There is a palpable change when one crosses the Mississippi River heading west. The most noticeable of these changes is the relatively sudden decrease in population and urban sprawl. Spaces become more vast; people and cars become infrequent. A sense of adventure is born.
The United States has the majority of its population stretched along the eastern and western seaboards, and with the exceptions of a few bastions, the interior is wide open, untamed and atavistic. There are spaces so vast that it is strenuous to imagine the scale.
While hard to quantify and even more laborious to explain, there is a disconnect in the cities of the Northeast, both large and small. These fortresses of capitalism stand today - some more auspicious than others - as masked detractors of the human spirit's natural urge to explore open spaces. After all, as a species, human beings are innate explorers.
My fascination with the wide-open places of this great land started on a cross-country drive in the summer of 2011. My curiosity had been sparked by a visit to Joshua Tree National Park the previous year. As an east coast lad I had never experienced something so boundless as the California desert. It sparked a creative urge that was renewed in the summer of 2016 during my second cross-country trek.
It is not easy to define a sense of "place". It is something I have been trying to define on a personal level for the past decade. Today I am no closer to an answer. What has become more evident in the past years is that I have felt a sense of belonging - a sense of peace - when confronted with the sheer and awesome open spaces of the United States. With each visit, it gets harder to leave.
It's still the Wild West.