I absolutely love traveling to other countries far and near, experiencing new cultures and soaking it all up. If you’re like me than you probably jump right to international destinations, while bypassing the hidden gems in your own country. Too often we bypass these wonders to go see the wonders in another country. We should, however, be taking advantage of the gems in our own country, while also exploring other countries. Solo domestic travel can also be a great gateway into solo international travel. Waiting for your travel buddies to see the world, can mean you never get to see the world. So what better way to get comfortable with traveling alone, than to start small, familiarize yourself with solo travel and be a tourist at “home”.
Living in New York, it’s easy to forget the cities that aren’t New York or Los Angeles (which I’ve been to), but I am challenging myself to see more states from here to California and not just the popular ones or those that are close and easy like New Jersey.This is not to say that I haven't travel in the states before, but, very rarely, was it for exploratory purposes. To date, I’ve been to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, North Carolina, Texas, California, Virginia, Washington, Maryland, Florida and passed through Delaware. Most of these trips were to see family or were taken with family, excluding Florida, California & Connecticut and I surely didn’t get to be a full fledge tourist and see all that these places have to offer, but visiting was a good experience, nonetheless. So I’m, now, on a mission to go to at least 5 states that I haven’t been to before and actually explore them, before next summer 2019. I hope this gives you some inspiration to start your own list.
1. French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is absolutely first on my list of places to visit, simply because of the energy that comes from the French Quarter also known as Vieux Carré or Vieux Carré Historic District. It is the oldest district in New Orleans, and is so rich in culture. It’s so authentic to its history and French Creole culture that you can’t help but love it. Witnessing a glimpse of that, for myself, would make my whole entire year. You always see New Orleans on T.V. and it’s like this magical place, with beads, dancing, drinking and fun, but what I always hear from people who actually visit is that is was truly a memorable experience. Something you can’t find elsewhere. I also really really really want to participate in a second line parade. I think I’d do phenomenal. But most importantly, as a black woman, something about French Quarter looks like it’ll make you feel connected and witness real black culture and history. If I can get all these vibes from witnessing other people visit New Orleans, I can only imagine what vibes I’ll get being there myself.
2. San Francisco, California
Even though I’ve already been to California, I’ve only visited Los Angeles, so San Francisco would be a completely different experience for me. I’ve had a fascination with the Golden Gate bridge, ever since I saw it in the theme song of Full House. The Golden Gate Bridge, while beautiful, isn’t the main reason why I want to visit San Fran. Alcatraz prison is the MAIN reason why I’m so intrigued to visit San Fran. I’ve always been obsessed with reading about the mob and old time criminals, many of whom ended up on Alcatraz, like Al Capone, Mickey Cohen, Alvin Karpis, Bumpy Johnson, Whitey Bulgar, etc. This resulted in San Francisco being number 2 on my list. What fascinated me even more was reading about the escape from Alcatraz orchestrated by Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin. There is even an Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, that draws competitors, in part, because of the mystique of Alcatraz Island. Aside from that, San Francisco is similar to New York, in many ways, but from what I hear San Francisco has a unique vibe to it. I’m not sure if it’s a hippie vibe, tech city vibe, young people living carefree vibe, or tolerance to everyone vibe, but it definitely makes me what to find out.
3. Grand Canyon & Antelope Canyon, Arizona
I’ve always wanted to visit Arizona, just to see the Grand Canyon and experience the heat...I’m weird like that. It always interested me, because it was so different from New York, but similar to the Caribbean, temperature wise, other than it is a lot of open space, rock and peaceful skies. The complete opposite to the sky scrapes and lit skies I’m used to seeing in NYC. I heard about my friends going on family trips to the Grand Canyon or I’ve seen it on T.V and in movies, but never with my own eyes. My parents would typically take us to the caribbean, so we didn’t get to go on cross country roadtrips in the family RV. Some of my readers, may be thinking I’d rather be going to the caribbean than the Grand Canyon, but I’d personally want to have both experiences. But now, I’m making it a priority to see these places. While doing research on Arizona, I also found Antelope Canyon, located on Navajo Land. I read that they also have tour guides that educate you on not just the Canyon, but Native American history. For someone who doesn't know much about Native American history, learning about it while standing on the land that holds this history would be an enlightening experience I need to have. It’s a perspective that it’s entirely foreign to me and to learn about an ancient culture is everything that I love about traveling to new places.
4. Yellowstone National Park (Mostly in Wyoming, but spreads across Montana and Idaho)
Yellowstone National Park interests me for the similar reasons the Grand Canyon interests me, it’s the opposite of New York City. There are no massive skyscrapers, nature is plentiful and skies are clear. If you live in New York long enough, you forget that the skyscrapers are not the sky, but blocking our view of it. You forget that everywhere else doesn’t look like this. Not everywhere is grey, but green. I’m very big on the national geographic channel or nature documentaries and I’ve always wanted to go to the places they often record, because it’s usually open space, with trees and animals everywhere. It’s places where humans can reconnect with nature and be one with it. I feel like going to Yellowstone brings me that much closer to nature, because as a New Yorker, I’m quite removed. You get to witness the park’s “dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers” (according to Wikipedia) and see animals that I wouldn't see unless I went to a zoo or to upstate NY. I think the biggest thing, for me, about going to Yellowstone National Park, is the sky and silence. Something I can’t wait to experience.
Lastly, the mountains. I’m probably more inclined to go to Colorado, for undisclosed reasons, but why choose if you can go to both. I’m chasing those white snowy mountains, because even though we see snow in New York City, it’s never on a majestic mountain, but rather in your way while you’re going to work. Or maybe I just don’t appreciate it cause it’s New York snow. Simply put, I want to see those beautiful Colorado mountains with my own two eyes, not on a T.V. screen. I want to learn how to ski in some cozy ski-resort nestled in the mountains. From what I hear, the views alone, will have you wishing you could stay forever. Something else I noticed about choosing my destinations, I am automatically looking for somewhere hot and sunny, constantly overlooking places like Colorado and Utah, just so I can be in the sun. While the sun is nice, you don’t get to experience the different perspective Colorado gives you. And as a black traveler, I’m not sure whether I’d find many people who look like me, but that is what makes the experience even more memorable. I would essentially be out of my comfort zone experiencing something entirely new.
So there you have it, my list of 5 places I want to visit in the U.S before next summer 2019. Ideally I’d just hop in a car and drive cross country so I can be amazed, but time and work doesn’t permit me, so this will have to do. Looking at my list, I noticed that each of these places, whether I realized or not, were strategically chosen based on my experience. One major factor, that I hadn’t noticed when I was choosing, is the destination’s comparison to New York. New Orleans and San Francisco are populated cities, so they are similar to New York in that essence, but each of them have their own unique spirit and vibe that reeled me in. My last three destinations were about what New York City wasn’t. New York City isn’t an open space for animals to graze, or a green lush wonderland, or a gaping hole in the earth. These places offer me a completely different perspective from what I’m used it. It’s the reason I didn’t choose more dense populated locations for my list. At this current moment, I want a different perspective of the U.S. This is why taking advantage of domestic travel is important for me. You can get a change in scenery or perspective without having to travel internationally. There are so many different places to travel in the U.S that give you same feeling you get when traveling internationally, you just have to go out and travel to them. This is not to say don’t travel internationally at all, but to make sure you aren’t overlooking gems in your own country. A weekend trip here and there can help you take the time to explore. And if you’ve seen all there is to see in your country, this post isn’t for you, but if you haven’t thenI hope I inspired you. GO SEE YOUR COUNTRY!
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