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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The midwest

I suppose writing a blog post on the experience of driving across the country is one of the oldest cliches in web era.  I think I write these more for myself than I do others though. An online, public diary if you will.

I've driven across Canada four times, and I have to say that the US of A is infinitely more exciting. Canada is great. It's beautiful, our people are incredible and I am proud to be a Canadian. However, America,  despite it's media construed reputation,  also has many redeeming qualities. On a cultural level, the drive across is more exciting simply because more has happened there. So much more. American history is rich with cultural influence from the three superpowers from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Spanish, French and English were all actively trying to claim the new world for their respective monarchies.  In 1754, this is what  America looked like.

Veins of their old world influence are apparent on the drive across. St.Louis, naturally takes on a very French feel. As you push southwest, the Spanish and Mexican influence slowly usurps the French.  On the areas that were disputed territory or passed through several sets of hands, the culture is even more convoluted. A perfect example is New Orleans whose creole culture pulls in Spanish, French and West African culture to create something that is incredibly unique and beautiful. 

Driving through the midwest of the States was incredible. Being able to turn your mind off and soak in the surroundings was bliss for me. Passing historical towns, driving the famed route 66, and stopping off at a steakhouse in Texas are but a few of the simple pleasures.  Most know me as extroverted- and it's true I am incredibly social and out there. However, if there's something I'm learning from this trip it's how much I like being alone, and how much I've deprived myself of that in the past.  Driving for 8 hours and talking to no one but gas station attendants, and diner waitresses was perfect for untying some of the knots in my mind. A meditation of sorts.

Wide open Texas. Absolutely gorgeous.

Most of my socializing has been at the hostels and with my couchsurfers. I've met some really cool people along the way.  Hostels tend to attract the wanderlust'ing demographic which always lends itself to conversation. A 60 year old couple who live in a camper van, a 46 year old who sold everything  to live 2000km away and lead a simpler life,  A pair of 21 year old guys who are roadtripping through the states and only have women and tequila on their mind. A graduate student who lives at a hostel because it's cheaper than rent... The variety is endless.
After hours of ripping across the plains the first of the many mountain ranges come into view.

Hostels are also bizarre in the sense that it is very easy to form a friendship type bond in a short period of time...and at the end when people go their separate ways, it's acknowledged that 'should you find your self in a little town 45 north west of Toronto, called Guelph,  you should stop by, beers are on me'    Of course that never happens. If it does, it's the rare case. It's just the nature of transient types I guess.  I'm meeting many cool people with very similar yet different views on the world, people who I could talk to for hours. However, I'll probably never see them again. Just the way it goes.

American people are great. It seems the large majority of them don't know geography that well. Toronto is the fourth most populous city in North America,  yet it seems I had to explain where Toronto was every time I mentioned it. I resorted to saying it's directly across from Rochester, NY...which I would have to explain to them as well. Even the nomadic traveler types didn't know. To me this was pretty mind boggling. 

Anyways that's all for now.  


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