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I was wandering off toward the tundra in ~ the Arctic one pull-off ~ above the two-lane gravel Pipeline road that operation from Fairbanks, Alaska, come Prudhoe Bay when a grizzled bus driver pulled end to help my parents resolve their flat.

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“Watch the end for that kid, she’s bear meat.”

Our rental automobile had broken down and also we were at the very least a two-hour drive south of the nearest gas terminal in Coldfoot. He issued his warning after watching me meander away from the automobile toward the Arctic wilderness.

I don’t recall any kind of of this, that course. I was only 18 month old.

I carry out remember the cross-country trips my family members would take years later, however—driving from phibìc to south, and straight throughout through the heartland the America.

In my career as a take trip writer, I’ve since revisited these areas dozens of times—from the deserts of new Mexico, come the levels of Nebraska, and the swamps that Florida. I’ve chased tornadoes in Kansas, baited gators in Louisiana, and also flown warm air balloons in Nevada.

Here’s what i have learned about America after traveling to every one of its 50 states.

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The heartland really is the heart of the nation — and, fittingly, that unpredictable.

Weeks on finish were invested driving with the open up plains the America’s heartland, the landscape the same by the passing days. The flat terrain the the Midwest accounts for an unspeakable quantity of time when driving from sea come shining sea. The power of the next site blurred state lines.

Are we in Missouri or Oklahoma? Wait, we’re tho in Kansas?

We to be driving one night into that endless dark solitude of Kansas, when we observed a tornado brewing in the distance. Undeterred through the possible danger (and possibly bored ~ so numerous miles ~ above the road), my dad drove in the direction of the storm.

We chased its course up a dust road, at some point watching together it whirled away from us, up throughout the plains to the north, to Nebraska.

Another night, ns was sitting in the backseat, city hall the prairie roll by under that massive black sky. Ns was no hope to obtain out of the car.

Only a few more hrs until we stop, was a consistent refrain.

I actually felt time was standing still.

I remember sit at a railroad crossing in dodge City in the middle of a thunderstorm once a freight train with number of locomotives and also 300 cars rolled by across the track, the lightning regularly illuminating the freight dare in an eerie glow.

Moulton Barn and Tetons in Morning Light

Kirk Strickland / Getty pictures

The mountains are call year-round in the American West.

While the American West is, of course, celebrated during ski season (most newly by yours important at the Ullr Fest, a Viking solemn event in Breckenridge), its charms in the summertime can not be overlooked.

Jackson Hole, for example, is best enjoyed top top horseback in beforehand June (before the woodland fires and also accompanying acting of August), and also fall and also spring are underrated seasons throughout the Rocky Mountains and also up through to the Pacific Northwest.

After long Tiger hill this fall in Washington State, i retired come the elegance of W Bellevue, a mere hour and a fifty percent away from mount Rainier—this location junxtap of urban sophistication and also wilderness is symbolic the my suffer traveling throughout the country.

Sedona Arizona

Doug Berry / Getty photos

But the limitless expanse the the desert casts a captivating spell all its very own in the Southwest.

Visiting every 50 states has actually taught me nothing if not the realization that there is no such thing as a flyover state. Ns spent much of this loss in the American Southwest—from the deserts that Arizona, in creekside cottages in ~ L’Auberge de Sedona, to exclusive villas at La Cantera resort & Spa in san Antonio in Texas hill country.

We miss so lot when we board a plane from one destination to the next—not simply the sheer distance and also scale the the country, however the beauty together vastness casts top top the land. Imagination flourishes in the desert, as evident in the spectacle of burning Man and also the Nevada Museum of Art, in Reno.

My trips come Nevada left an indelible impression upon my understanding of the country. City hall the balloons ascend over the Sierra Nevada desert in ~ the great Reno Balloon race filled me with a wistful nostalgia ns last feeling watching a storm brewing throughout the prairie together a child during one the our lengthy cross-country drives.

I was forced to reconsider the parts of the nation often dismissed as tacky or superficial, specifically when attending JBL Fest in ras Vegas, whereby an unexpected encounter with Quincy Jones post-show forever unified in mine mind the artistry with the debauchery that is Sin City.

small Havana

Juanmonino / Getty photos

You don’t have to leave the continental united state to suffer a dizzying range of cultures.

The debauchery of ras Vegas transitions of course to such celebrated nightlife capitals as Nashville and Miami, however they likewise still organize true come their own distinct culture and heritage. This summer I competent a part of music history while continuing to be at Holston home Nashville, and also a taste that Cuba at Life House small Havana in Miami.

