Do you feel like our country kinda sucks right now? Well, stop it! We live in the greatest country in the world! Not only because of the lifestyle, cleanliness, and richness of opportunity, but because of the U.S. highway system.
I consider the U.S. freeways to be one of the great wonders of the world. It is much underappreciated and overlooked. Millions of miles of black veins and arteries transporting valuable food, products, and supplies to every corner of the country, from its earlobes to its toes. And it’s right there for you to access anytime, 24/7, for free. There’s nothing quite like it in any other country in the world.
Buying a van was risky. Getting to the departure date was long and arduous. Learning to live the vanlife was personally challenging. But once I was on the road, it was incredibly freeing – my first year in the van, I traveled to over 70 cities from Washington to Florida. Driving is the only way to experience the country because you actually see it! I was amazed at how much there is. The metropolises we’re so used to are vast and crowded, but you can drive for hours between cities without seeing anything but a few gas stations. There is still so much to explore, and it’s beautiful. We live in an awe-inspiringly beautiful country. It really is “the new world.” Here are my favorite places…
Most cities become gentrified by entrepreneurs and/or real estate developers. In the middle of the nowhere, 3hrs from the nearest airport, Marfa is a city of cowboys (pop. 1000) gentrified by art galleries. In one building, you can see Warhol’s “Last Supper”s (valued at about $8mil each), next to a dilapidated gas station, next to a brand new modern hotel, with an actual cowboy riding his horse down the street. The juxtaposition is bizarre.
When you learn about the industrial revolution, you learn about Carnegie’s steel, Vanderbilt’s railroads, J.P. Morgan’s banks, Rockefeller’s oil, Henry Ford’s horseless carriage, maybe Henry Frick’s coal, and of course the war of the currents between Thomas Edison’s D.C. (backed by J.P. Morgan) and Nikola Tesla’s A.C. (backed by Westinghouse). But for some reason, you don’t learn about copper, which was needed to make millions of miles of wiring to power the country. Butte is still one of the biggest copper producers in the world. At one point, it was producing 2/3 of all the copper in the world, and 99% of the copper in the U.S. If your house is older than 1980, chances are you have electric wiring made from copper that came from Butte. And it still produces about $1Bil of copper per year. At one point, it was bigger and wealthier than San Francisco, with a population over 100,000. Now, most of the copper production is automated and most of the mines shut down, leaving 10,000 miles of empty mines underneath the city. And with a population of only 30,000, most of the buildings are abandoned, which leaves the city frozen in time. It’s like stepping off a time machine.
Sedona is magical. Some say it is the heart chakra of the earth. With four known vortexes, the energy of the place is palpable. I believe it is due to all the iron in the soil, making the entire city magnetic, pulling all the toxic heavy metals out of your body. While in Sedona, you will notice that you are a different person – more aware, more conscious, more open, more willing – which attracts interesting opportunities your way. In this city, I became famous, I fell in love, I made a bunch of money, I was given free shelter, I witnessed my dreams coming true. The city opened its arms to me and I couldn’t leave. It’s sorta expensive, but if you’re open, you may find everything coming to you for free. It’s a great place to see art, buy crystals, eat rattlesnake, people watch, cleanse your chakras, and ascend to a higher plane of existence.
New Orleans, LA
Let’s be honest – the U.S. doesn’t have much of a culture. Our culture is one of social media, TV shows, fast food, consumption, nice cars, bad politics, and work. New Orleans is culturally the richest place in the country. No other place have I experienced as much rich tradition and history – the cajun food, the festival lifestyle, the open attitude, the French influence, the dirty port history, the ghost mythology. Yes, it’s a great place to party and get drunk. But outside of Bourbon St. and the French Quarter, you’ll find a festival of some kind every weekend, live music every night, some of the best seafood. But what struck me most about New Orleans was the people. They’ll open their homes to you and feed you fresh seafood that they caught earlier that day in the bayou. There is such abundance there, everybody just wants to connect and share, even after such devastation, which is proof of the city’s resilience. Hurry and see the bayou before it’s gone – it’s disappearing rapidly.
The Keys, FL
Who doesn’t love the cliché tropical paradise? The chain of islands known as the Florida Keys may be the most accessible tropical paradise experience in this country, without hopping on a train or plane. Turquoise waters, palm trees, great seafood, drugs, alcohol, it’s a great place to party with pirates, and one of the only places I’ve seen where lower class bums and vagabonds get along famously with the rich party people. You can have just as much fun, relaxation, and debauchery walking around Key West as the expensive resort experience. Créme Brûlée on the beach surrounded by plastic surgery and bikinis? No problem. Oysters with random sunburnt poets on the dock? Easy. If Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” took place in a beach city, that would be the Keys. Watch Harmony Korine’s “Beach Bum” with Matthew McConaughey for the most accurate portrayal of the vibe of this place.
Oregon Dunes, OR
Experience the Sahara Desert in Oregon! Sand whipped my face in the wind, but a handkerchief and cowboy hat kept me protected. My shoes kept filling with sand, so eventually I just took them off and walked barefoot – it was much easier. Finally, I reached a small forest. A wooden walkway led me through the forest, elevated from the marshy ground below. It took me to the beach, which was even more spectacular. The Oregon Dunes are a diamond in the rough. You wouldn’t expect dunes in Oregon, but that’s what makes this spot even more special. The pictures speak for themselves.
Here’s another place where the pictures speak for themselves. I always remember seeing images of this magical red canyon – they always stuck with me for some reason. Then when searching for cool things to see in Arizona, I found it: Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. It’s located on a Reservation, so unfortunately you can’t just go there and see it without tourists and a Native American guide. Costs about $50, depending on which tour group you go with. But it’s totally worth it. Once in a lifetime experience. Go first thing in the morning – that’s when the light is most breath-taking.