I hit two milestones in my life in the last year, I turned 40 and I finally got a passport. My travel experiences have been limited to say the least, but at this point in life, I decided I wanted to change that. Too often I have felt like it was too late to do something different. Getting married young, and having a family made travel and other dreams seem unreachable. But as my children grow, I am finding more time to explore my passions and reignite the desires within me. I have yet to use my passport, but this last year, I traveled to 18 states within the continental US and the greatest thing I learned was: there’s no place like home.

When sitting at home in my quaint Mid-American town, surrounded by the plains of Oklahoma, it is sometimes hard to imagine all the differences this amazing country offers. I see pictures on social media, television, and magazines of grand mountains, tall trees, winter snow, sandy beaches and I long to get out of my day to day and see the world. Yet each clear evening, I am reminded how special the flat landscape is when I step outside and watch one of the most magnificent sunsets created. Many nights I miss this. I get into the rut of life and forget about the beauty surrounding me in my own home town as I long for what else is out there.

I started out 2018 with an impromptu trip from Oklahoma to Georgia and back in 48 hours. Obviously this is not a lot of time to see the sights, but I was drawn in by the trees along the route. Tall, thick trees surrounding the roads, blinding you from seeing beyond the barrier. I felt protected as we drove through seemingly endless tunnels of green filled branches.

My next trip, I traveled with a group of teenagers, including mine, to work at a children’s home in far western New Mexico. It was a wonderful experience in the desert mountains. We were treated to a native dance one evening while it gently rained, knocking down the dust of the day. Small mountains covered in dirt popped up all around. For mid July, it stayed cool through the day. The daily rain showers were refreshing and kept the scenes of the dessert drawing me in. I took a group of girls hiking one evening. We stood atop a hill and looked out over the town, soaking in the majesty of this landscape and watching a dark storm moving slowly toward us before we sought the shelter of our van and headed back to the children’s home to rest. Another day, the entire group loaded up and drove to the Four-Corners. We stood in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico at the same time.

Yes, I included these in my 18 states. I was technically there…

Closing out 2018, my husband and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary. I had been planning a trip since January and was so excited to board a plane and head to New England. This was the trip of a life time. A fall tour of what promised to be the best foliage anywhere. We started off with a few days in Boston. I won’t lie, this scared me a bit. But we figured out the subways and were off to explore. Boston’s parks are amazing. They are surrounded by skyscrapers and historic structures, yet seem hidden from view as you sit on a bench by the pond and enjoy the natural serenity.

We drove up the coast to Maine and enjoyed lighthouses and lobster by the sea. The coastal rocks that look like petrified wood and the waves crashing into them are a beauty I could never grow tired of. As I looked out to the horizon, I realized there is no where else in the world I can see farther than when I am staring out across the vast oceans. We ventured on after a day and spent time in New Hampshire, touring a Frank Lloyd Wright home before arriving at our main accommodations for the remainder of the trip in western Massachusetts.

Once settled, we took it all in. We spent a day hiking a beautiful state park in upstate New York. The trees, the waterfalls, the view were all breath-taking. As we sat behind a waterfall, taking in the view sifted through the mist and the roar of the water, I was in awe of sounds and yet taken in by the silence it created. Like this water was the only thing around, important enough to drown out everything around it, everything around you. It screamed and yet it fell silent, not needing to say anything to demonstrate its power and might.

We spent time driving through Vermont and taking in the mountains. The peaks were beginning to see snow. We walked through small shops in an off-season ski resort town. The people were incredibly kind and helped us fall in the love with the area just by their descriptions of the seasons. Another day, we drove to Connecticut and into Rhode Island. We spent time in Mystic, CT, eating pizza and watching the boats duck under the drawbridge and the workers bustle along the bay.

The beauty surrounding us in our country is vast, touting nearly every kind of topography within our borders. My dreams are to travel the world, learning of other cultures and behold the grandeur of all our world has to offer. I wait patiently for those dreams to grow into reality, I sit back on my porch and cherish the majestic sunsets and flat plains my home has to offer.