Opinion | Why you should travel throughout the U.S. more

If you haven’t been to Duluth, Minnesota, you’re missing out.

Now I know what you California kids must be thinking: Why would I ever want to go to Minnesota?

Well I’m happy to report that if you’ve never left the pleasant boundaries of Southern California, there’s a lot left for you to see. And I’m not talking about expensive getaways like the Eiffel Tower or Great Wall of China or the blue waters of the Caribbean. I’m talking about everything that makes up the sprawling, weird and unique territory of the United States.

Try this out: make a list of every place you’ve ever explored in the U.S. It’s completely fine if you’ve only been to one or two states; just jot down any fun American places you’ve been. If your list doesn’t feel especially fleshed out, you’re in luck! As an American, you have access to some of the most beloved sites in the world.

And trust me, it’s worth exploring. For many of my childhood summers, I was dragged across the West in my family’s pop-up camper to conquer the great unknown. The unknown I’m talking about are the swampy lakes of Ogallala, Nebraska – my 11-year-old brain couldn’t compute the rationale behind this torturous vacation.

But something changed in Monument Valley, Utah. I looked around the campsite at my fellow sunburnt tourists and I realized that almost none of them were American. They were all from the places that Americans strive to visit – France, England, China, Spain. They were more happy to get to know my own country than I was and I realized that I wasn’t looking at our 50 states the right way.

Think about that: 50 whole states! We are one of the few nations on Earth with so many options for legendary cities, to-die-for landscapes and adorable towns – all within a single road trip. If people from faraway countries find reasons to come here, we can find reasons to hop in the car and go.

And the best part? Your trip doesn’t have to be extravagant. Camping at national parks can be a short drive away, Expedia will fly you anywhere for cheap and there’s now thousands of apps to help you budget a trip. By now, I definitely sound like a travel advertisement, but it’s just because I can’t think of a reason not to explore the U.S.

Traveling within my own country has helped develop my sense of community and sense of self. Each state feels like its own nation and its own experience, and the more I see, the more connected I feel the people around me.

And in case you were wondering, roundtrip flights to Minnesota are only about $100.