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The Great North American Road Trip

by Philip Greenspun, 1993-1996

We grew up in the 747 Age. It is just as easy to go to the Andaman Islands, New Zealand, or Prague as it is to get to Buffalo. It might even be cheaper. If it is now so easy to learn about other cultures, why take to the Interstate? To learn something about yourself.

Most of the people that you talk to every day share the same values. You won't find too many New Yorkers who think money is unimportant. You won't find too many Washingtonians who question the value of government. You won't find too many Cantabrigians who doubt that a PhD is worth 10 years of sacrifice. You won't get a confused look from an Angeleno if you're contemplating plastic surgery.

There are eccentrics and iconoclasts in every community, but it is tough to seek them out when you're running between work and friends. Do you go to the supermarket with an open heart toward strangers or do you just want to get milk and get out?

A long solo trip of any kind forces you to confront loneliness and turn to the people around you. If you take the trip in North America, the people around you will speak your language and understand your culture. You've got a better chance of a complete personality makeover in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal but if you are looking for lessons that you can use within American society, then here are some road trips for you... The southern tip of Lake Powell (southern Utah; formerly the beautiful Glen Canyon until we decided to fill it with muddy Colorado River water and sediment).

This is a big continent so I haven't covered it all here. If you have a favorite trip to contribute, please send it to me.

Note: the print article including a "Practical Information" section that was excerpted from my Long Drives article.

Text and pictures copyright 1993-1996 Philip Greenspun. Many of the images that I'm slowly working into these articles were generously scanned by the kind folks at Advanced Digital Imaging.

Article created 1993-1996