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Americans Need To Get Out More (especially to the Great Smoky Mountains)

August 10, 2012

“So y’all been on the road for 2 months, and you’ll be here another month?! Sorry for my fascination, it’s just, I don’t meet people who… Leave.”

It was like we had escaped from Hotel California, such was the astonishment of this young man from New Jersey that we met playing tennis in Savannah, Georgia. To him, the concept of leaving our jobs and traveling was strange, interesting and most of all, abnormal. His wide eyes and constant questioning helped him stick in my mind, but in truth it was a conversation we have had many times before. For while most Americans believe they live in the greatest country on earth, many of them don’t seem to venture too far from their own backyard.

In Houston, Texas, we chatted to two young men in Subway who were amused by our accents. After learning of our travels, they asked James if he’d been to Mexico. When he said yes, they wanted to know all about it. They hadn’t been there since they were two years old, they said, and were desperate to know what it’s like. Now perhaps there were reasons these two hadn’t jumped in a car and simply crossed the border, but taking them at face value, we were shocked.
“Erm, you should go,” James replied, “You live far closer to the border than I’ll ever be.”

The story is the same all across America. People in Savannah and Charleston told us they had heard the Great Smoky Mountains were beautiful, but they hadn’t actually been there, (it’s a five hour drive from Charleston). They have looked at pictures and dreamed of a holiday, but they haven’t been able to drag themselves away from work, family and day to day life.

In Wyndham Hotel we participated in a survey (in order to get a free meal) and were asked what our dream destination was. We were stumped. For us, nowhere is a dream. If you work hard and save the money needed, anywhere is possible.

I understand it is harder to travel overseas if you have a family, mortgage and a job that you don’t want to chuck away. But quite frankly, I don’t see an excuse for an American not to visit the rest of America. It’s too diverse to just visit one section, too beautiful to forsake. And besides, traveling improves you as a person. Your mind opens to different cultures and ways of life, (don’t think there’s culture in America? Visit the South) allowing you to think clearer and see better. The Americans we’ve met who have traveled their own and other countries have been the most interesting to talk to. Quick with a recommendation or a background story about the area, they’ve been a wealth of information, knowledge and wisdom. Some of them have even been able to share stories about Australia and New Zealand.

I’m not sure America is the greatest country in the world – I haven’t visited every country yet – but it really is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to live here, please, please don’t confine yourself to your own state. You never know what is across the border.

Perhaps you might like to start with the bewitching Great Smoky Mountains, which kiss the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Morgan permalink
    August 10, 2012 11:57 pm

    Americans get out plenty.

    • August 11, 2012 1:37 am

      From what I’ve seen, far too little travel this country extensively. Don’t take it as an insult, I was trying to encourage people to explore America.

      When it comes to international travel, the stats don’t lie. According to a 2011 article, 30 percent of Americans have passports. That’s compared to 75 percent for the UK and 60 percent for Canada. Sure, that’s international, but it still paints a picture.

      • Morgan permalink
        September 28, 2012 12:40 pm

        You have an incredibly dim and unexamined view of the United States. This is your idea of “exploring America”? While it might be true that my dog saw more of the US in his lifetime than most humans, I do get rankled when people forget that 30% of the US population is still 93 MILLION people. That’s about twice the ENTIRE population of the UK and three times the population of Canada.

  2. September 10, 2012 11:34 pm

    I live in Kansas and am constantly amazed at how many people I meet who have never left the state! Kansas? Are you kidding me? I thought the reason to live in Kansas is for the cheap cost of living so you can afford to travel. I took a former employee on a work trip to Minnesota and she was thrilled – she’d never been north of Kansas City. You’re 100% right. Americans need to get out more! And I need to come visit the Great Smoky Mountains. If I’ve been there, I was too young to remember, but appreciate a family that traveled the country each summer growing up (even if many hours of those family car trips drove me crazy!).

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