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?
My vote would be Truckee, California. It’s a small town in the mountains (elevation of 6,200 ft above sea level). I’ve met some of the nicest people in the history of my being there during my stay this past summer. There is also lots to do in the summer or winter. Summer gives you rock climbing, really great mountain biking/hiking, beautiful camping, water sports (Donner Lake is very close or Tahoe is 35 min. away), kayaking down the Truckee River, road biking, Truckee Thursdays offer live music and community, and the list probably goes on. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stay for the winter. But, I hear there is great skiing and snow boarding with many resorts such as Sugar Bowl, Squaw Valley (Olympic Winter Games were once held here), and Northstar. It’s my favorite place in the world at the moment.
I just looked it up and the scenery around is fairly epic. I will definitely think about it if (when) I get back to the US.
Come to the South. I’m a native of North Florida (we have plenty of manatees in Jacksonville), but i frequent the Appalachian mountains, North Carolina, Tennessee, etc. Almost the entire south is very rural. Try to see the city of New Orleans however for a really weird, awesome cultural experience. The main reason you should come to the south though is the people. I have never meet kinder people anywhere in the world than the American Southeast
I’ve heard about Jacksonville, a couple of friends lived there. The South, rural with nice people? That sounds great to me.
I’ve been to 45 states and favorite places are Humboldt Redwoods State Park , Moab, Utah, Big Sur, California, Northern Minnesota and the all time best, Big Island of Hawaii.
I’ll keep them all in mind. Seeing the redwoods has been a dream for a long time.
Washington state (Olympia mostly). Its beautiful, the people are very warm and the place itself took my breath away. The woods especially.
I just Google imaged it: looks amazing!
Ahh, I’m sorry, I made a comment saying Bemidgi was on Lake Superior, but the town I meant to say was Duluth, not Bemidgi. Sorry 🙂
The woods in northern Minnesota during the summer are beautiful (but lots of mosquitos). I used to go to camp near a place called Cass Lake. There are hundreds of lakes, and canoeing on them was such a peaceful experience. Bemidji is another nearby destination there not to be missed. It’s right on Lake Superior and provides some small town charm and beautiful landscape!
Sounds good: I will consider it when I finally cross the ocean again.
You can’t go wrong with New England in my opinion. Burlington, Vermont, is one of the nicest (small) cities on the planet. Colorado would be a good pick too; I was there during Spring Break. There’s an overwhelming list of activities to do there, plus lots of local breweries!
Another (big) plus point for Colorado! And wow, Googled Burlington: it looks like Europe.
If you don’t like cities, I have a few places to recommend. Yes, the beaches of Florida are beautiful. I highly recommend them! Yellowstone National Park is a great place to see nature and beauty. I have never been yet but it sounds just amazing. Another area that is really cool is Portland, Oregon. You will find plenty of interesting people as well as be able to see some great aspects of nature and a lot of green. California is a very cool state because in the Northern part of the state is very mountainous but in the southern part of the state it is known for its beaches. I live in New Mexico (if you know about Breaking Bad, then you will have a very interesting idea about Albuquerque. Hehe) One thing I love about this state is the different terrains and a large amount of Natural Wonders. Down south we have Carlsbad Caverns, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We have White Sands where you can take a longboard or snowboard and ride on the sand! We also have great mountains up north leading into Colorado. Colorado is a gorgeous state with beautiful mountainous terrain. It is a great place to visit if you prefer to find yourself in Nature. These are just a few unique places to visit here in ‘Merica! 😛 Hope these tips can help! I live here and I still too, have so much to see! I am sorry your first experience was unfortunately not a good one. There are a lot of rude rotten people here, but there are some good souls as you have come to find out! I would love for you to count me as another fellow American friend.
Yellowstone looks truly incredible from the little I have seen about it online. The nature sounds perfect. In fact, all those recommendations sound like wonderful experiences, especially New Mexico because Breaking Bad is one of the only TV shows I have watched in recent years. Desert, desert, and quietness, amazing!
There are rude and rotten people everywhere across the world: the important thing, as you say, is spending time with the good ones (these are far more numerous).
Thanks for all your recommendations.
I can second Colorado. We haven’t spent a ton of time there, but there is SO much to do and it is truly stunning! We’re from NC, and the outer banks have spoiled us on beaches for life. 🙂
Sounds like Colorado is still topping my list then.
You need to contact Nancy from http://www.familyonbikes.org !