10 Things I Loved About Backpacking the USA (… and You Should Too!)

If there is one country that should be on every traveler’s bucket list, it should be America. And it HAS to be a road-trip. There’s just no other way to experience the vastly different big cities and small towns, the wilderness and the chain hotels, the ethnic foods and the fast food, and of course, meeting such a fascinating variety of people.

For almost every traveler to America, there are some things you just don’t get over, no matter how long you stay. Here’s my top ten:

Camping in Arches National Park
Camping in Arches National Park © Srikanth Jandhyala

#1: America Can Have Many Faces

Many travelers write off America as lacking in mystery or exotic appeal. But hike the Arches National Park, and you’re surrounded by the mystery of these massive yet delicate structures that tower overhead.

For exotic appeal, take a walk through Taos Pueblo, the 1000-year old community that has always been inhabited.

America can be a party destination, a foodie’s paradise, a music aficionado’s epiphany or a wildlife lover’s biggest dream. You can customize your trip to suit your expectations, or just see where the road takes you.

#2: America Makes It Easy to Travel

America is accessible for any kind of travel you want to do – it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or a veteran traveller.

Like the rugged outdoors? Have we got a campsite for you! There’s no washrooms, no water supply, and only pit toilets.

Like camping but want some luxuries? Come right this way, where we have warm showers, barbecue pits and camp supply stores.

Want a cheap motel? We think you might like the family-run motel just down the road there.

#3: America Has Thoughtful Facilities

Every National Park and most towns have visitor centers, staffed by people who genuinely love the area and know their stuff. Campsites are cleaned and maintained every day, even in freezing temperatures, so that travelers have a place they can call home for a night or two. All campsites have facilities for the differently abled so that nobody misses out on a chance to travel if they want to.

Free Friday at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Free Friday at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City © Ray_from_LA

#4: America Is Open to You, Even on a Budget

Did you know, in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably one the most well-known art museums in the world, you can name your own entry-fee now? Even if it’s just $1.

Or did you know that for about $80, you can buy a pass that lets you in to almost all National Parks and Forests and Recreation Areas. You still pay for the camping, but you save huge amounts on entry to each park. And once you’re in, the park is yours to explore for as long as you like.

There are free tours and guided walks in cities, landmark buildings, and other interesting sights. And they’re not that hard to find!

#5: America Carefully Conserves Its Natural Beauty

I spent three months on the road in America, exploring parks and forests and sand dunes and deserts and rivers, and I can’t remember a single moment that I thought to myself, ”˜It’s a pity they don’t look after these places better.

They’re proud of their resources and always happy to explain what efforts go into looking after them, through movies at information centers, entire museums sometimes, and always leaflets and brochures.

#6: America Has Unlimited Refills on Coffee + Coke

It’s a hot day. You’ve been driving for hours. A tall glass of Coke isn’t enough, but you’re on a budget. Still, unlike many other parts of the world, you can step to the soda fountain and fill up for free. It’s awesome! (Yes, it’s the little things in life …)

#7: America Has the Best Weather Updates

Trust us: if you’re camping, an hour-by-hour weather forecast is a blessing. You know when to plan your hikes, when to cook, and when to hang out your socks to dry.

Sign: "American Comfort Food"
© Simon Carrasco

#8: America Loves Its Comfort Food

Apple pie, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, donuts, chocolate chip cookies (with more chocolate than cookie) — perfect for when your clothes are wet from being caught in the rain on your hike. Perfect for travelers, because really, who wants salad and green tea and diet biscuits when you’re already suffering?

#9: America Does Supermarkets Like No Other Country

I stepped into a Walmart to pick up bread and eggs once … and got lost for three hours. I came out wanting to own a garden with a rockery and barbecue, take up quilting, start painting on easels that were as tall as me, and go fishing in camouflage gear. All because these dens of temptation sell everrrytthhing you could possibly need.

#10: Americans Are Super-friendly

When you get to America, you’re greeted as you walk down the street, shop for ketchup in the supermarket, or use the washroom at a camp-site. Once you get used to it, other countries seem unfriendly if they stare at you when you smile at them in the washroom.

What are your top favorite things about traveling in America? Share with us in the comments below!

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