It is quickly approaching the four year anniversary of when my brother and I took a few weeks and went on a road trip across the country. This, and the current state of the country, had me thinking about the journeys that we take in our lives. I touched on this a bit in a recent post, about how I don’t really feel like I found my political identity until I moved away from Utah.
Even though we didn’t really stay long in a lot of the places we visited on our trip, I felt that it was important to see a bit more of the country. The initial goal of the trip was to go visit some colleges and spend some time with my brother after I had spent a little over ten years on the opposite side of the country. I feel like we accomplished those things, but at the same time, I got a different perspective on the country.
If there’s something to be understood about where I grew up is that it is really confined to a small area. It’s not like New York City or Los Angeles with millions of people. But the unique geography of the Salt Lake Valley makes it feel a little smaller than it might seem. Utah is a large state; it is the 13th largest state by area. A lot of that land, however, is uninhabited, and is considered public land. Between the lands managed by the federal government and the state, Utah is over 60% public land.
That said, 80% of Utah’s population live along the Wasatch Front – the area between Brigham City in the north and Nephi in the south, and between the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains on the east and west, respectively. This managed to make the area feel a little congested, and it’s only getting worse as more people continue to move here for some reason. I knew growing up that Utah was a “flyover state.” Utah’s claim to fame was the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” and the Mormon Church thing, and was a pretty unique place.
The rest of the United States is a big and diverse place. Driving eight or nine hours a day on our little road trip proved that. Sure, around the big cities and suburbs, it felt just like home. But there’s so much more of the country that is remote as some of those public lands in Utah. It was on this trip that I truly realized how even spending 10+ years in Connecticut wasn’t really exposing me to the America outside of Utah. The road trip was something that I did to help foster an appreciation for my country, and it had that effect. I never wanted to be a person that stayed in one place for my entire life. I wanted to join the Army after high school to see the world; I work the Air Force now hoping to see some more of the world.
I believe that it is important to gain new perspectives on the country, whether it is through living in multiple places or visiting as a tourist. But I also know that this isn’t always possible for everyone, so that’s why everyone should strive to get out of their social media bubbles and favorite news sources and try to be more informed. Even I admit that I live in an echo chamber sometimes, and this is something that I am trying to work on.
Journeys are important, whether they are physical journeys to another place or one taken as an intellectual exercise. The ultimate destination or outcome may not be something that was expected, and it is in these unknowns that we grow. We ultimately become the people we are because of where we have been.
Take a journey.
Until next time…