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