A Traveler’s Dilemma
Please note that this trip is one I would have taken of my own volition, but I was invited to participate by Country Inns & Suites and did receive compensation for my time. All opinions and experiences are fully my own.
I once had a discussion with another traveler, sitting on a remote beach in New Zealand. It is one that I still remember vividly.
I had made fast friends with Kiwi couple while taking a break from kayaking on the tip of the South Island, in a national park called Abel Tasman. The conversation swiftly turned to travel (as they tend to do.) We ran the normal gamut: where we had been, where we wanted to go. Of course I then thought to ask them about their favorite places on the North Island, which I was due to return to the very next day. This was their home, after all. No one could know it better.
“Never been,” they stated.
I tried to keep my jaw from dropping and my eyes from visibly widening in shock and confusion. New Zealand was far away for most of the world, but once you’re there — it’s not a big place. In fact, the whole of it seemed about the size of California to me. How could they possibly have never been to the other half of their tiny country?
Unfortunately my attempts to hide my surprise were unsuccessful. The man shook his head and laughed as he went on to explain his position, after which he paused slightly and asked me, “Have you been to the Grand Canyon?”
I shrugged and replied, “nope.”
“How about Niagara Falls?”
“That’s pretty far from where I live,” I replied, puzzled and slightly defensive.
“Have you been to Montana?”
“Uhhh…” I wanted to lie, but I could see where this was going. (Plus, as we’ve now established, I’m horrible at lying.)
“Well then, it’s not that crazy is it? I’ve seen more of your country than you have, and you’ve seen more of mine,” he stated confidently.
I wanted to point out the massive size of the United States, but stopped as I realized that would defeat the point. He was right: I had seen more than forty countries across the globe, but I have yet to see much of my nation.
Why do we tend to explore other countries before our own? Perhaps it’s the notion that we’ll do it “when we’re old.” You know, drive an RV across the country? Or perhaps we often take for granted what isn’t new or different (or even tropical) when we’re looking at our limited vacation days. I think these might both be true, but for me the simple fact was: domestic travel just hadn’t been that exciting to me to this point. If I didn’t need a passport, it probably wasn’t going to change my life.
Fast forward nearly four years: I’ve got a lot more time to travel (thanks, life decisions!) In this year alone I’ve visited old and new favorite places in both Asia and Europe. I had a trip to Austin planned for a friend’s wedding. But I couldn’t recall the last time I booked a trip somewhere in the U.S. without an occasion or agenda.
It was just a few days after I returned from Europe that I received an email inviting me to #DoMoreCountry. Though I was exhausted from more than a month away from home, the thought of spending just a few days away, and seeing more of the U.S., caught my attention. I was intrigued.
I thought about where I would go. I wanted a place I could escape SF summer (read: winter,) experience a new place, and understand a different part of my huge home country. I scanned the options. Bradenton, Florida? Where’s that?
After a few Google searches, I discovered the following: Sarasota and Bradenton are on the western side/Gulf Coast of Florida, newly home to my younger brother who I never get to see, and home to the number one beach in America (Siesta Key.) Sign me up and put me on a plane!
Here’s what I found:
While I visited with my brother, it was nice to have my own space. My stay at the Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Bradenton at I-75, FL was comfortable, convenient, and most importantly a few small touches made it feel more like a home than any other hotel I could have stayed in here. Walking in from a Southern style porch to a warm living room with a fireplace and library, as opposed to facing a front desk — these are the little things that make a difference when you’re on the road so very often. (I recommend the location as well, as you’re central to both the Sarasota and Bradenton cities and beaches.)
I used the chance to do a little summer travel in the United States to confirm that beauty can be found everywhere — whether it’s in your backyard, across the globe, or simply on the other side of your own country.
Where in the United States (or your own home country) would you go that you haven’t seen yet, given the choice?