Driving across the country seems to be a rite of passage for a young American. Inspired by countless movies and books, every summer thousands in their 20s pack a suitcase, grab a friend, and make the drive from coast to coast. I, too, yearned for this adventure, so last summer I did, literally, buy a copy of On the Road by Jack Kerouac and a pack of American Spirits, and I was on my way.

We started in New York City and headed south to New Orleans, AKA “The Big Easy.” New Orleans has a magnetic, vibrant energy. There were live performances everywhere in the streets, jazz so good they could sell tickets, and people stopped where they were going to listen. If you find yourself in New Orleans, visiting the popular Cafe du Monde for traditional beignets and café au lait is a must. We popped into a couple of bars on Bourbon street, the famous party strip in the French Quarter, but ended up settling for a more relaxed evening of jazz and oysters at Crescent City Brewhouse.

The most wonderful discovery on my trip was Sedona, Arizona- a beautiful, sacred town with red mountains lining the sky. The landscape is breathtaking, and the New Age, spiritual vibe matches perfectly. It’s a destination town for those seeking relaxation and healing. They have many luxurious resorts and day-spas offering massage therapy and various treatments. Check out Mii Amo, one of the most top rated. However, even without a resort you will feel the tranquil energy; just by hiking the Red Rock State Park  I felt very peaceful. For dinner I ate at the Heartline Café and was impressed by the delicious health-conscious menu and the beautiful view.

The next day I went to see the Grand Canyon. I was told that it’s exactly like the pictures, and I would quickly tire of the crowds and find it boring. This was not at all my experience. It was so spectacular and beautiful, I momentarily stopped breathing when I saw it. I cannot recommend enough that you take the trip there once in your life.

Once we finally hit California, we drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast highway (Route 1), with the windows down and music playing, our eyes on the coast. I finished my adventure in San Francisco, a lively, colorful city where art lines the streets. There are alleyways (like Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley) full of graffiti representing various social movements throughout history. The people there seem happier and healthier. I had 2-3 meals in San Francisco that fell into the “Best I’ve Ever Had” category. These people know how to brunch.

If you live in the US, or even if you are visiting, I encourage you to try to make this trip once in your life. Make it your own. The big cities are exciting but tend to run together one after the other. Discover small towns off the beaten path, take suggestions from people you meet.  My favorite memories are the small hidden gems: stumbling on Yellow Springs, Ohio, a 70s-inspired, tie-dye, hippie town; the llamas causing a traffic jam at the zoo in Hammond, Louisiana; Shopping for jewelry among the street vendors in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This country is vast, and though an adventurous spirit might want to get on a plane to travel, there is something to be said about exploring your own backyard.

 

 

 

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