Amelia Duggan shares her USA favourites

Winner of Best Consumer Travel Magazine Feature at this year’s Visit USA Media Awards for her piece on Detroit in National Geographic Traveller

My favourite place in USA:

I fell in love with the endless potential for adventures in northern New Mexico on an assignment for National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine in summer 2019. I hired a car in Santa Fe and drove around the high desert for an entire week, seeking out the alternative communities living among the canyons and sagebrush plains. I organised stays with Benedictine monks and joined them for dawn Vespers; took part in a Contact Improvisation workshop in the last surviving hippie commune from the 60s; cantered with cowgirls across Ghost Ranch, long-time home of gutsy 20th Century artist Georgia O’Keeffe; and toured a settlement of eco Earthships - homes made entirely from recycled materials - founded by a renegade architect in the 70s. As you can imagine, each day brought something utterly unique.

Why I love the USA:

My fascination with American culture saw me undertake a masters degree on the subject in my mid-twenties. America as a modern state is a vast and complicated project and, as recent protests have highlighted to the world, it does not offer a uniform experience to those that call it home. As a travel destination, however, America rarely fails to impress - the iconic landscapes and monuments are globally admired for good reason. Despite the USA’s cultural hegemony, there are still so many fascination and surprising stories left to tell. Typically, the media find new angles on well-loved places, but I’d like to hear more tales coming out of lesser-visited states.

What was special about Detroit:

My National Geographic Traveller article on Detroit’s comeback, which won Visit USA Media Awards Best Consumer Travel Feature was one of two pieces I penned on the topic (the other was for The Telegraph newspaper). I spent four days in the city speaking to some of the entrepreneurs transforming Downtown, Midtown and Eastern Market into chic, tourist-friendly neighbourhoods, and was thoroughly charmed. Detroit is still, for people of a certain generation, a byword for urban decay, crime and corruption. But I saw restored roaring 20s architecture, a music scene as lively and unique as New Orleans, and a populous rediscovering their civic pride. Detroit is many things to many people, but the bedrock of its creativity and can-do spirit unquestionably comes from its Black communities. Gentrification can be devastating for an area’s historic population, but I was encouraged to hear how many development projects had social uplift and community preservation as part of their MO. Motor City is once again in motion - and it’s one to keep an eye on!

Posted on: 28/09/2020

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