told him a little about our trip and that it was my birthday and he told us about how much we would love this city and the food we were about to eat. The conversation ended as they finished dinner and got up to leave. Ash and I went back to talking and did not think much more of that short conversation. As Ash and I were deciding on dessert the waitress told us not to worry about the price because that man had bought our entire dinner up to that point for us. Ash and I were in shock about this. First I had no way of thanking him, which is what he wanted, but I was at a loss for words. It was not a budget dinner, both Ash and I went into the dinner knowing we were going to enjoy the night, and he had paid for it all. The conversation lasted no longer than ten minutes and he covered our dinner so I would have a great birthday. I don’t know who this man is but I would like to thank him because what he did was amazing and is what I am looking for in this world.
People went out of their way on this journey to help us; some were family, some were friends and some were strangers. John Miller, a guy we stayed with in Nashville through AirBnB, stayed up for us as we arrived late, gave us a bunch of fantastic things to do in the 12 hours that we were there and then he went out of us way to drive us downtown so we did not have to take a taxi. Also thanks for recommending Big Al’s to us, what a great breakfast! We truly meet some really genuine people who helped make our trip across America.
We like to thank a few more people who helped us along our way across America. First I would like to thank Ash’s and my parents who have been nothing but supportive of our decision. They have helped us more than we could ask for. Thanks Mom, Dad, Debra and John for all your love and support. I would like to thank my Sister, Amber and my brother-in-law, Taylor for letting us crash in Sedona. It was great to see you guys and of course it was great to see my baby niece, ELB. Thank you guys for everything. I would also like to thank my Grandmother for showing us around Oklahoma and introducing me to my distant family from the area. We will come back and spend a little more time next time that we are there so we can get the full experience. Tell us when there are no tornadoes; I love you very much.
Thanks so much to Anna Mangiardi and Liz Ray who let us crash in their houses for a few days and took time out of their busy schedules to show us the local scenes of New Orleans and Washington DC. A big thank you to David Hale in Huntsville, Alabama and Cameron Nowarzi, in the city of brotherly love for offering their places without second thoughts. Sorry guys that we only had such a short time with you. We also would like to say thanks to Ashley’s Godfather Matt and Francine for showing us Arkansas and letting us stay in your new home. Arkansas was definitely pretty cool and I cant wait to go back to see more of it. Also thanks for the Segway tour of Little Rock. I was skeptical of them at first but we had a blast. Let us not forget about Kim and Mark who hosted us in North Carolina. Thanks for all the wine, the food and of course, taking us out on the lake. Love the inner tube and I am glad I got to break it in for the summer. Thanks for showing me how to kneeboard as well, what a blast! Next time we are in town we are going to the cork and screw!
I would like to give a big thanks to my Aunt Theresa and Uncle Andy for showing us a great time in the district. What a great lunch and roof top bar, nothing like a little day drinking with family, also thank you for the support it really has come in handy! Also we would like to thank my cousin Rebecca for showing us that awesome speakeasy in DC. Sorry we showed up so late. What an awesome place that was. Thanks for greasing the busboy to get us down there! We love you very much cuz. We would also like to thank Mike and Rachel, Ashley’s family friends, who took us out to dinner. Thanks for showing us how to drive properly in DC. The pizza and beer was great and what a great town Alexandria is. Mike, I am expecting you to save us if we get into to trouble :). Thanks Catul for hanging out with us in DC and taking us to that BBQ. Tell your buddy Murphy thanks for us as well. Remember we will be in Kenya in 3 years to meet up with you.
There are so many people we could thank for offering us places to stay as well as lending their support, Linda, Kelly, my Aunt Teri, Uncle Brian and Aunt Toni, my Grandfather and Johanna, The whole Muyo family and the rest of the cul-de-sac crew, my Grandma Sexton and Uncle Mike it was great seeing you. Also to Candace Kincade and Aaron for teaching us how to drive stick. We chickened out in Iceland but it will come in handy in the future. A big thanks to everybody who supported and is supporting us on our trip. I am sorry that we were not able to see you all but your support and love has been overwhelming for us. We hope you can keep following us on our journey around the world. We always know that we have family and friends back in the states that love us and always has welcoming arms. You really show what I consider the old American ideal of open arms. We love you all!
The road trip was an eye opening experience for Ash and I and I think it was important for us to see at least a part of the country that has given us a passport so we can see the world. If you have not been to the states I think it is definitely worth it. Make a major city your base but if you get a chance, drive out into the country and get to know the people. I think you will find people who are welcoming and proud to show you where they live. It is a beautiful country with lots of backcountry worth driving and if you can I recommend camping and hiking while you are out there. Like when you travel anywhere else, keep an open mind and an open heart and I think you find that the attitude will be reciprocated. Every state is different and every one is like a new country so if one is not your favorite you still have 49 more to visit. One more thought about our drive through states and the people we met along the way. I saw people who are very much like the others I have seen around the world; hard working people who are just trying to make it to the next day, trying to find happiness in their life. Just like any country our media and Government is a skewed vision of who the people in America actually are. The only way to truly discover the American people is to meet them first hand.