Most people think that trips abroad are the best way to find true happiness and ultimate discoveries in their travels, but I have learned that trips close to home can be the most rewarding. Those that travel through Kansas see how things move a little slower out here. As a resident of Prairie Village (a suburb of Kansas City), excitement is hardly common. One of my grandfathers lives in Dodge City (http://www.dodgecity.org/), a town 320 miles across the state. Dodge City will never be mistaken for Disneyland, and my brother and I dread the long hours in the car during our frequent visits. My parents don’t allow electronics on these treks. No iPods. No DVD players. No cell phones. Only the landscape of curling hills, cows, clouds, and long conversations. This leaves me plenty of time to think. What does my future hold? I had always been interested in politics. Time will tell.
After a few hours in the car, we begin to count down the seconds until we reach our preplanned stops. I’ve made the trip across the state so many times that I like to think I am some kind of Kansas expert. Here’s my ideal itinerary for the journey. Our first rest stop is in Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas (http://www.ku.edu/). Touring a college campus really gets me thinking about my collegiate future and what I want to do. I have time to mull it over in my favorite restaurant, Free State Brewing Co. (http://freestatebrewing.com) before heading to the Dole Institute of Politics (http://www.doleinstitute.org/). The Dole Institute helped me realize that even high schoolers can get involved in any activity they desire.
The next stop on the list would be Topeka, the capital. I have toured the capital building, and even gone up in the dome. In Topeka, I realized that I could be the one passing the Kansas budget in the future. I thought my parents were crazy when they used to ooh and aah as we drove through the Flint Hills. Now that I’m 16, I finally appreciate the region’s subtle beauty. As the landscape rushed past through my window, I started to piece together my future. The stops were becoming seemingly closer together and I seemed to be realizing more and more each time I exited the car. The stop in Abilene was the ultimate breakthrough. The presidential library of Ike Eisenhower is there (http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/). My favorite part is touring his childhood house. My whole future could have been laid out right in front of me. Going to college followed by interning for a politician, then doing it myself. By the time we have reached my grandfather, I feel as though I have no worries for the future, and all it took was driving across my native state.
I know that Kansas isn’t glamorous or a top tourist destination. But as Dorothy said of her native state in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” And for me, I could put together my future in my own backyard. Just as importantly, the lessons on patience, appreciating my travel companions and appreciating the small details will serve me well when I finally am able to go on my dream trip to Tokyo.
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