Browsing the internet today I came across a very interesting map at the Huffington Post about stereotypes and the various states in the United States. The map shows what word appears first on the autocomplete list when the words “Why is (such and such state) so _____?” are typed into Google.
As you can see, some of the autocomplete terms are not very complementary and, in some cases, derogatory and downright incorrect. For example, as a native Cheesehead I notice that Wisconsin is listed as “liberal”. Maybe in the past this would have been the truth, but anyone who has followed state politics for the last few years has seen the state turn to a definite shade of red!
Two states, Rhode Island and Nebraska, are labeled as “boring”. I will be the first to admit that we have found some states to be more, shall we say, exciting than others, but I think that this depends totally on what one likes to do. We, for example, gravitate towards the ocean and other bodies of water as well as the woods and mountains. Admittedly Nebraska is a bit short on all of these requirements but that is not to say that we couldn’t find something that would interest us if we spent more time there.
Tennessee received the term “racist” and upon visiting we found stereotype, in our case, to pertain to our native latitude and not the color of our skin. We had the misfortune of running into a business owner who hopefully was only having a bad day but was very definite in his opinion of “Yankees” and it was not good. The other state that earned the term “racist”, Louisiana, is one of my absolute favorites mainly due to the Cajun culture, food and music.
Of all the terms that came up on the Google search, two of them were the most striking to me, probably as they described two of the states that most surprised me upon visiting. When you think of the term “Mormon” there will be one state that will no doubt pop into most peoples’ minds: Utah. Utah is one state that we probably would not have visited as early in our fulltiming travels as we did even though it has so many beautiful National Parks such as Bryce Canyon and Zion among others. We are not snow winter people and let’s face it, a beach on the Great Salt Lake doesn’t sound too appealing. We were sent there for a job and could not believe the utter beauty we saw. When we left at the end the job we knew that we would definitely be back.
The other state that gave us a big surprise was one of the states labeled as “poor”. When we thought of Mississippi we unfortunately pictured cotton fields and not much else. We would have never, never thought that we would find such lovely beaches as we did on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Unfortunately when we first found them it was the year immediately following Hurricane Katrina. How very disheartening to see the foundations of what must have been glorious old homes standing empty and the boardwalk in front smashed beyond repair. Thankfully during our last visit many things have been rebuilt although it will definitely not be the same.
So the next time you are ready to travel to the next state, take a look at your own stereotypes and misconceptions before you do. Realize that although each one is different and unique it does not necessarily mean “boring” or “backwards” or “empty”. If you chose to visit each state with an open mind and be on the lookout for new experiences and adventures, the only autocomplete that should occur should be “awesome”!