Perspectives from Abroad: Remembering a summer in the States


Sascha Sebastian Rühl/ The Char

Roary, Missouri Southern’s mascot soaks in some sun at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Ca. Roary traveled with Chart correspondent Sascha Sebastian Rühl on a 15,000 road trip.

Editor’s Note: This is the final edition to Perspectives from Abroad, an ongoing column by Sascha Sebastian Rühl that explored Missouri Southern and American life through the eyes of an international student. For more photos of Sascha’s summer travels with Roary the lion, visit our Facebook page at

“You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” After driving 15,000 miles this summer break, I am proof that this quote from Lord of the Rings is true.  

My season’s long road trip, which included me travelling through more than 30 states in four time zones, was about feelings. So many feelings rose to the surface during my journey. I travelled alone for a majority of the trip  myself, my car, my feelings and the road for three months.

To avoid huge costs, I kept a bed in my truck. I can remember the fear I felt when I slept in front of Walmart or McDonalds in areas like Chicago, New Orleans or Oakland.  There was a time in Kentucky when I nearly had to use my crossbow against a truck driver. Later in the trip, I feared for my life when I was nearly stranded off-road in the Sierra Nevada desert.  In another instance, my radiator ran dry in 110-degree weather. I was more than 100 miles away from a gas station or any other sign of life.

I was surprised when I explored new parts of my personality. A family in the Blue Ridge Mountains taught me to water-ski, something I never imagined myself doing, but I could do that! Naked people, sitting together around a lake, touching each other, just to bring some paint on their bodies, and me! I felt freedom, no binding rules of society, and I found them in Georgia’s forests.  

Freedom is something that you feel on the road. Just take a left, go to Roswell’s Aliens instead of Santa Fe’s art galleries. Why not? One time I spun a bottle on a crossing. I drove on Route 66, Highway 1, U.S.  101, and even on the Enchanted Highway and Extraterrestrial Highway. The road, your thoughts and you.  

On the way I used Couch-surfing, the free network in which people offer their accommodations and their couch to travelers. So I spent a week at a lake in North Carolina, a week in Florida and some days in Seattle for free. I felt thankful from the deepest parts of my heart. These nice people—students, single mothers, rich families— hosted me and cared for this sometimes lonely traveler.

Giving a car driver a high-five, hanging from a San Francisco cable car, seeing some blood flowing over your arm after you drove some cattle through a forest in Wyoming like a real cowboy. Feelings like these are hard to describe, as hard as to describe as how I felt when a manatee dived under my kayak in Florida.  

While I write these lines, I sit in a Greyhound to Chicago. From there I head to Canada and later, to Japan. I have to leave the U.S., not because of my visa, no, but because I don’t feel like traveling anymore inside the U.S. After 15,000 miles and a semester in Joplin, it feels like I spent a few years here and not just one semester. This is a first class, first world problem. After each big national park in the U.S., it’s hard to impress me with a beautiful landscape. After all of these amazing places and things I did, the craziness level went down the last weeks.  It couldn’t get any weirder than it was. Japan seems to be the right next step, though.  

I look back at myself, arriving in Las Vegas last December with nothing but a backpack, and on myself a month ago, living in a truck, wearing a cowboy hat and on the way to a shooting range with a bottle of whiskey in my trunk. This, I found, was my America-me. Let’s see how my Japan-me looks.  

Just go out and explore what is in you.