Sunday, 18 June 2017

Why America?

A question I get asked all the time is "Why America?" My reply? "Why not?" to which the questioner usually gives me a long list of reasons to 'not' visit the country (even though 99% of the time they've never been themselves so really shouldn't be passing judgement at all). Add to this then a list of places I should visit, all of them very nice sounding; none of them appealing to me in the slightest. For the record I would love to visit the Norweigan Fjords, Berlin, Saltzburg and Leichtenstein. The fjords because of the scenery; Berlin for the history, Saltzburg just because it looked nice in 'The Sound of Music' and Leichtenstein because it's such a small country I think it just needs to be seen. Aside from those America is the only place I want to visit. Australia does not appeal to me in the slightest (I know many people who have been there, who have told me it's an 'amazing place' they want to go back to; several friends visited for a holiday and now live out there). It's not somewhere I have the slightest interest in at all. For me it has always been the USA.

Some of my wanting to be there is to do with the Native History side; from a really young age I wanted to learn as much as I could about their culture. I hated how badly they had been (still are) treated. I watched the old western movies always siding with the native's. Maybe that was to do with knowing what it's like to be treated badly by others just because you don't fit in with their ideals and way of life (I was bullied from the very day I started school at the age of 4 because I 'didn't fit in'). I guess even at such a young age I felt a kinship with the people - that sounds ridiculous to me now, especially when I know their history, have met many of the people. I have nothing at all in common with any of them - aside from being one person in billions which make up the human race. I hated the whole 70s/80s/90's 'new age' crap where native people were seen as some kind of mythical beings. Suddenly everyone was selling dream catchers without a single clue what they were really all about. The whole medium/spiritual fortune tellers who had native american chiefs as their spirit guides; my how they fuck me off, but other fools believed them, took them at their word. I spoke to a really close friend of mine (he's from the Gila River Reservation in Arizona - of the Akimel O'odham nation). I asked him how he felt about such things; he laughed and replied "white people are crazy". I remember saying to him that surely a white middle aged woman is the last person a native chief would go to as their spirit guide. Surely they would want to educate people from their own nation; he then pointed out my guide is native, and laughed. Such a cliche. However, he did agree that a lot of these mediums/spiritualists have also hit on the idea of native people being 'mythical' and that it can be insulting for them to claim they have a native guide. Not because of my theory of them not helping a white woman, but because of how these mediums con vulnerable people into handing over cash; he said the people claiming they have a native guide are nothing more than con artists; that's why it's insulting when they claim a native guide.

Anyway; back to Why! To be perfectly honest, I guess I really don't know. As I've said above it may have something to do with the culture/history but it is somewhere I have always wanted to be (for as long as I can remember). Maybe seeing so many amazing places in the movies influenced me - although I've seen many other amazing places in movies too that haven't tempted me in the slightest. Maybe it's because deep down I always knew I had american family (didn't find this out until well in my 20's and even then wasn't entirely sure until 8 years ago). There could be any number of reasons. Whichever one it is, the urge to be out there gets stronger with each passing day. 

Having been lucky enough to cross the Atlantic 3 times (I've actually done it 4 times as my Mum won a week's holiday to Barbados in 2003; the 3 times is for the USA) I've seen places I could only ever before have dreamed about. My first trip was with my Mum back in 1997. An aunt had left me enough money to pay for both of us to go so we booked ourselves a coach tour through BA and headed off to California. We got to see San Francisco (I could go back there) LA (hated the place; couldn't wait to leave) Las Vegas (not really my scene but glad I experienced it) the island of Oahu (amazing place; could happily go back). However having seen those places none of them really screamed to me to go back. The grand canyon was nice enough but I didn't (still don't) get the hype. Bryce Canyon though; I could go back there every day and still not see it all. Absolutely wonderful place, and I was so blessed to be able to visit it again when I crossed the Atlantic in 2014 (you can read all about that trip if you Click Here :). Joshua Tree was nice, Sedona I loved; as with most tours there is good and bad. I thought once I'd been that would have satisfied me enough to move on. It didn't. In fact it made me want to go back more. Then a few years later a friend was working for one of the airlines and she offered me, another friend and her brother a long weekend in New York. I'm not a city person, never have been, never will be so debated about whether to go or not - the price was peanuts though which meant I would have been a real fool not to. I went and while I would rather have gone with different people, I found myself loving the place. This then made my yearning to return and see the places I've always dreamt about even stronger which is how I found myself over there a few years back. 

My real dream was to go to the Badlands in South Dakota; that and Little Big Horn were always top of my list and so I set about working out a route that would see me able to visit both places. Because of work (and funds) I had to keep the route fairly light to be able to fit the places I really wanted to see, in. In my original plans I was going to include Yellowstone National Park; then I realised that would take me away for longer than I could manage so I excluded it - having now been there it is top of the list to go back to. I knew it wasn't something I could do alone so worked all my costings out on 2 people, planning to take along my friend who is always telling me he "loves to drive" (this is bullshit!!). However, the more time went on the more I realised he was never going to be able to find his own money to pay for himself the longer it would take me to save (I worked my arse off day and night to find the money for it). Remembering back to the trip I'd taken with Mum I started to look around for trips that would take in the places I wanted to visit; i can't tell you how excited I was when I found one. It also added a lot onto the end which I wasn't interested in (although going back to Bryce was a definite bonus as was another visit to Zion - both of those are places you really should visit if you ever get the chance). It wasn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination but it countered for single travellers which meant I could go alone. This meant I could get there earlier than if I was to try and save for both of us. I knew a trip wouldn't mean getting to see all the places I wanted to stop at, and that I was having to do whatever they said, but if that meant getting to see the places I'd always dreamed about then I was going for it. My plan was that after visiting I'd have got it out of my system and could then consider a few odd weeks here and there visiting other places (I'd love to go to Gettysburg - that's on another list). As with most of my plans it didn't happen as I wished. I loved being there so much I was gutted I never got to actually spend any time at the places. An hour and a half at Little Big Horn is 7 hours too little. 30 minutes at the Ben Reifel Visitor Centre by Cedar Pass Lodge was all we got to see of the Badlands other than the bits which blurred into the distance as the coach thundered down the roads on our way to another destination. We had time for lunch in Wall and Deadwood - just lunch. Cody, I loved the place we stayed. I had 12 whole hours there; from 6pm until 6am the next morning. Not really suitable times to do anything, yet there is a whole wealth of things we could have done. Yellowstone; we had a day there and crammed in as much as we could - Biscuit basin, Old Faithful, Dragons Mouth, Artist Point, upper falls; great to see them but no time to experience them. As we got off the coach we were told to be back on in 30 minutes (sometimes less). Biscuit basin we practically had to run around. It was amazing to see them and I really thought before I left for the trip that would be enough; it's not. I want to experience them. Somehow I need to experience them. When my niece then told me she wanted to go I knew I had to make every effort to do all I can to make it happen.



So, Why America?  The people, the places, the scenery; the history. The natural features and formations; the geology. The views, the skies (oh the skies in some of those out-of-the-way places; they are endless). The way being out there experiencing it all makes me feel. The smells. There are so many reasons. I ask again, in reply "Why not?"



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