Have you ever been on a road trip or vacation to some new, exciting destination that you have been saving and waiting patiently for? A lot of times, this requires you to travel either through, or over, other, maybe not-so-popular places. This is usually the prime opportunity for a nap or to beat that Candy Crush level you have been stuck on for months. For myself, and many others, that ideal nap time scenery that roughly takes 8 hours to drive through is what we’ve been looking out our windows and seeing all our lives.
I grew up in a small (and I mean small) town in the very center of North Dakota, AKA middle-of-absolute-nowhere. Now, when I was little, there was nothing I loved more than walking through cornfields, or across the prairies and clay pits hunting with my dad. Deer season was the few weekends a year where I got to get up at 6 A.M. and walk the endless, flat terrain of Midwest North Dakota all day, without mom’s rules and nothing to eat but lunchables and leftover Halloween candy my dad always snuck with. It was paradise.
In 2010, my oldest sister invited me to road trip with her, my brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew to Michigan for a family vacation. Since my parents are on the older side and we have never gone on a family vacation, I, of course, agreed.
I had been to Minneapolis before, so the West side of Minnesota didn’t impress me too much. I think it really hit me when I say Lake Superior. I was 14 years old and had a sudden revelation of how big the world is. I couldn’t see the other side of the lake. It was mind-blowing to think that what was in front of me wasn’t even the ocean.
The trees, the lakes, the atmosphere, it was all so different from anything I had seen before. We rode bike around Mackinac Island, drove across the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, drove through some of the tallest trees I have ever seen, and went to America’s largest water park in the Wisconsin Dells. I was in heaven.
Michigan was amazing and unforgettable, but the travel bug really didn’t it me until 2012. That October, I had taken a bus with my FFA chapter to Indianapolis, Indiana. It was fun, but not a bus ride you’d want to take (15 hours, and that’s in car), and it was convention and we weren’t able to explore the city.
That December my life would change. For Christmas, my other sister invited me on vacation to sunny San Diego with her husband and two girls. The ocean, and my first plane ride.
The minute we were in the air was the minute I fell in love, (besides the misfortune of snow delaying our first plane, causing us to miss our second plane, which resulted in us having to sleep on the floor of the Denver airport with 2 dogs and a bird).
It was adventurous, to say the least, and when we landed, I was speechless. It was December. It was 70 degrees. And there were palm trees.
Where’s the snow?Where’s the people in parkas and snowsuits trying to shovel 3 feet of snow from their driveways just to get their kids to school? Like I said, speechless.
We stayed in a condo, just a 5 minute walk to the beach. I remember the first time I stood with my ratty converse in the warm sand in front of the ocean, and it instantly became my favorite place to be.
My whole experience was breath-taking, from the gigantic zoo and feeding giraffes, to riding in a hot air balloon over the city. We went whale watching, saw the Christmas Laker’s game, ran in the ocean (where I of course face planted) and visited the historic Old Town. My favorite moment of the entire trip was the last day, or, as I like to call it, the last sunset.
Two words: Coronado Island. The sunset there was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I recommend going there just for that reason. The plane ride back to North Dakota was a very sad, very quiet one because all of us knew we’d be landing in an ocean of white and 30 below temperatures.
From that day on I talked non-stop about moving to California one day. It had become first and favorite home-away-from home and I couldn’t wait to go back one day (which worked out well for me because my first year of college I met a boy, a Californian boy:))
Another thing started that day. An itch that never goes away and makes you want more, and more. It’s called wanderlust. I couldn’t stop researching plane tickets, pinning new adventures to my travel board on pinterest, and dreaming about my next destination. Lucky for me I was fortunate to go to Washington D.C. and New York that spring for a school trip with the Close Up association. Since that amazing Junior year of high school, I have only traveled to Miami for Spring Break (which is a blog post all in its own) and for another amazing week in California to visit my boyfriend this past summer. Right now, I am currently planning and saving for a backpacking trip to Europe this summer and a trip back to California for Spring break.
When I think back at all my trips, I want nothing more than to go back and relive every moment of them. While patiently waiting for my next ticket out of here (here now being Fargo, ND, for college), I’ve learned something very valuable about traveling.
I believe the reason I found the places so astonishing as I did is because of the place I grew up. Not in the sense that all I see every day is a whole lot of nothing, but in the sense that when I was little, and still to this day, I loved whatever view I was looking at, whether an ocean or a corn field, whatever was in front of me was beautiful, and it was freedom; it was adventure. Being outside hunting all day with my dad was my version of freedom and adventure to a 7-year-old, just in the way that watching ships from the docks was freedom and adventure to a 7-year-old in California. This past weekend coming home to hunt with my dad and walking the same fields with the sun on my face just before it set will always give me the same feeling as seeing the last bit of sun fall out of the sky from any destination around the world.
For this reason, I have made it a priority to not only photograph explore new and exotic destinations, but also the old, familiar ones. The ones I grew up with, and new ones that have always been right under my nose.
PS. I’ll post more pictures of the wonderful state of North Dakota in my next post!