If you’re thinking of traveling full-time or even part time, do you know what you’re looking for? Are you going back to places you’ve already been and loved? Only interested in seeing new places? Flying by the seat of your pants and whatever comes your way? Are you going to places that are super well known and you know will be right up your alley like San Francisco or Yellowstone? Or are you interested in seeing the less beaten path in hopes it will offer something unique?
It’s an important question to ask yourself. Otherwise you get to where you’re going and you might have set yourself up for a fall. I went into our travels with an excitement to see pretty much everything and Sean felt basically the same way. We definitely wanted to see the tried & true such as Sequoia National Park, Moab, Yellowstone, and too many others to list individually. More than that I had a keen interest in seeing the roads less taken, the small towns, rural America. Less interstate, more local.
Even with limited expectations and an eagerness to see “it all” I have found things to be much different than my minimally formed ideas had allowed for. In no way, shape, or form did I expect to see almost no middle class America. What I had in mind of small working towns, towns not glitzy or glamorous but thriving in their own small way, making lives work day in and day out.. isn’t out there. Not the way I thought, Sean thought, and I feel many people besides us assume is “out there.”
We’ve found vast poverty in every state we’ve visited. Some states this encompasses almost all of what we’ve found. The small, working towns that I thought we would drive through and make you want to chuck it all and go small town, know everyone and everyone know you, wow.. they are almost non-existent. We found instead towns all dried up, or towns that leave you in awe that anyone is making a living and the how is undetermined. The state of the houses, yards, everything to be trashy, neglected, and given up on. Or there is no individual business at all, instead the only commerce is fast food, truck stops, gas stations and not much else.
To the other extreme you have towns that are quaint “ish” on the surface, but once you peel back a layer we’ve found the town to be 100% commercialized and no local substance to speak of. Or the town is fabulous and bustling because it has a lot to offer therefor everyone is there. If a lot of people are all gathered in one place, we’ve found there is good reason this is so. Austin, Portland, San Diego, New York, Seattle, all are bursting at the seams because of what is offered. If you think, no way, city life isn’t for me, I totally understand. It’s finding the town that will sustain you and you it that is hard. We would not have thought this but we’ve seen it first hand.
All communities, towns & states, have good, hard-working, amazing people with amazing stories. A place considered less desirable does not indicate no worth in it’s citizens. I know that every place is an opportunity to meet great individuals. But a hard scrabble life is what many are living and without a formed community, a community bonded and working together…it’s the picture of a hard life, and an isolated life.
We both thought we would end up with lists of the neatest little towns that we had never heard of but felt so enriched to have traveled through. It is sadly not what we have found. This is not meant to be a discouragement. It is what it is. It shouldn’t dictate if and where you travel, instead it is just our observations, our discoveries within our travels. I do not under any circumstance think we are alone in these observations. Anyone who has traveled extensively will have witnessed this first hand. Just because a name of a city is very familiar, does not mean it will be lively, prosperous or anything more than McDonalds and a gas and go. Cities I had heard of for years, we arrived and found them poor, dirty and basically drive-thru towns.
If you know ahead of time what you’re looking for, what you find will be that much sweeter. National and state parks are beautiful and could keep you traveling with no other stops for years. They are vast and plentiful and awe-inspiring. If you are down with nature and that’s your thing and that’s what you’re going for, you won’t be disappointed. If you want to go to major cities and see all you’ve seen in movies, I think you too will be satisfied and happy. There is room for all kinds of travelers.
We also expected to meet lots of people in every campground we stayed at, this hasn’t even come close to happening. We love to be outside. We sit outside every single day the weather is at least half way permitting. We never see anyone. Everyone stays in their RV. No walking around the park, no sitting outside their rig, not even doors open on their RV.. most times. It has astounded us. Now we haven’t been in state/national parks as much due to lack of gray tank, etc. (which we are still working fervently on!) and we assume people in these parks might be more friendly and more out and about, not locked up tight in the trailer, but assumptions are just that and who knows.. we’ll let you know when we get there.
The middle class is gone. Or barely surviving and this is making a huge impact on the landscape and people of America. What you find on your travels might not be what you expect. Think about why you want to travel and what you’d like to see and find on said travels so that you can go out and have it really be the dream you have dreamed. Our travels have been invaluable in a million ways. What we have found and seen will affect us forever. It will make the future better, more settled and more focused. Nothing you find is ever for naught. If we can help you, those of you waiting to go, or wishing it were you, maybe this will help you form your dream with a little more focus, a focus that makes breaking the penny bank to set sail all the more worthwhile.