When I quit my job last year to travel around the world, I planned on traveling abroad for 4 months and then coming home and finding a job. Then I met Graham, in the middle of the Australian Outback. To make a long story short: we hit it off big time, changed plans to meet up several more times during the next few months, and then decided to explore the U.S. together. One year ago today we set out in a Kia Optima and spent three months on the road in America, exploring 27 states, 16 National Parks, and covering 13,188 miles. We had the best time ever.
To celebrate the one year mark of leaving for my trip around the world in March, I posted my 10 favorite photos from my 4 months traveling abroad. I wanted to do the same thing to remember this trip as well – my 10 favorite photos from 3 months on the road in the United States.
Although we enjoyed the time we spent in the many U.S. cities and towns we visited along the way, our hearts belonged to the National Parks, and that’s where we focused the majority of our time as well. My favorite photos reflect that – all but two are from a National Park.
Glacier National Park in Montana has an epic scenic drive called the “Going to the Sun Road” – it crosses the park, weaving along the sides of mountains high above the valley floor. It crosses the Continental Divide, and we hiked the Highline trail that follows the ridge line along the divide and provides incredible views across the valley. (More photos from our time in Glacier National Park.)
It was hard to choose a favorite photo from Yosemite National Park, we spent 5 days and nights there and moved around within the park so we could experience many of its diverse and stunning landscapes. But this photo is my favorite – one evening we drove up to Glacier Point to watch the sunset over Half Dome, and it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. (More photos from our time in Yosemite National Park.)
The day we drove to Arches National Park was dark and windy. We raced an actual sandstorm across the desert, which was kind of amazing. We set up our tent just before the rain hit, and then drove back out of the park and went out to dinner. The storm hit and passed through while we ate, and as we drove back through the park we could see the dividing line between the final moments of rain and the sunny skies that were rolling in to greet us that evening. I caught the dividing line in the weather in this photo, and it’s one of my favorites from the trip. (More photos from our time in Arches National Park.)
We decided to visit Very Large Array, or VLA in New Mexico. It’s in the middle of nowhere, there is no cell service, and there are giant crickets everywhere, but visiting this radio astronomy observatory is a really fun adventure. It’s also incredibly photogenic. (More photos of our visit to VLA.)
Part of getting good photos in the National Parks is luck – the weather has a huge impact on your photography. I was so happy that we had a stunningly clear day to enjoy Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The blue sky reflected onto the beautiful caldera lake, and we had a wonderful day hiking around & dipping our toes in this amazing body of water. (More photos from our time in Crater Lake National Park.)
Badlands National Park in South Dakota was the first National Park we went to on our trip, and it remained Graham’s favorite. We loved the striking landscapes and the opportunity to encounter a large variety of animals throughout the park. I like this photo because it combines the beautiful landscape with the wonderful wildlife we got to observe. (More photos from our time in Badlands National Park.)
Graham did most of the driving during the trip, and so he couldn’t take photographs most of the time we spent in the car. Whenever there was something particularly beautiful ahead of us (which was quite often) he’d say “roooooaaaaaddddd snnnnaaaaaaaaaapppp” – requesting that I take a Road Snap for our official trip records. This one was the most epic – we were at a high altitude in Grand Teton National Park and were at cloud level one day while driving across the park. I love the beautiful clouds in the road, and the dramatic mountains hiding behind the fog.
The Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah is my favorite hike in the world. I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to hike it twice, but I wish I had access to it every single day. Hiking up the Virgin River with the canyon walls stretching high above is one of the most serene and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had. This photo helps take me back there in my mind, and I love it for that.
We drove the entire 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and our first day on the road was foggy and cloudy. It made the mountains in the distance look incredibly beautiful, and showed how they got their name:
I wanted to include at least one photo of the two of us together (there were MANY selfies taken). When we weren’t hiking, stalking animals, campfire cooking, or exploring the National Parks, we could usually be found at our campsite, reading and relaxing. One day about halfway through the trip I decided that since reading around the campsite with Graham would definitely be one of my favorite memories from the trip, I wanted to have a photo of it. I put my bookmark in my book, put my camera on the picnic table, set the timer delay, and ran back to resume reading. The result is my favorite photo of Graham and I from the trip, taken in Yosemite National Park:
Selecting these ten photos has made me very nostalgic about our 3 months on the road. It was 3 of the most wonderful months of my life, and I’m so grateful that we were able to do it.
Now that Graham and I are staying in one place for a while, I’m working on some posts to share how I planned all the travel I did last year, and tips and advice for long term traveling. I’d love to share what I learned about planning a US roadtrip, please let me know if that is something you’d be interested in reading! :)