“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
In April 2017 I turned on an out-of-office auto-reply for all my emails, packed a couple of bags, and set out on my wildest adventure yet: a roadtrip across 7 U.S. states. From the dozens of planning sessions I had with my husband before the trip I already suspected that it was going to be pretty epic, and I was not wrong. In fact, as it often happens on the road, I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams just how interesting and enlightening, moving and at times frustrating this journey would turn out to be.
In Search of Americana is a series of stories – written souvenirs, if you will – about the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met on our drive from San Francisco to New Orleans. But it’s more than a travel journal. I strongly believe that when you travel, you simply cannot close your eyes to the social realities of the places you visit. If you pay no attention to the people whose lives you dip in and out of, you miss out on the incredible experience of forging bonds with strangers, an experience that ruthlessly breaks down walls and stereotypes between societies, and illuminates the common and the good in the whole of humanity.
What’s even more dangerous about blind travel is the impact you may have on people’s lives if you arrive with no sensitivity to the local socioeconomic and/or political dynamics. One of the most classic examples of this is voluntourism but it can take on many different forms. As such, blind travel – travel without at least some level of understanding of or willingness to learn about the local issues, dynamics, and the travellers’ own impact on these – can lead to very real negative consequences for the receiving communities. And this is true in all countries across the board, no matter how wealthy or poor.
So here’s the deal. Over the next few months I invite you on a journey of travel and learning. Through each In Search of Americana story I will highlight not just the loveliest aspects of the towns, cities, and states I visited in the U.S. but also some of the social issues that affect the everyday lives of people in these places. I’ll be talking about poverty and inequality, extreme consumerism, conservation, immigration, partisan politics, media, slavery, reservations, and the many, many controversial and conflicting sides on the US that make me both love it and hate it at the same time. All I ask of you is to read, to consider the issues I highlight, to engage with further information through links in each post, to share and discuss with your networks, and most importantly, to let yourself be that little bit more aware when you set out on your next trip.
Thanks for reading rouge & coffee ♡