When I first came to the United States two years ago to pursue a master’s degree, I was specifically told by my Career Services Director at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona that if I landed an internship with Southwest Airlines, I would cross off quite a few items on my bucket-list! I saw this as an extremely enticing proposition, because rewinding a dozen years, my dream to travel the United States (and the world) was ever-thirsty, but never quenched.
The NoLimits internship was educational and life-changing with many perks. The free travel, of course, was a generous privilege! I traveled 31,196 air miles, 15 states, 16 cities! For someone with an insatiable hunger for exotic food and travel, this was the divine answer to all my childhood dreams! With a strict budget of $180, a desire to visit as many states as possible, and only the weekends to explore, there wasn’t enough time or money to visit every attraction of a city. I went wherever I could manage, and I learned so much:
Explore Nashville, TN to feed your soul with country music and your tummy with southern/soul food. Hit up the Grand Ole Opry for a concert. I zoomed my camera in as best as I could on the performances of Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio, the Stella Sisters (all of TV series Nashville fame), the Old Crow Medicine Show and many more country artists.
Visit the stockyards and a rodeo show in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. Even though the animal-lover in me sincerely hopes the little calves weren’t hurt with all that chasing, lassoing, and running, I will always fondly remember my first rodeo show will for its sheer thrill!
Make a trip to the Space Center in Houston, TX. Retracing the great astronauts’ earthly footsteps is a truly humbling experience.
Touch base in Austin, TXfor another music-driven destination. Check out the food trucks too!
Me with fellow interns in Houston, TX.
Fly to Oakland, CA to visit San Francisco, CA. The ferry ride that floats you under the Golden Gate Bridge, saunters you beyond the island of Alcatraz, and buries you beneath the Bay Bridge is a gorgeous experience. The food in Chinatown is heavenly, and so is the steep walk up Lombard Street.
In Chicago, ILeat sandwiches at Al’s Beef (even the vegetarian ones are so yummy!) and appreciate how good you look in reality away from your distorted reflection on The Bean (Cloud Gate)! I had a Lego store hangover, and mustered all the courage I could before stepping onto the glass lookout on top of the Willis Tower. The feeling is spectacular!
Land amidst striking scenery and a glorious view of Mount Rainier in Seattle, WA, and go to the Pike Place Market that is so eclectic, it borders on fantasy! Visit the first Starbucks coffee shop, the Space Needle for a breath-taking sunset, and loiter around the museums and the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Saunter into New Orleans, LAfor part-incredible, part-scandalous experiences, and walk through the streets of the French Quarter with an open mind and an empty stomach. Eat beignets at the Café du Monde and stroll around Jackson Square while watching street performers and musicians.
Fly to Philadelphia, PAto explore a city that I think can only be experienced on foot. Try Indian food for breakfast and the phenomenal sweet-tooth cravings from the Beiler’s Hand Rolled Doughnuts shop. Climb the Rocky Steps, pose with the Rocky Statue, and be sure to visit the Liberty Bell.
Flying over Tampa Bay, FL.
Take to the city of Boston, MA, and fill yourself with goodies from Mike’s or Modern Pastries. Walk along the beautiful Freedom Trail, and eat more seafood.
Drive into Kansas City, KAafter landing at Kansas City, MOjust for the joy of visiting two states at once! Also, sample the cities’ highly-rated barbeque! I am a pescatarian by choice, but I made one exception and wasn’t disappointed.
Try the voodoo doughnuts and street foodin Portland, OR. Divine! Learn how a city can be beautiful and environment-friendly. Go to an arcade and loll inside a bookstore for fun.
These travels may not sound like much, but essentially experiencing is a way of believing. My travels took me far and wide across the United States, and when I fell in love with somewhere, I pressed pennies with an iconic tourist site or collected magnets picturing the place so I will always remember.
I believe I have been blessed beyond what I have prayed for. Three months is all it took for a paradigm shift from what’s good in my life to what’s great—the airline, the experiences, the learning of life’s lessons, and most definitely, the people. Be sure to travel with great friends, have some good laughs, and remember to always be open-minded and a little bit NUTS!