9 things I learned WHILE DRIVING across THE united states

Updated: 03/17/20 | March 17th, 2020

After 12,000 miles and four and a half months on the road, I’m home. My epic book trip across the country is over, and I fell in love with the united states all over again. I think the united states is an underrated destination.

Travel across the united states feels much more like going to a collection of micro-countries, each with its own identity. While some basic ideas and principles resonate across the states, each region has its own distinct cuisine, geography, identity, and culture. Life in rural Nebraska has little in common with life in new York City, which has little in common with the mountains of Idaho.

Driving across America gave me a deeper appreciation for this country and the diversity in it.

1. The united states is Gigantic

You don’t realize just how big it is until you spend ten hours driving through one state. I spent three days driving over 1,500 miles and only crossed two and a half states (Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska). A road trip across the united states isn’t quick.

Like Australia, Canada, or India, if you want to see a lot, you need to devote considerable time to it.

The vastness of the country is also overwhelming and profoundly inspiring. The possibilities of discovery seem unlimited in this large land.

2. We have the best Food because We have All the Food

Thanks to a melting pot of cultures, the united states has cuisines from around the world.

There is sushi better than in Japan, outstanding Vietnamese pho on the West Coast, to-die-for Mexican in Texas and California, uber-good German food in the Midwest, and everything from Pakistani to Ethiopian to Uzbek food in the big cities.

Throw in southern home cooking, spicy Cajun food, steaks in the Midwest, freshly caught seafood and oysters in the Northwest, and pizza in Chicago and new York City, and you can eat practically any type of food no matter where you are.

You simply can’t find this diversity anywhere else in the world.

3. Our infrastructure needs Work

Midway through my road trip, I flew to Shanghai to film a TV commercial. I was struck best away by how well maintained the infrastructure in Shanghai was compared to what I’d just left behind.

There were no potholes in the roads, the highways had plenty of lanes, and there were lots of high-speed trains, well-connected public transportation, and bridges lit up with neon light shows at night! It was like being in the future.

I returned home to highways always under construction, clogged and decaying bridges, unevenly paved roads, and car-damaging potholes.

Our infrastructure is in disrepair: highways can’t deal with the traffic, roads are neglected, and there are few intercity travel options. It is no wonder the American society of Civil Engineers rates us a D+.

It’s a shame that such a terrific country neglects such an essential part of society.

4. outside the Coasts, It’s very Cheap

I live in the land of $14 cocktails (thanks, NYC!) — not an uncommon price in big coastal cities.

However, when you escape the major cities and venture into the countryside, your costs drop dramatically. The united states is a fantastic budget destination.

There are economical hotels and hostels (starting at $30 a night), tons of Couchsurfing opportunities, diners and sit-down restaurants for under $10 a plate, and $3 beers.

I found it easy to manage on less than $50 a day. It turns out the united states is one of the most under-appreciated budget destinations in the world.

5. It’s very Rural

The country is big and filled with a lot of nothing. We typically picture the united states as a country of big cities and suburbs, an agrarian middle, and stunning parks such as Yellowstone or Glacier national Park.

But in truth, the majority of the nation is small, rural towns and empty countryside.

Though including only 19% of the population, 95% of us land is classified as rural. Whether it was driving through Tennessee, Montana, Texas, or even California, once I left the big cities, there was an practically immediate shift to small towns and broad empty spaces.

6. country music is King

While driving through the desert, the radio becomes mostly static — and unlimited country music stations coming in loud and clear. America loves country music. I knew it was popular, but this road trip showed me that there is no music as popular here as country.

After months of listening to songs about beer, heartbreak, trucks, going down to the lake, and loving our country (sometimes all five at once), I too am now hooked on this twangy vibe.

7. It’s Christian

You know what else you hear a lot on the radio? Christian rock and Bible sermons. add the billion churches you see, all the “Jesus is Lord” signs on the highway, conservative talk radio, the large percentage of Americans who go to church typically (77% of Americans classify themselves as Christian), andyou come to realize that the large majority of America is deeply Christian.

After listening to country music and seeing the religiosity of many Americans, I understand my fellow citizens a lot much more and get why this country has become much more conservative in the past few years.

8. It’s really a bunch of little Countries

The united states is typically depicted as a monolithic cultural entity, but this road trip taught me that the united states is just a series of micro-cultures politically bound together by a common set of principles. Roaming from region to region will take you through diverse landscapes and attitudes on life.

The Northwest, with its coffee-drinking, tech-loving, hipster, outdoor vibe, is vastly different from the genteel, conservative state of Mississippi.

The fast-paced life in nyc is a world away from the farms of rural Wyoming. Sun-soaked, taco-filled, laid-back San Diego seemed a foreign place when compared to the outdoor cowboy culture in Montana.

Driving through America feels as though you pass through dozens of countries.

9. It’s full of Helpful, Upbeat People

Everyone I met on the road was helpful, inquisitive, and nice. From the folks in Nashville who let me stay at their place in Mississippi to the man in Kansas who gave me driving directions, people cared. Locals I met were fascinated by my road trip, and when I needed something, they helped. It didn’t matter where I was — everyone helped.

Years ago, my Dutch pal took an extended trip to the United States. His first comment to me was, “Why are Americans so valuable and cheery? It’s not like Holland at all. everyone wants to know about my day.” An English pal once told me Americans were, “just too damn cheerful.”

Het is waar. Our spirit is overwhelmingly cheery, upbeat, and positive.

Traveling the country destroyed numerous negative sentiments, gave me a better perspective on life in the country, and taught me that no matter how numerous micro-cultures and differences we have, our common core beliefs and positive outlook makes me hopeful our future will be bright.

As Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the best thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

Book Your Trip: Logistical suggestions and Tricks
Boek uw vlucht
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a low-cost flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search sites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. start with Skyscanner first though because they have the most significant reach!

Boek uw accommodatie
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most significant inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the most affordable rates for guesthouses and low-cost hotels.

Don’t forget travel Insurance
Travel insurance will safeguard you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s extensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it numerous times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)

Verzeker mijn reis (voor die ouder dan 70)

Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking for the best companies to save money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. Ze zullen je geld besparen als je ook reist.

Want much more information on the United States?
Be sure to check out our robust destination guide on the united states for even much more planning tips!

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