If you haven’t heard, I’ve left Washington, DC.

Yup, I’m done gone.

Packed up my belongings, filed away my tour guide license, and left the big city.

For this.

View from my aunt and uncle’s cabin on the Pend Oreille River.

Ain’t it pretty?

I’m clear across the country in Washington state now, though I’ve been popping over to Idaho relatively often to enjoy the likes of what you see above.

It’s been nice. Hanging out with family, catching up with old friends.

Relaxing. 

The move isn’t permanent. I’m here for the month of September, then will be backpacking for another 5 months, and then back to DC in the spring.

But in the meantime, I’ve been soaking up all that the northwest has to offer.

I really do love this part of the country. The trees are so tall and the air is so clean.

People are humble and easy going.

No one hustles up and down the escalators here.  When a car sits for 3 extra seconds after the light has turned green, no one honks. I haven’t seen a single person walking the streets in a suit and tie since my arrival.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment.

After 2 years on the east coast, I feel myself getting antsy as I stand idle on the escalator or as I wait for the car ahead of me to go with the green. It’s no good. I love the hustle and bustle of a big city, but I hate how tense I’ve become.

Which is why I’m relishing the quietude of Spokane.

Of course, there are things that I don’t totally love about this area. The man who owns this truck would be a prime example:

Yup, that sticker reads: “Real Men Do Litter.” I have so many feelings, but I’ll refrain from verbalizing them as I try not to drop the F bomb more than once in each post.

DC has its fair share of douches, but I can’t imagine anyone ever rocking a sticker like this.

It’s just ignorant.

The kind of thing that gives America a bad reputation.

Which is why it makes me so mad.

I’ve learned a lot in my travels — like how to make delicious Brazilian cocktails or hitchhike across a country — but one of the more profound things I’ve learned is that I really do love my country.

The United States is an easy country to be critical of. America is loud and proud and consistently contradictory. For a long time, I myself denounced it. I wanted to live in Europe or Australia or anywhere else because I didn’t agree with the politics of this nation.

But then I started traveling (partially because of my desperation to get out of the US) and I realized two things.

1.Every other country in the world has its problems.

2. The US — with its clean water, free markets, and first amendment rights — is a pretty awesome place.

I really love this country and wouldn’t trade my American citizenship for any other citizenship in the world.

But I also think it’s about damn time we started acting like a better America.

Yesterday I awoke to news that the Navy Yard in Washington, DC was on lockdown due to a mass shooting. At least 12 had been killed. Each a victim simply because they had gone to work.

No, please, not again. 

Eventually I got tired of listening to CNN reiterate the horror, so I left to do some shopping in preparation for my upcoming trip. I went to Cabela’s, a store that specializes in camping and hunting gear. While walking around, I came across the vast selection of guns in the hunting section.

The volume of weaponry was startling, but what really struck me was the display of smaller guns in the very center. These guns came in fun colors like pink and baby blue. They looked like toys. But they weren’t toys. These were “youth guns” and they were being marketed toward children.

Why is this a reality?

I’m tired of waking up to news of mass shootings. I’m sick of reading about a different homicide in DC every morning on the Prince of Petworth. I’m absolutely disgusted that Miss America is being called a terrorist simply because her skin is brown and her hair isn’t blonde.

Let’s work on not making this a reality any longer.

Because the United States really is a beautiful place.

Note: It’s been brought to my attention that the “Real Men Do Litter” bumpersticker is part of a (poor) marketing scheme for an animal adoption agency. THANK GOD. However, I still find it distasteful. Though not nearly as bad as the “I LOVE BOOBIES” campaign. Don’t even get me started on that.