Thank you so much for reading my blog and sharing in my journey over the past 30 days! I felt this way in the beginning, and it never ceased to be true, having you all on this trip with me has made the experience that much better.  When I started out, on June 3rd, I had no idea of exactly what I was going to find.  I had recently quit my job, working in TV, the field that I had always be certain that I would work in forever, and I had decided to move across the country to Tennessee, a place that aside from the good old Chattanooga Aquarium, I didn’t know much about.

The thing that I did know though was that for a long time, I had wanted to drive around the country.  I would use the term, “across,” but in my mind, that implies heading directly to the other side.  I didn’t want that much focus involved in my trip, and I wanted to get a good look around at America.  There are so many things here that I hadn’t seen, and I liked the idea of driving for days on end.  Just driving.  Maybe that’s a hint to become a truck driver or better yet, follow in Danica Patrick’s footsteps by setting my sights on NASCAR.

I made lists of things in America that I wanted to see.  They were pages long.  Each day I would think of something else, and then someone would tell me about yet another thing that I didn’t know of or hadn’t thought about yet.  Finally, I started to map my journey and it became clear that there were somethings that I’d have to let go of.  The saddest of these things for me continues to be Mount Rushmore, something that was a high priority on my original list.  (Followed ever so closely, of course, by the Mall of America).  At first, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to make it to everything that I wanted to visit, but then I became happy about it.  America is such a vast country with so many points of interest.  I realized that not seeing everything in one swoop would allow me to explore the nation over my lifetime.  And of course, this means that I also have a similar trip of northern America to look forward to one day.

Over the past thirty days, I have driven through twenty-two states: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts as well as through Washington D.C.  Over the course of this trip, I have spent time in fifteen cities and driven a grand total of 6,514.7 miles.  Some of you might me wondering what that mileage total equates to in gas expense and the answer is $722.47.  As far as the other expenses that I’ve incurred, I don’t even want to total those up.  I will tell you though that my Dolly Parton shirt was a very reasonable $19.99.

Before I left for the trip, I told my friend, Danielle, about my plan to forge ahead without a navigation system.  She asked me how I would get from place to place and I replied, “I don’t know.  I feel like I’ll find it.”  So the real question, I guess is, did I in fact, find “it”?  And in some ways, I suppose, I think that I did.

The thing that I found out about America is that it’s an absolutely beautiful country with some of the most amazing people in the world.  In each place that I visited, I was met with kindness and hospitality, and in each place that I visited, I found out something wonderful or charming about the location.  There was not one state or city that I went to and left disappointed.  I was met with frustrations like Chicago’s traffic or looking for my car in New York City, but each place felt uniquely like America to me.  I loved them all in spite of any issues that I ran into, and in more than one city, I thought to myself, “I’d like to live here one day.”

The other thing that happened on this trip is that I stopped seeing each state and city with its own identity or as part of a larger region that had its own identity.  I started seeing America and seeing the little pieces that make it into the greatest puzzle I know.  The truth is that we actually need all of the pieces.  It’s easy to say, “I hate that place” or “I wish we could get rid of those states,” but ultimately, we’re all one family with a common goal.  Each state has something to bring to the table, and each state wants to be at that table.  The thing that perhaps struck me most about my travels is the amount of American patriotism that I found across the country.  Each place sports huge American flags and reminders that we truly are “one nation under God.”  One nation.  No matter where you go, the general consensus of everyone here is that we all love America.

As I drove from one coast, through the Midwest, and then up the other coast, it also occurred to me that America doesn’t seem as big as I once felt that it was.  There I was, in one state after the next, driving my little car that I had in LA.  It felt less remarkable with each passing day as I started to realize that things aren’t as far as they seem, and the people across the country aren’t as different as you might think they are.  For the most part, everyone loves this country, they love their families, they love their cities, and they’re happy in them.  This trip reminded me to compare little and accept much.

As far as for myself, the thing that I found out above all others is that no matter where I go, there I am.  For the past several years, the achievement that I’ve hung my hat on is that I’ve seen every episode of every location of every season of the Real Housewives, (no really, no applause necessary), and this fact continues to be true.  No matter where I was, this remained the one show that I tried to catch whenever I got the chance.

Beverly Hills, 90210 is still my all-time favorite, I still love it as much as I did when I was eleven years old, and I still hope and wonder if maybe one day that will change.  I suppose, as time goes on, it looks less and less likely that it ever will.  Throughout the trip, with no deadlines or outside commitments, I still couldn’t stand to be late for or not comply with the plan that I had laid out for myself.  I still wanted to be on a schedule.

No matter where I was physically located, I still hated both ricotta cheese and strawberries.  I still didn’t have any interest in reading fiction books, always opting for true stories within non-fiction.  My favorite television character is still Lorelai Gilmore, and my favorite sports team is still the Atlanta Braves.  I still love the Olympics, I still hate techno music, and I still don’t think that Ross and Rachel were truly on a break.

Everywhere that I went expanded my horizons, but even though my surroundings were different from one day to the next, it was still me there within them.  I’ll always be from Georgia, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for LA, and no matter where I am, I’ll always look forward to seeing my nieces and nephew again who will always be my favorite people to visit.  I’m never going to be able to keep my opinions to myself, and it seems as though I’ll always have a lot of them.  I’ve now seen Bridesmaids three times, and this trip has led me to side with the philosophy of Kristen Wiig’s character, “people grow, but they don’t ever really change.”  And at the end of this particular journey and every journey, it’s still me on the other side.

Today, my family and I participated in a boat parade on the lake on which my parents live.  Upon me was bestowed the grand honor of being the bald eagle for the pre-4th of July celebration.  At one point, my oldest niece, Louisa, looked at me and said, “those people are laughing at you!”  And I was glad that I had the foresight to be the loudest one laughing.  I looked ridiculous in that bird suit, it was ninety degrees, and I was dressed in fur.  But there we all were, my nieces holding up the torches for their Statue of Liberty costumes until their arms hurt.  All for the sake of honoring our country, all for the sake of being with friends and family to celebrate America.  Today was definitely the cherry on top of my trip, and it made me realize that no matter where I go, or what I end up doing with my life, I hope I’ll always have days like this one.  I hope that, in one way or another, I can always be the loudest one laughing.

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