It’s said that only 20% of Americans have passports. Even fewer bother to use them.
When I talk to my US friends about travel, a lot of them appear wide-eyed and enthusiastic when describing the dozens of Europeans and Australians they meet on the road and are quick to comment on how lazy their fellow Americans can be, never longing to see anything further than their own backyard.
Lazy isn’t a word I’d use though.
It’s unfair to compare Americans to Europeans and Australians. It’s inevitable that the latter group would travel more: Us Europeans have access to a huge list of super cheap airlines that fly in and out of each country more than 50 times a day without having to worry about Visas or vaccinations. Australians come from a large enough country but one that’s situated on its own wayyyy down south so it isn’t any wonder they have the inbuilt curiosity to wonder what’s out there.
And then we return to the United States of America. Why aren’t more Americans curious about the world?
Sidestepping the issue that those who follow the media are flooded every day by how dangerous everything in existence is and how it’s going to somehow kill them, we have to take a close look at the country they live in.
Case in point: California.
After spending my first day in Davis, wandering the sunny streets and exploring the beautiful bird-filled lakes surrounded by lush, green lawns, I was whisked away for a day in the mountains.
Our destination? Lake Tahoe.
Driving east of the small town, it didn’t take long for the surrounding fields to turn into trees. An hour was spent driving through tiny villages (pop. 78) that boasted nothing more than a few petrol-oops! sorry, gas stations, roadside cafés and a handful of small pretty cabins, camouflaged by the surrounding forests.
The tranquility I’d felt in Davis followed us as we rose higher and higher with every mile that passed us. It wasn’t long before snow started to appear in patches on the ground.
While it’s nearly impossible to take good quality pictures while riding in a car, here’s a little video I shot to demonstrate the scenery (complete with a cameo at the end by yours truly & California Man):
After another hour of driving and assurances from California Man that even though the state had bears (my reaction was along the lines of: ‘WTF do you mean bears? Turn around! Take me to the nearest airport!’), it was unlikely we’d actually encounter one, we finally reached the lake.
There it was.
That lake I’d only heard of by name in cheesy American films about families who take trips together for the weekend as a ‘bonding’ ritual.
Surrounded by snowy mountains, the silence of this place was like nothing I’d ever experienced. Not a word from another person, not a sound from a car, not a tweet from a bird to be heard. Just perfect silence.
Only the occasional soft thunk of a drop of snow falling from a tree branch to the ground broke the stillness.
There was nothing we could say about the place we’d arrived at. Words weren’t enough to describe how we were feeling. We’d arrived at a place surrounded by man’s creations: ski resorts, holiday inns, bars and taverns, cafés, hunting equipment shops. But at the centre of it all, we were isolated from the world and catching a glimpse of one of nature’s gifts.
And it was there that I understood why Americans never travel.
Their country is so big and dynamic, they genuinely have everything in their own backyards. In one state alone I’d so far seen sunshine-filled, tranquil small towns, cabins in the middle of beautiful forests and now a lake surrounded by cotton-like snow.
With the economy not being at its best in the States and families getting bigger every year, why wouldn’t they stay in their own country? The idea is not only cost-effective but they also have their choice of beaches, large crazy cities, beautiful countrysides, and mountains full of pure clean air.
This was only the beginning of my trip. So far, California had surprised me. I always knew I’d enjoy visiting the States; I just hadn’t realised how deeply each place, each sight, each encounter would affect me. Happiness radiated through me.
I felt overwhelmed and extra sensitive in this country … but in a good way. I couldn’t explain how or why at this time though. It would take me another couple of days of adventures to figure it all out.