My home country, the United States, has some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the world. However, I had almost forgotten this until I took some time to travel through California and appreciate what it had to offer. Whether you love coastline, mountains, or the desert, California has them all.

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For months I had been researching where to go on my next trip. My husband and I were traveling together and I was so excited to experience something new with him. I had recently gotten back from trips to the Maldives, Japan, France, and Switzerland. I really wanted to visit Peru, but after a lot of research we realized the time we had available was not going to be enough to see what we wanted to see there. I asked my husband what he wanted to do, and he suggested visiting some places out West in California.

A ROAD TRIP IN CALIFORNIA

The more we looked into where we wanted to visit on our road trip, the more excited I became. We drove from San Francisco to Las Vegas and stopped in Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes, Alabama Hills, and Death Valley National Park. We went during the fall, which ended up being the perfect time because the roads weren’t yet closed from snow, but the summer crowds had died down. For anyone planning a road trip in California, I highly recommend the route we took. There are many more places to see, but even short on time, we were able to see so much. I was blown away by the natural beauty of each place, and the diversity of the landscapes we saw in one trip.

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In Yosemite National Park, I saw the most stunning sunset from Taft Point as I dangled my feet off edge of a cliff thousands of feet above the valley floor, watched the sunrise behind half dome, and took a bike ride under bright yellow trees.

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We only stayed a few days but could have spent so much more time there exploring all the hiking trails and the valley floor. Fortunately, the other places we saw next did not disappoint us. When we left Yosemite, we drove through snow-capped mountains in the Sierras, and swam in natural hot springs in Mammoth Lakes.

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In Alabama Hills, I saw a jaw dropping view of Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States. On one of my favorite mornings, I watched the sun light up the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park. By the end of our adventures, I grew a new appreciation for America’s natural wonders after seeing the diversity of the landscapes we came across in a short week.

While reflecting back on the trip, I realized, somewhere in several years of traveling abroad, I had stopped appreciating all there was to see in my own country. I think it became easy to dream of places far away, simply because they were far away. There is nothing wrong with that, and I am so grateful to have seen so many places far from home, but I needed this trip to remind me to never forget to explore my own backyard.

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By Hannah Janoe

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