Paul Simon had such yearning in his voice when he sang, ‘I’ve gone to look for America,’ and anyone even vaguely familiar with this nostalgia-loving, future-obsessed, multiple-personality patchwork of a country can understand why.
If you’re looking for America, you might want to start somewhere in the middle – in the heartland’s undulating fields of grain, among the soaring Rocky Mountains or under the endless sky of the Southwest desert, its vast expanse changing color with each subtle shift of the sun. Or you could go south, into the velvet heat of the Carolinas or Mississippi, toward the wondrous wetlands of the Florida Everglades or the dusty dream-catcher towns of New Mexico. Then there are the salty coasts. New Jersey, Maine or Oregon – lands of lighthouses and dune grass. And don’t forget the cities. Brash New York, surreal Las Vegas, earthy San Francisco, indie-rock Austin, strong-willed New Orleans – each like a microcountry of its own. ***As of June 1, passport requirements for US & Canadian citizens have changed; see the Customs & Border Protection website for details***.
This land is hard to pin down. Filled with so many different worlds and subcultures and belief systems, it’s no wonder so many Americans experience an identity crisis at some point in their lives. Heading off into the sunset to drive these open roads, diving headlong into a thrumming big city or hiking into the gorgeous countryside for weeks at a time are the classic ways of figuring out what this American life is all about. That searching is an old, romantic notion, chronicled on the page by writers from Mark Twain to Jack Kerouac, and lived out, daily, among locals and visitors alike.
And this is certainly a wonderful place for a journey.
But what might you find there, beyond the pulsing nightlife and awesome landscapes? That is a whole other story indeed – one with chapters on race, religion, class, sexuality and, of course, politics. It is the story of the USA experience, and it’s never simple.
The United States of America is essentially a series of miraculous dichotomies, each helping its seeming opposite to thrive. It’s a place where people embrace the technology of heart transplants with the same enthusiasm as yoga, a land where the nation’s richest folks live among some of the poorest. Many Americans are diehard traditionalists – flocking to old-fashioned state fairs and barbecues and cotillions, and feeling in love with all forms of nostalgia – and yet they always keep an eye on the future and the cutting edge.
It is also a country founded on the concept of immigration – of foreigners, with differences, coming together and living as a single nation. And despite all the bickering and hypocrisy and complex human emotions that drive both the good and the bad here, this is still a place that is incredibly diverse and desirable and passionate and gorgeous and, in endless cases, welcoming, in spite of itself. It’s part of the great yin-yang that is the US of A. Come in, explore, see all sides for yourself. When it comes to presenting new perspectives, this country will not disappoint.
Travel Alert: Stricter security measures have been introduced at US airports for passengers traveling from destinations considered to have links with terrorism. People flying from Nigeria, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan replica watches, Yemen and Cuba will receive pat-down body searches and their hand luggage will be searched. For details check the Transport Security Administration website. The usual restrictions on airline carry-on baggage remain in place throughout the US .