Since the 1994 epiphany that converted me from myopic American to aspiring World Citizen, I've traveled to Italy (9 times), Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, & Canada. More about all of those in my next entry.
First I want to state clearly that I'm not a US hater or apologist. I don't go to other countries with a Canadian flag on my backpack, trying to pretend I'm not an American. I'm proud of my heritage and grateful for my country. I think I see it clearly in all its strength and weakness.
So, I must give this vast and beautiful country its share of my travelogue.
I'm in awe of the Roman acquaducts. And I think their architects would be in awe of the Hoover Dam today.
Zip-lining through Costa Rican cloud forests causes a wonderful sensory overload. And a hike through the Ozark Mountains is like swimming in the essence of nature.
Snorkling Belize's Shark Ray alley is a great experience, but how does it compare to the awe of cruising alongside a pod of whales off the New England coast...or quietly boating through the Everglades' mangrove swamps in search of the shy Manatee?
I could go on, but I'd be getting too heavy handed with my arguments. What I'm trying to say is, that we American's sometimes romanticize the natural and man-made wonders of other countries without realizing that we live in the middle of 3.5 million square miles of some pretty amazing stuff.
I wish we'd be a little less apologetic and a little more proud. I wish we'd collectively as a country, put a bit more effort in sharing the core and the heart of this country with the world instead of just our commerce and politics.
I wish that, for every American tourist who visits Florence and stares with mouth agap at Brunelleschi's Dome, an Italian visitor would marvel at the complex engineering and soaring simplicity of the Gateway Arch here in St. Louis.
Our Travels in the US:
One of our missions as a couple is to visit and hike every national park in this country and stay in every historic park lodge. We have been taking these trips for our anniversary every year, and are a long way from completing our mission.
So far, we've visited Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, and Yellowstone in the west. In those parks we have enjoyed The Ahawahne, Paradise Inn, Timberline Lodge, Oregon Caves Chateau, Crater Lake Lodge, and Old Faithful Inn. That leaves four lodges in the Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon areas and all five lodges in the Glacier area.
Not all of our national parks have these wonderful lodges, however. We don't let the lack of a historic lodge keep us away. We've enjoyed Olympic National Park and the Hoe Rainforest, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Wind Cave, Grand Teton, Badlands, Hot Springs in Arkansas, Acadia National Park, & the Everglades.
We've dozens more to go, and haven't even started talking about the state parks!
While raising our daughters we did all the traditional educational trips. Chicago for the museums, New York for the Statue of Liberty, California for Disney Land, Florida for Disney World, & Washington DC, Boston, Philly for history.
And of course, the regular trips to Grandma's house for holidays.
What we didn't do, to our everlasting regret, is take them outside the borders of this country. I'm talking about when they were children and impressionable. Sure, they did the high school and college semester abroad programs. But, think of the experiences they missed seeing through the eyes of young children.
That is why my Christmas presents this year for my four grandsons are passports.