Far Away And Yet Still At Home

Our plane landed in Phoenix, Arizona.  As we deboarded, it occurred to me that we had been flying for about five hours from Tampa, Florida.  A little over an hour later we would be sitting in our rental car with our bags neatly stowed in the back.  Out of the parking garage, onto the highway with our GPS leading us to our first  destination, Williams, Arizona.  So far from home and so different.  Cactus everywhere.  Lack of humidity.  No grass, just desert.


Yet, there was so much that was exactly the same.  The stores, the restaurants, the gas stations, the roads, the cars and the language just to name a few.  Our Spotify playlist picked right up where we left off that morning, as we were driving to the airport in Tampa.  We were over five hours by air away from home, but we were still in the same country.  A fact that doesn’t mean much to us Americans, who are accustomed to enjoying the land of the free and the home of the brave from sea to shining sea.  But a fact that is drastically foreign to a large number of people who live on this planet.     


We experience this reality without even thinking about it.  My wife and I would have been very distressed if we got off the airplane in Phoenix to find people speaking a different language, driving on a different side of the road, using a different kind of money and eating a different kind of food in restaurants in which we weren’t familiar.  Yet, fly five hours almost anywhere else in the world and that’s exactly what one will encounter. 


Now understand, I am not knocking all of this.  I am simply acknowledging a blessing that I know that I take for granted.  Or at least I took for granted before I started to actually think about how far Michelle and I were away from our home and yet, because we were still in America, how at home everything felt.  The Grand Canyon and the red rocks of Sedona are so different from the Gulf waters and tropical climate of Florida.  That’s exactly why we wanted to make this trip and visit these places.  We wanted to experience something different.  Yet, in the midst of all of this difference, we felt at home and at peace. 
For everything was pretty much the same as it is in Florida.  And we would want it no other way.


The basics of life were already taken care of.  We didn’t need to learn how to drive or how to figure out the exchange rate or how to speak the language.  When we were hungry we had a pretty good idea what we were going to find to eat and drink.  With these basics covered Michelle and I could simply enjoy the trip.  We could enjoy the majesty of the Grand Canyon and the beauty of the red rocks.  We could soak up the fact that this environment was totally different from the one that we call home.  And we could do all of this because we never left our country.   


Some of you might read this and bemoan the fact that our country has largely outgrown regional and cultural differences.  You might long for the day when traveling far
from home would mean that you would have to eat and shop and experience significant differences in the American experience.  Yet, the fact is that now America is America.  Whether in Arizona or Florida or anywhere in between.  Corporations and the Federal Government have seen to that.


McDonalds wants to make sure that wherever you go in this great nation, you can still get a Big Mac.  And that Big Mac will taste exactly the same as the one you buy, on a regular basis, right down the street from your house.  Every highway that you travel, every spicket that you turn, every back road that you explore, every light switch, every toilet, every traffic light or cross walk, every dime you pay with cash or credit, every cell phone, every Amazon delivery, every Uber and every value
meal is meant to ensure that you and I feel “at home” wherever we end up.  It’s all designed to be familiar, comfortable and easy. 



Because of this reality, Michelle and I were able to fully immerse ourselves into the Arizona culture.  We could take in the architecture, the landscaping, the music and the people without worrying about all of the other things.  It was a blast.  We are so blessed to be able to experience such things within the friendly confines of our own borders.  There’s a lot we can say about the concept of manifest destiny, but as far as this guy is concerned, I love the fact that Arizona is a part of this great country.