For me, summer vacation has always meant far off destinations: New Zealand and Fiji in 2010, Vietnam and Thailand in 2011, Southern Africa and Egypt in 2012, and Chile in 2013. Then, last year, as my trip to India and participation in the Mongol Rally fell apart, everything changed a bit. I began to look at my life and realized I didn’t want to live my life from summer to summer, I wanted to be able to travel where and when I wanted.This led to some major changes in my life and the flexibility to travel a bit differently than I had previously done.
This summer, I decided to discover America. I didn’t really plan it, but it all kind of fell together, so I can only assume that it was what I was meant to be doing. Still, when I look back at what I did, I cannot imagine a more American summer, and I’m grateful to be able to uncover the country my four grandparents immigrated to years ago.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail has history that runs deep in American culture, beginning in 1921 with Benton MacKaye’s idea to give people a place to renew themselves through nature. It was finally completed in 1937, and although each year many try to thru-hike, only a few are able to make that happen.
Back in elementary school, I remember watching a documentary about the trail. Part of me was inspired, the other half was terrified; I felt about the same way when I stepped on the trail this past July. While I only completed 55 miles on the 2,190 mile trail, I felt a connection with myself, nature, and my country through my adventure. One day, I’d love to hike the entire trail throughout the fourteen states it runs through, but I don’t think I’ll ever do it all in one shot.
Exploring the Adirondacks
In 1869, William H.H. Murray published a guidebook about the Adirondack region, inspiring many to vacate the city and head outdoors. At first, the vacationing was rustic, true outdoors life, but eventually hotels were built and it became a vacation destination, specifically for the wealthy. Today, it’s still an area that people from all over the country and world visit.
I had spent many a winter season in the Adirondacks, specifically Lake Placid, but I knew I wanted to see more. This summer, I had my chance. I was able to eat, drink, kayak, canoe, and hike in the area, taking in the true vacation spirit of the region.
A Cross Country Road Trip
I cannot think of any activity more American than driving across the United States. This is something most people I know dream of doing, and I know several people, including my brother, who also did so this summer. Previously, I had no idea just how beautiful and diverse my own country was. At times I felt as though I was in Namibia, at the Spitzkoppe, Namib Desert, or Fish River Canyon, but I wasn’t, I was in Utah.
With almost three weeks to explore, Christy and I zigzagged about from Asheville, North Carolina to Portland, Oregon, exploring small towns and national parks. Along the way, my eyes were opened up and now I find myself dreaming about being back on the road.
My very American summer was exactly what I needed. I have had the chance to explore a lot of the world, although there will still be more of that in the future, but it’s also wonderful to experience my home country. It’s no wonder everyone in this country is so different, as we all come from such very diverse places, even though together we are all one. I have thirteen more states to visit before I have been to all fifty, and I can’t wait to uncover what they have in store for me.