America. What springs to mind? Big. Vast. Dollars. Big people. Big cars. Big personalities. Big self belief. I never thought that I’d like the US that much, they lead the way for so many other countries and yet in Europe we often look down on American people as crass, unsophisticated and pushy. So when I first came to the states on an exchange programme to the University of California Berkeley I found myself surprised at how small minded I had been. Yes, everything was big, very big, the roads are wide, the highways with 4-5 lanes, huge cars, big plates of food, ordering a drinks in a coffee shop there was no small option only large, very large and cups the same length as my head! But the people I met at college were fantastic, insightful and loved studying (unlike my uni where the library was often empty and the uni bar brimming with lager louts…) I had an unbelievable year and was sad to leave.
I didn’t return to the US until 10 years later and had forgotten what it was like out here. This time I road tripped, zipping along the empty roads that stretch to infinity – daring you to keep driving, almost pleading for you to step on the gas and race to the end, but the road cheats and the end keeps on moving. We sped in an open top black mustang the wind ruffling my hair like a long lost relative to the Grand Canyon. Again the big, open vastness of America struck me. We passed through hot heavy deserts, the wind now a hot hair dryer across our faces, no shrub or tree in sight, then relief as huge mountains shaded us from the unforgiving sun, wrinkled with craggy rocks. As we descended down the mountains the rocks gave way to lusher greener views and small cafes along the roadside sprung sporadically, signs faded in daylight with half flashing neon lights by night ‘no vacancy’ as tired and weary we searched for a motel with space. How is it that in all this vastness and empty roads that all the motels are full? Eventually we rested our weary heads only to rise at 4am for the last hour and half drive in midnight black to the edge of the Grand Canyon.
We walked in silence past Elk who barely acknowledged our presence to a small jutting out rock along the rim, where we bravely dangled our legs over the edge until my fear of heights prevailed and I scooted back to a cross legged position. We sat in awe filled silence as the milky light dilluted the black, making way for the sun as it caressed the canyon lighting each crevice and kissing the peaks with an audacious colour palette that blew my mind. Such beauty and age, rocks that are 200 million years old and suddenly I understand why everything is big in this country – it dares you to be bold and to live up to your dreams and desires. Ok, there are lots of things that are wrong over here and need changing but to be surrounded by a country so large how can you not be influenced? If nature can make such breath taking beauty of such immense size then why can we not be equally as big and magnificent?
– sent in by Tilly Brooke, currently in Los Angeles