United States

United States Flag“The land of the free and home of the brave.” This is the motto of the United States, but “free” has nothing to do with traveling there. Hotels, campgrounds, and national parks will all cost you if you want to go. Of course, this doesn’t mean traveling in the U.S. is impossible without loads of cash. Road tripping and staying with friends is just one way to save on the costs associated with being in America, and there is so much to do and see there, you can be virtually anywhere in the country and still have many interesting opportunities open to you. Whether you’re looking for islands, mountains, or historical heritage, the United States has it, and it’s never far from where you are.

As for the people, you’ll find all sorts. From rushed and manic city dwellers to laid-back country folk, there’s so much variety–and no lack of strong opinions just waiting to be expressed–it can seem at times like each American is cut from a different cloth, and that’s not far from the truth… The great American melting pot, some say, is much more like a tossed salad of cultures, all living next to and, generally, in harmony with each other, but very few are willing to give up their own heritage in the name of total conformity. That’s what keeps the United States interesting: Americans are never just Americans–they all have their own story to tell.

Traveling in the United States
United States MapTraveling in the United States can be hard if you want to cover a lot of ground. Unlike many countries in Europe that have great rail systems to transport you across the continent at a reasonable price, being mobile in the United States calls mostly for cars, buses, and airplanes. This makes going long distances expensive, so many people plan to visit one region at a time, be it New England, the Pacific Northwest, or other. But don’t worry about limiting yourself: there is so much variety in the U.S. that you could spend months in any one part of the country before running out of places to go.

The national park system in the United States is the world’s oldest (beginning with the protection, in 1872, of the Yellowstone wilderness in Wyoming and Montana), and currently encompasses a vast expanse of resources, from protected land to historic landmarks, museums, monuments, and more, across the nation.

Beyond the National Park Service’s managed land, each state has its own park service that acts as a microcosm of the federal system, adding to the already large amount of protected areas. But despite all of this, the U.S., especially along the coasts, can seem to be a single megalopolis, with cities connected by suburbs laden with strip malls and 10-lane highways. Still, even within these crowded streets are points of interest and historical significance. For example, some cities–like Boston–seem to have so completely embraced their histories that one can have a difficult time differentiating between the old world and the new. Others, such as Miami, have taken on whole cultures entirely unto themselves, where the influence of concentrated waves of immigration has worked to create almost separate countries, within the country.

But there are certain things that remain ever-present and all-American, no matter where you are. Take, for example, Super Bowl Sunday. Baseball may be the official national pastime, but (American) football’s huge popularity makes it a close contender for that title. For anyone traveling to the U.S. in late January, here’s a tip: get yourself invited to a Super Bowl party and you’ll get a taste of America in its truest form.

Weather in the United States
The weather in the United States varies tremendously depending on where you are. Anywhere along the southern border will have warm weather almost year round. While in the north, there are long, cold winters and beautiful but short summers. The autumn in New England is famous for it’s vibrant colors, when the leaves change, getting ready to fall. And summer, along the all of the coastlines, draws throngs of tourists seeking respite from the heat and humidty. Winter sends heat seekers south to the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and southern California coasts; while others are attracted to the snowy mountains in the east and west, for skiing and other cold-weather activities. The Pacific Northwest is notoriously rainy all year long (though the mountains and temperate rainforest’s more than make up for the otherwise inclement weather), while northern California is just as notorious for being cold and clammy in the summer months when, ironically, most of the out-of-town visitors arrive. [To quote a great American author, Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent, was a summer in San Francisco.”] The deserts of the Southwest can be dangerously frigid at night in the winter, and oppressively hot during the day in the summer, so most people interested in these areas go in the shoulder seasons, when they can enjoy the spectacular scenery without worrying too much about the threats of extreme temperature.

As always, a good rule of thumb is to do your research beforehand: check out weather reports in advance of your trip and talk to some people in the know. Hopefully you won’t get rained on, or have to run for the shelter of an air-conditioned room, and can enjoy the glory of the United States at its finest.

United States Information
Population: 285,000,000
Government: Democracy
Square Miles: 3,618,000 sq miles (9,370,000 sq km)
Capitol: Washington D.C. (pop: 570,000)
Official Languages: English, Spanish
People: Caucasian (71%), African American (12%), Latino (12%), Asian (4%), Native American (0.9%)
Religion: Protestant (56%), Roman Catholic (28%), Jewish (2%), Muslim (1%)
Major products/industries: Oil, electronics, computers, automobile manufacturing, aerospace industries, agriculture