Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: My plan to rediscover America, visit National Parks and to give a little back

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My plan to rediscover America, visit National Parks and to give a little back

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Rediscovering American won't be easy, I'll need your help.

My plan to organize a small travel group of like-minded individuals who enjoy solo travel but want more from their travel experience. And, I am going to start right here in America.

Midwestern Farmland

My Solo Travel Style 
I've been a solo traveller for most of my adult life. I love the freedom and sense of adventure that solo travel offers, I rarely get lonely and I never have to make compromises. Until recently, traveling alone has suited me just fine, but the more I travel, I realize there are certain disadvantages to traveling alone - particularly for a woman. For example, your chances of dying in the woods are far greater when alone, you might be mistaken for a prostitute (or even worse, a German), people have a tendency to ignore, or abhor, you in the Middle East, you're more likely to end up sitting next to someone who smells on an extended leg of a train trip or bus ride. And there is one other big problem with solo travel, it costs more money.

When I hit the road, I need a map, a good guidebook, a journal and about 4 hours of sleep. If there is something to be seen, I will see it. If there is something to be done, I will do it. Everything else is up for grabs, where the day takes me, that's where I go. Most often I travel alone because I have no other choice. I hate group travel, I have no significant other, and even if I did, there would be no guarantee that this person would have the same appetite for travel as I do.

Leyla Solo Travel

Read more about my travel style here: Catch Me If You Can - traveling with me is not for the weak.  

Taking Control of My Travel Destiny 
I want to bring travelers with travel styles similar to mine together. An organization, a travel group, or travel club, of like-minded individuals who have a thirst for knowledge and penchant for adventure (more along the lines of adventure-light, we're not dragon slayers but simple thrill seekers). We are the type of traveler who can spend the morning hiking a trail, the entire afternoon in a museum and end the day with a three-course meal, fantastic libations and stimulating conversation.

When it comes to travel, we are extreme planners and doers but we leave room for interpretation. We have every detail planned but would throw it all out the window if we met a charming local who invited us to have lunch in their village.

We understand the value of living in the moment. We love going solo but have done this long enough to know that there is safety in numbers. Physical safety, financial safety, emotional safety, whatever it may mean to the individual, but we are only interested in calculated risk.


If you want to read more about my trip to Jordan: Petra, Amman & The Dead Sea

Filling a Travel Void in My Life 
There are many travel groups for all sorts of travelers, why should this one be any different? There is something I cannot find in other travel groups I've researched, I see a void. I will explain by telling you about the void in my life, obviously not all of them, but the void related to travel.

Last summer, I did something I had not planned to do, I rediscovered America. Over the course of 12 days I traveled across the United States, I rode the Amtrak for 81+ hours, from Chicago, through the Rockies, to the Northeast and then down the California coast, making 4 stops along the way. Although I frequently visit larger cities within the United States, prior to this trip, it had not occurred to me that there was much to see outside of major metropolitan areas. That cross-country trip made me realized how foolish I had been, my own backyard was filled beauty, mystery and a rich history overlooked by many other misguided Americans like myself. Americans who have lost sight of their future because they don't know their past.
(Feel free to insert your own political opinion here, but I will tell you that this country was not built on greed nor fear. Look it up.)

LeylaExpress Amtrak Trip

If you want to read more about my trip across the country last year, you can check out: #LeylaExpress 

Finding the Inspiration for My Travel Success 
My cross-country trip was a great success. Amtrak was more pleasant than I had remembered it to be, and over those 12 days I met kind and generous people. I got to know more than a few on those extended jaunts between cities and listened to the stories of their daily lives, lives so vastly different than mine. Each one of the four destinations I visited were memorable but one of those stops out shined the others - Glacier National Park.

It was my first trip to a National Park, I didn't know what to expect. I am a city girl - I don't camp, I don't hike, hell, I don't even picnic! But I quickly fell in love with Glacier Park, I saw a lot and learned even more. When I first heard my guide refer to the area as, "Crown of the Continent" I knew exactly why and agreed completely, it was quite easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

The people who worked in and around the Park had a profound respect and understanding for nature and history. I listened to every word they said, I took detailed notes (on my iPhone, looking like a big a-hole) and I bought books from the gift shop so I could learn even more. Reading about the history of the National Parks, the extreme dedication to the project by the founders, the personal finances that were poured into developing Glacier Park, left me with a sense of pride and unity. Something that happens less and less these days and I would like to experience that again.

Glacier National Park
Read about my Hike at Ole Creek Trail in Glacier Park

When I returned from my trip, I continued to explore my new found love of our protected lands. I started to follow the +US Department of the Interior's Instagram account @USInterior (and you should too) but didn't know too much about the U.S. Department of Interior. I decide that any travel community organized by me would be dedicated to protecting national resources and cultural heritage. By whatever means possible, we would give something back.
U.S. Dept of Interior Mission Statement: Protecting America's Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future. The Department of Interior protects and manages the National resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and the information about those resources; and horns its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives and affiliated island communities. 

New Travel Goal in Life - Join Me! 
My new goal is to visit a National Park each summer. It doesn't sound too hard, but it isn't easy to do this alone. Most of the people I met at Glacier Park were quite outdoorsy, one girl hunted moose(!), they were the opposite of me. They told me about the other Parks they had visited, Denali, Ozark, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Yellowstone… there were so many! I wanted to quit my job and live off the fat of the land, but I knew that was just a silly dream. Maybe I couldn't visit them all at once, but I could easily dedicate a lifetime to visiting them one at a time.

Any travel organization I am a part of would have a responsibility component, whether it was through financial resources or volunteer activity, we would be committed to the betterment of public lands, the wildlife and the people who reside on those lands. Even if you don't want to be a part of my travel group, you should consider volunteering for the US Dept. of Interior, you can find info here.

To truly enjoy all the National Parks have to offer, I know I can't go alone. I found out very quickly that hiking alone is frowned upon (and really scary). And I don't know of any travel groups for soft-core outdoors people, people who have an appreciation for history and a love of clean sheets and hot showers. To join my group, you don't need to be a gung-ho backpacker, I will source ranger led hikes, find guides that will take us safely down a river, and people with horses and guns that can help us not die together. In my travel group, there is no need to sleep outside, but we can if you want to (maybe for one night just for giggles), the Parks have great lodges. I am looking for travelers who can appreciate the tranquility and peacefulness of these wonderful places AND those who to want to give back to their nation and their people.

If you're interested in becoming a part of my travel community, leave a comment and let me know. And, because I have had a hard time deciding where to go this summer, make a suggestion too.

Which National Park have you always wanted to visit? 

More information on National Parks:

Follow me on Instagram @leylaruinseverything 

Follow me on Twitter @leyla_a 

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