These days, when School of Communication professor Scott Talan takes a summer trip, it’s less about the itinerary and more about what he happens upon along the way.
“A big part of it,” he says, “is to not be so overly planned so that you’re able to work in serendipity and opportunity.”
This summer he found plenty of both on a two-month, 23-state, 7,803-mile, round-trip cross-country drive—his eighth and ninth times crisscrossing the continent.
It’s a journey that, in some ways, began in an AU classroom more than a decade ago when a former student, Eva Glas, SOC/BA ’14, mentioned she’d been to 45 countries. Inspired to tally his own travels, Talan’s subsequent jet-setting—he’s now been to 107 countries—took a backseat to family and safety, however, when the pandemic hit.
In 2021, Talan bought a camper van, christened it Moonlight, and drove across the country to visit his then 95-year-old father.
And this summer, he decided to take another epic excursion.
Setting off in May, Talan started through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, making an impromptu—yet fitting—stop at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana. “Driving lets you stop and see things that you didn’t know existed,” Talan says.
In that same category: a small Midwest town that amazed Talan with its astonishing resemblance to a certain European destination. “You can go to Switzerland in America by going to New Glarus, Wisconsin,” he says with a chuckle.
As Talan headed west, he accumulated discoveries almost as fast as Moonlight logged miles: a winery that offers surprisingly scrumptious bison burgers in Dickinson, North Dakota, and coffee shops and galleries in Montana.
Talan visited friends in Seattle and his father in Palm Springs, California, before starting on a more southerly route home, which included Scottsdale, Arizona; his old stomping grounds in New Mexico; and seemingly endless expanses of open road in the Lone Star State.
Of course, even that wasn’t without its own memories, like a spur-of-the-moment photo opportunity when Talan happened upon the famous Cadillac Ranch along Route 66 near Amarillo, Texas.
Talan says he prefers shorter, four- to six-hour spurts on the road instead of 12-hour marathons behind the wheel. He passes the time listening to local radio stations for a flavor of each area’s culture, music, and news and catching up with friends on the phone. It’s why he carried three sets of AirPods on his daily drives.
By the time Talan reached the Atlantic Ocean at Jekyll Island, Georgia, in early July, the only thing topping the wealth of memories he’d accumulated was his deep appreciation for what he found along the way.
“It just blew me away as a reminder of how large and amazing America is.”