Wanderlust: America’s Heartland


Every couple of months or so, I hop on a plane and make the 5-hour journey out west back to California. I’ve been flying cross-country for several years now, to the point that the whole process has become something of a ritual. Packing usually happens the day of the flight. Emptying out my pockets, undoing my belt, and removing my laptop from my backpack as I head through security are all perfunctory. Upon boarding the plane, I make my way to my seat, store my backpack, shut the window shades, slip on my headphones, and fall asleep or watch some movies. Several hours later, I arrive at LAX and am on my way.

So, this past weekend, when I made that trip yet again, I expected the journey to be like any other. But it wasn’t. Throughout the flight, I couldn’t help but peer out of my window, looking at the never-ending landscape below. The endless forests of the East gradually giving way to endless flat farmland of the Midwest, then abruptly ending with the Rockies, then hundreds of miles of desert before touching down in Southern California. This whole region, Middle America, or what’s sometimes referred to derogatorily as flyover country, was never on my radar of places where I’d consider visiting. As someone born and raised on an island, I couldn’t imagine living more than a couple of hours away from the Ocean.

However, after reading Joel Kotkin’s book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, I’m intrigued by what life could be like to live in America’s Heartland. Kotkin argues that although there have been growing concerns that America is in decline, he believes America will maintain its role as the world’s preeminent nation, in part, due to the nation’s abundance of land and natural resources. As coastal cities become increasingly unaffordable, Kotkin argues many Americans, both immigrants and citizens, will opt to move to America’s interior. While I have no intention of giving up my bi-coastal lifestyle, I do think it’s kind of ridiculous that, despite living abroad, I’ve never visited nor spent a single night anywhere in America beyond the Coasts. This needs to change. Hope I can make it out there someday.