When I was 18 years old, I visited America for the first time. I landed in sunny San Francisco, got off a bus at the wrong stop, and soon wished that I was somewhere else. Anywhere else. San Francisco was the least friendly and most dangerous place that I had ever been to. Several American friends have since told me that San Francisco is the friendliest city in all of America. However, as an eighteen year old who spent his whole life living in very rural England, it terrified me.
That was a long time ago. After my ten day visit to America (half in LA, half in San Francisco), I had no desire to return to America (although I choose not to address the reasoning behind this feeling in this post). Almost a decade later, my feelings have started to change.
A couple of years ago, I was working as an English teacher in South Korea. While there, I met my first American friend. It took me twenty four years of life and a lot of meetings with Americans before I had one who I could call a friend. This may seem unusual, but America and England (although strongly aligned politically), are very different culturally. I noticed that in Korea, in general, nationalities remained divided. My group of friends consisted largely of British and Irish people, with the occasional South African, Canadian, or Kiwi thrown into the mix.
After one American friend, I met two: then they came in a mini landslide (apologies Americans for not knowing you before). From these people, I have listened to stories about America and now I would like to visit.
Due to my experiences, I previously thought that it was difficult for me to forge friendships with Americans (through no fault of mine or their’s). One of the first things that struck me when I arrived in America for the first time, was how very unfriendly their immigration staff were. I have never applied for a green card or a visa to live in America (although I did live in Canada for a year): I simply wanted to visit as a a tourist. Despite this, the border staff made me feel most unwelcome, as if I might be a criminal. I overcame these unfriendly people and despite their best efforts to dissuade me from visiting their country, I have now seen that there are helpful people in America after all. Even more than that, there are many American people with whom I very much enjoy spending time with. These new friends helped teach me about why it is that (relatively) few Americans seem to travel abroad and showed me that their country is in fact, more like 50 individual (and diverse) countries. Some of them, truly beautiful and inspiring.
Where to Go?
I don’t know when it is that I will return to America, but I now believe that I will: I want to give this diverse country a third chance (I went a second time during a year of studying abroad in Canada). But the dilemma for me now, is where to go? I have seen pictures of the most amazing places: photos that appear as if they were taken on another planet. I am intrigued. Colorado looks more beautiful than most of the world (plus it has great snowboarding) and I would love to see some manatees in Florida. Past that, I have no idea what to do.
I have been recommend (literally) hundreds of places to go, but too much choice is a bad thing. It is overwhelming. So I need a shorter list. I don’t like cities and I don’t like busy places. Instead, a list featuring ‘the forests of XX’ or ‘hot springs near XX’ is fine.
So tell me! If you could advise me of one single place to visit in America, where would it be?