I had no idea what to expect when I decided to quit my job and drive across the country. Lmany of the other great travelers Kevin has featured on this blog (including Kevin himself), I just knew there was so much more out there for me then life behind a desk and a computer. At this point in my life, I had been out of college for a year and a half and was working a decent, 40k a year job for almost the entire duration of my post grad life. 16 year old me, who couldn’t wait more then a day after my 16th birthday to get my learners permit, was screaming at 23 year old me who had become a cog in the corporate machine. It was then that I decided that I needed to make a change, and I embarked on a 9,100 mile cross country drive that took me through 25 states in 32 days.
There was a significant amount of planning and packing that went into my trip. I stocked up on dry foods including ramen, dried fruit, nuts, and cans of soup. The plan was to save as much money on food so I could spend money on enjoying more activities on the road. I ended up spending a lot of money on food because you can’t truly enjoy a city and it’s culture without trying their food as well! As for sleeping arrangements, I had a tent and sleeping bag that I used quite often except for nights where the weather was unbearably hot or rainy. There were also some nights where exceptions were made, such as when I stayed with some local fraternity brothers at Tulane University, and the night I spent at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado- the inspiration for Stephen King’s, The Shining.
Trying to decide on one specific memory of my trip to write about is nearly impossible! I experienced one incredible thing after the other. I think the best way to tell my story would be in the form of pictures. Over the course of the month, I took almost 1,000 pictures with the hopes of being able to let them to tell my story. What better place to start that then here, with the cap ten!
This is where my trip all began, the historic Fourth Ward of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was here that I spent three days with some fraternity brothers of mine. Charlotte is a beautiful city with a vibrant young population and a very exciting downtown area. The Epicentre and North Carolina Music Factory are every bar hoppers dream. Each has tons of bars and clubs all pretty much within one large structure. If a growing, vibrant location is your thing, Charlotte is your city!
It’s incredible how tragedy has a way to bring people and communities together. Charleston is a city that was in the midst of this experience when I visited in early August. Just a few weeks prior to my arrival, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and its congregants were targeted by an individual with hatred in his heart. The church was attacked by this disturbed man, and 9 people lost their lives. Being at this place that had experienced such a tragedy was incredibly moving, and I watched as throngs of people surrounded the church in displays of peace and unity. It was here that I held the hands of Charelston residents and tourist alike as we all mourned together. This stop is one I will never forget.
If you ever find yourself in this beautiful port city, be sure to check out the Charleston Downtown Market for local handmade products and boutique shops. Hungry? Check out the Artisan Meat Share on Spring Street for a delicious specialty sandwich or one of their many homemade sides and salads. The Porchetta Sandwich was undoubtedly the BEST thing I ate on the entire trip- which is saying something considering this was only the second city I had visited at this point!
New Orleans is a city that needs no introduction. Known for it’s hard partying ways, voodoo culture, Mardi Gras, and no open container laws, it is a very popular destination for people young and old. New Orleans is also a city that has a reputation for crippling poverty and extreme heat- both of which I experienced first hand during my two days in the “Big Easy.” With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, and the humidity not far behind, it was disheartening to see the ways the city is still struggling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many homes and businesses are still boarded up, and the number of homes without air conditioning far outnumbered those with comfortable living conditions. There is also something incredibly haunting about this city, with large plantation homes still lining the streets just as they did 100 plus years ago. The strong influence of voodoo culture doesn’t help this cause either! Despite the struggles, New Orleans certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest partying and most fun cities to visit!
New Orleans Picture Guide-
Superdome (Home of the New Orleans Saints, also used as temporary shelter for those displaced during Hurricane Katrina)
ZBT House at Tulane University- As a ZBT alumni from SUNY Oswego, it was a great experience being able to meet brothers from this chapter. They were even kind enough to allow me to stay in their house during my two days in New Orleans!
Duck Sausage from “Dat Dog”- One of the most popular items at the famous “Dat Dog” restaurant on Frenchmen Street.
Garage Door- This is the actual garage door salvaged from a home after Hurricane Katrina. This item and many others like it can be found at the Louisiana State Museum.
New Mexico is a state that I had always dreamed of visiting. I had heard stories of the incredible views and sunsets and could not wait to experience them for myself. My trip through New Mexico brought me through two very well known cities, Roswell and Albuquerque. Roswell, a city that looks like it is straight out of a movie from the 1960’s, is more so known for their infamous alien activity then anything else. Everywhere you look, the influence of aliens on the city is apparent. While there was not much to do in Roswell, I did enjoy browsing the UFO museum that clearly used to be an old grocery store. Regardless, the city has a quaint charm to it and “visitors” are always welcome.
Albuquerque on the other hand was everything I had hoped New Mexico would be and more. The Sandia Foothills were just as advertised, with watermelon colored skies and a beautiful sunset to illuminate it all. It was also just outside of Albuquerque that I had the experience of a lifetime. While driving along the infamous Route 66, I pulled over to a small ranch that had a sign out front offering fresh tamales and fruit. After a brief conversation with the man pictured, Mauel, he informed me his family no longer sold produce there, as his son had moved out some years prior. As I turned to leave, Manuel’s daughter, as well as his three grand children emerged from the house. I spoke with them for a while, and told them of my travels. It was at this point that this lovely family invited me, a complete stranger from the other side of the country into their home to share breakfast. I was floored by their hospitality, and really got a kick out of sharing stories of New York City with the young children. This is a memory I will carry with me forever, as this was the exact type of experience I hoped to have when I initially left New York.
After New Mexico, I decided to take a quick pit stop at the Grand Canyon, which absolutely lived up to expectations!
After 2 weeks in California, it was time to start the long journey back East to New York. My journey from California took me through some of the most beautiful and diverse states and cities the country has to offer. From Reno, Nevada, to Denver, Colorado, all the way up to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota, the adventure never ended.
The experiences I had over the course of this journey, are things that will never leave me. I was able to see and do a lifetimes worth of adventure packed into a single month! I met lifelong friends along the way, and was able to visit places that up until now had simply been borders on a map. I did these things because I wanted to, because now IS the time to adventure and be free, and to more importantly, discover who you are! I know now that a desk job is not in the cards for me. I know that I need to leave home and experience the world the way it supposed to be experienced. Having an open mind and not being afraid is the first step inthis process. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should do. What you should do is what makes you happy, what makes you think, and what makes you feel!
There’s a great big amazing country out there, it’s time for you to explore it.