Radisson Blu, Chicago

Travel Inspiration: Learning to Love Travel in the USA

As I began writing this, I was nuzzled up in a chair, sipping coffee and taking in the Chicago skyline from the 52nd floor of Chicago’s Aqua Tower. It was crisp outside, grey clouds swirling overhead with Lake Michigan looking like an ocean scene through our window. It’s a city that I’d wanted to visit for years, but had never prioritized it.

Radisson Blu, Chicago
Views from our room in Chicago

A few weeks ago, we were in Washington, D.C., one of my favorite cities in the United States. We were in town for a wedding, plus dedicated some time to sorting out my final steps at the Embassy of Malta (you may have seen my recent passport-related post on this). We maximized our long weekend away with strolls through quaint Georgetown, brunches, dinners with friends, plus obligatory must-see spots in our nation’s capital city. I mean, you can’t leave D.C. without a Smithsonian fix, right? It’s practically sacrilege.

Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian, DC
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Washington, DC
Enjoying the views from the W in DC
Washington DC
Reunited with LSE friends in DC for a wedding

For the years that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve documented my adventures through Europe as a grad student in London, my life as an expat in Anguilla, exciting international jaunts with my family, and our month-long journeys in the fall including our recent escape to Africa. Something glaringly missing from our adventures?

The United States.

Growing up in the U.S., I was captivating by everything that was the ‘other’; all things different, which I equated with being more exciting, more enriching, more enchanting. I’ve shared a few posts from San Francisco, and a few of our brief getaways to the U.S. but generally neglect to even write about our time in the States. I discount it as being run of the mill. I can’t help it. Any time we have an opportunity to go somewhere – anywhere – my mind floats off to somewhere new and different. The U.S. is home for us, and it’s there.

This year, we’ve taken a slightly different approach to some of our travels and started looking at the U.S. a bit differently. We’re from Northern California, a place that’s very different from the Pacific Northwest, New England, the South, the Midwest, etc. To lump the United States together as a single destination disregards its many disparate elements, and does it a huge disservice. Teensy tiny countries aside, the same can be said for most locales. Categorizing a country based on a single city or region discounts the subcultures and regional nuances. The U.S. is so incredibly diverse and has so much on offer that we haven’t even begun to explore. Being in D.C., I couldn’t help but be reminded of how much I love the city. It’s vibrant, energetic, intelligent, developed, and very American. Having been living away for a number of years, I’m starting to see the charm of that more and more, and beginning to understand why people around the globe are drawn to exploring the U.S. and all of its unique pieces. After evaluating a number of places in Central America and the Caribbean to celebrate our wedding anniversary this summer, we opted for the U.S. again in our attempt to continue to uncover its many parts. From one tiny island to the next, we’ve planned a trip to charming Nantucket, plus a couple of days in Boston, a city I’ve always wanted to visit but much like Chicago, just never prioritized.

To lump the United States together as a single destination disregards its many disparate elements, and does it a huge disservice.  Categorizing a country based on a single city or region discounts the subcultures and regional nuances.

Chicago, I
Millennium Park, Chicago
Chicago, IL
Chicago Skyline ?

I wondered going in if I would feel less fulfilled with our U.S. trips; if I would regret not doing something more far flung. Thus far, if anything, I’ve begun appreciating the diversity of the U.S. more, and the beauty of exploring our own home country more in depth.

It’s a beautiful reminder that to travel and to expand our horizons doesn’t always require a massive savings account, a super far-flung trip, or a ton of time away from work. We can easily explore within the boundaries of our own countries (though I realize I don’t actually live in the US anymore!) and learn much more about our own heritage in the process.

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.