I used to always think that travel only counted if you left the United States. As a kid, I had dreams of seeing the world and am still very much someone that wants to fill all the pages of my passport. In college, I traveled to the western U.S.—new territory for me—and started traveling outside of the U.S. and Canada.
Why did I feel like I wasn’t traveling if it wasn’t out of North America? I would beg my husband to do an international trip even though he’d argue we’ve been “traveling” around the Pacific Northwest and Canada for a couple years. I’ve spent miles on the road and traveled to more than two-thirds of the states in the U.S., but it took me until my late 20’s to admit that traveling in the United States IS traveling.
Check out all my travels around the United States.
Yes, it may not be as exotic as going to another country that speaks a different language or serves food you can’t get where you live BUT I’m about to tell you the reasons why everyone should consider it as travel.
1. The United States is large.
How large? Land mass of the United States is 3.797 million mi² (or 9.834 million km²), which is slightly smaller than all of Europe with 3.931 million mi² (or 10.18 million km²). Living in Europe and having access to budget airlines and quick train travel has made me realize that traveling within Europe is like traveling to different states. Europe (within the Schengen Area) treats crossing borders like crossing state lines. No passport stamp for you if you’re traveling in the Schengen region though there are still border controls. Now, if only the United States had better transportation for getting around without a car, but I’ll leave that for another time.
2. Regions and Ecosystems
The lines may be a little blurry, but United States is divided into five regions: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. You’ll find coastlines, rolling green Appalachian Mountains, wide-open plains, Rocky Mountains, deserts, canyons, the Cascades, glaciers, volcanoes, etc. Within each of the ecosystems, there are microclimates. While most people recreate in the summer months, some southern states wait until spring or fall to spend time outdoors because it’s too hot during the summer to be outside. Parts of the United States see an average of more than 300 inches of snow a year while others rarely see any and people hunker down on those occasions.
3. Migrations and Origins
Most citizens of the United States have ancestors from all over the world as a result from large-scale migration to the “New World.” Maybe that is why everyone is a little Irish descent when St. Patty’s Day rolls around. I’m Swedish on my father’s side but haven’t got a clue where my mother’s heritage comes. I’ve heard many variations over the years and maybe why 23andMe’s business model is successful. (If you’re interested in trying 23andMe, here’s my referral link.)
As the westernized United States is viewed by its large cities, such as New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, it is easy to think of the United States as a whole individualist culture. Cultures are different in cities where many international immigration influences modern development, but you can still find small rural towns that still trade and bargain for services. Growing up in a rural town myself, I have tend to focus on family and and group goals over my own individual goals though there has been a shift the longer I live in large cities. In addition to the individualism versus collectivism cultures, you’ll find different atmospheres to cities from food to dialect to political beliefs.
5. Federal versus State Governments
Even though Federal laws and government exists, States have their own elections, governing entities, and laws, which can be compared (to a degree) to the European Union (Federal) and European countries (State) organization. States can vote on allowing same-sex marriage or legalizing marijuana. After living in a few States, this becomes apparent when applying for a new driver’s license and having to retake the exams due to the differing driving laws. The United States also have state funding and federal funding with State and National Parks being an example of how taxpayer money is spent.