But the Florida Keys, the former Conch Republic, truly took my breath away v its enchanting mix of artists and also loners that all seemed to it is in inexplicably attracted to these tiny islands recognized as America’s Caribbean. Fate led lock to this isles ~ above a map and also they made decision to contact them home, and we’re lucky to live among them if only for a week at a time.

Aerial landscape check out of cliffs and also green valley, Kauai

MartinM303 / Getty photos

Nor execute you require a passport to suffer exotic nature and also wildlife.

It’s not simply the culture that’s varied within the territories of the US, it’s also the herbal beauty, which have the right to be uncovered oceans away, at times. Indigenous the spirituality otherworldliness that the Na Pali shore in Kauai to the decision blue waters the Trunk bay in the united state Virgin Islands, you have the right to experience an additional climate and setting without collecting a passport stamp.

Plus, many thanks to campaigns such together ViaHero in Puerto Rico, i beg your pardon connects you v locals who administer customized itineraries for your stay, you have the right to pretend favor you’ve lived in paradise your entire life, also if it’s simply for one weekend.

Yosemite sink at Sunset, California, USA

Getty pictures / zorazhuang

Our national Parks have always been what makes America great.

Growing increase on our cross-country trips, mine siblings and also I would collect nationwide Park trade cards, counting the variety of gorgeous destinations wednesday witnessed v our very own eyes (and slept upon in ours L.L. Bean resting bags.)

Today, mine love for these living testaments to America’s beauty proceeds unabated. I spent the past fall parasailing along the shores the Incline village in Lake Tahoe, and am plan on trying out the gator-infested swamps that the Everglades in Florida this coming spring.

But the trip I’m most looking front to will certainly take me ago to my roots, to summertime adventures through my family. Mine mother and I setup to revisit Yosemite nationwide Park, our final—or, rather—midway destination on our cd driver from brand-new Jersey to California and also back, only this time we’re trading ours tents because that an AutoCamp Airstream trailer.

Manhattan Skyline with the One people Trade Center structure at twilight

Getty Images/ f11photo

There’s tho something left to check out in your part of the world.

Your edge of the nation may feel like a small bubble, yet it have the right to surprise you. I commonly feel suffocated by the tristate area, i beg your pardon I’ve called home ever since graduating native college, yet I to be delighted by the Hudson Valley as soon as my mother and also I undertook a surprise road pilgrimage with pack Up + Go.

We updated our traditions. Forfeiting the minivan because that a zippy and also smooth Ford EcoSport (That belonged to neither of us, blessedly), ours dynamic as mother and daughter faded to friends. Plus, staycations in new York—in time Square and Williamsburg, opened up my eyes to the city I’d to be overlooking.

When I captured an intimate Sofar sound concert play in the Hyatt Centric time Square of every places, i realized later on on the hotel’s glorious roof that i barely knew my own city, an suffer echoed by mine eye-opening remain at The Hoxton in Williamsburg. Hello Brooklyn, indeed.

limitless straight road in the American Southwest, USA

Getty Images/ bluejayphoto

And the only way to check out it is on wheels.

Whether minivan or deluxe SUV, you’ve obtained to struggle the road to have actually a much better understanding of our country. Pack a Blue Highways guide for reference, or the latest edition that “Roadfood” and also get turn off the interstate and grab lunch v the locals.

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In today’s divided political climate, the social and geographic differences between America’s heartland and its coasts have never been much more pronounced, and also understanding and also compassion is the best means to bridge the culture wars.

Kerouac to be onto something through On The Road: “There was i do not have anything to go but everywhere, so simply keep on rolling under the stars.”


I to be a new York-based writer v an incurable case of wanderlust. Ns blame mine parents—they take it me come the Arctic Circle as soon as I was only 14 months old. I’ve since visited 6 continents, 63 countries, and all 50 states, v occasional (mis-)adventures follow me the way: detained at middle Eastern borders, travel throughout the Caribbean without a passport, and also so on. Ns earned mine master"s level with literary honors at the brand-new School, and my bachelor"s v English honors at Hobart and William blacksmith Colleges, awarded because that the most differentiated record in the humanities and future promise together a scholar and also writer. The scholar is yet to it is in seen, yet my creating has showed up in publication such as Architectural Digest, business Insider, The Week, The everyday Beast, and also the Recorder Newspapers, where I started my career together a reporter.