It is now really possible for me to say that I've visited large portions of the country. While the vast majority of this country, indeed this pale blue dot
, is beautiful in general, I have opinions now about this country that I live in. A warning: I'm going to complain a lot but this is my opinion and impression, not a report from a fact finding mission. A spoiler: I like Seattle.
I have to attest that large portions of the east coast -- Florida all the way north to Maine and all the way west to Ohio -- look largely the same to me. My impression of the east coast is crowded and flat and the features are all the same -- the trees, the rocks, the hills, the structures, the roads. The east coast is also where I have, to this point, spent the majority of my life. I grew up in New England and spent my summers driving up and down the roads from Maine to Florida with my family on our summer vacations. Maybe that familiarity from the first twenty-seven years of my life makes my impression jaded and generally biases me against it. But deep inside me, my reaction is strong and visceral and I can't ignore it. Sure, there are regional differences; I think the roads in New England meander more than elsewhere, having been laid down by cows hundreds of years ago, and a New England coastal town is very different in character from a Floridian coastal town. But I challenge someone to stand a few miles inland and look around and try to enumerate the differences. To me, there are very few.
When I first visited the "west" in 2009, I took myself across South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and California. The unpopulated areas -- well, underpopulated areas -- of these states were something I had never seen or experienced before. The views from just the side roads, or the US highways, or even the interstates, are something to behold. There are often large swathes of just nothing but nature. Sure, it's not untouched and raw nature but it is undeveloped and it is lonely. It is very hard for me to describe how in awe I was when I first started seeing this whole country for the first time. (I think that I wrote more extensively about what I was seeing at that time on this here blog.)
If you know me, you'll often hear me pine to move to a home in the woods, away from everyone, alone. I watch shows like Midsomer Murders
to immerse myself in small villages in the countryside and to imagine that I am not surrounded by teeming masses. But I do not truly wish for that. I really just desire to be left
alone and for the stupid people to stop being stupid. I also desire to not attract attention to myself, negative or positive, and cringe when I realize that I have. But I do not wish to be away
from everyone. I would be unhappy if I lived farther than three blocks from Trader Joes and ten blocks from Safeway. I would be stressed if I had to commute more than a fifteen minute bus ride to work.
What proved that last point to me was driving on the backroads of this country and seeing these small towns that are just like those that I think that I want to move to. Seeing them in person is believing that I would be unhappy. I would be unhappy if I needed to get in my car and drive everywhere. I would be stressed if I weren't able to walk around anonymously. It is without a doubt that I would be ecstatic to have an acre or more that my dog could frolic through and I would relax and enjoy sitting on a patio in front of a large expanse of rolling greenery. But that would not make up for me not being able to be within a short distance from my friends or close to lots of culture, activities, and events.
It is an absolute pleasure to take these journeys around the country and to take in what our country is all about and how people live and what natural beauty we have. When I took my original trip around the country in 2009 a clearly stated reason was to see where I would prefer to be, if not northern Virginia where I lived at the time.
Now, having been around the country six or so times, I think that the only place I feel the best is in Seattle. (Portland is a very, very close second.) (Sadly, it's a shame that I can't afford to truly settle down in Seattle with a home
and whatnot but that's another story.) It's the one place where everything that I need, spiritually, is close to me. I can walk to the amenities of life without ever using my car. I can see the beauty of nature from my back porch. The woods are an hour away -- and by "woods" I mean vast tracts of undeveloped natural habitat with thousands of miles of trails where I can go and not see a soul or hear traffic in the distance. The water is ten minutes away. There is culture and there are events of importance happening at my doorstep. (Oftentimes that is literal such as when the Black Lives Matter protest went down the street on which I live on its way to downtown Seattle.) And if I want to be left alone here, I can usually get that
This has been longwinded. I don't expect any one to have read all of it. If you're the type to read down to the bottom for the "TL;DR" version then that is that I'm happy where I am. Another long road trip once again proves that to me. I expect that I'll be here in Seattle for some time to come now. I couldn't be happier anywhere else than in my adopted home town.