When I first hit the road in August of 2008, I knew I wanted to go to Austin, Texas. I left Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and nearly high-tailed it the entire way there. If it weren’t for seeing a sign for Memphis, Tennessee and my curiosity piqued, I may have skipped half the nation without a single stop to get out and stretch my legs.
After that marathon travel session, I knew I no longer wanted to take the freeway. Austin was amazing, and Texas nothing like I’d imagined, and I realized that the only way to find anything worth discovering was to get off of the beaten path and learn how to notice the good spots.
I did a little research online, I searched for hippy towns as I presumed these would have what I wanted: small towns to medium sized cities where the focus was on local businesses, good food, and beautiful, sustainable landscapes over fast food strip mall everywhere-is-nowhere. I came across a few websites with lists of towns that claimed to be “hippy friendly”. I suppose I could have searched for “liberal” or “progressive” or even just “cities with a Whole Foods”, but I also liked the idea of meeting people who were closer to free spirit than protester. Once I had my list, I started looking at the towns in question on Google Maps.
I’d quickly search for coffee shop, then grocery store. If both of those worked out, I’d look up bars and rv parks / campgrounds. When all four looked promising, I’d add the town to a map. The next time we were in that area and needed somewhere to go, we had a way of directing ourselves down the old two lane US highways that have proven time and again to lead us to the most interesting places.
We’re not always so focused, and often follow the advice of people we meet on the road when looking for somewhere new. Not sure where you’ll go now that you’re gone? We’ve got a handy little map of our favorite places around the United States for full-time traveling.