There’s only one way to find out what’s going on in America. Go there. Starting this week, that’s what I’m doing. Want to call shotgun? (You’ll have to share the seat with Rusty.)
I’m not talking about the America of the coasts, where the money is printed or the movies are made. I’m talking about everything in between, where life’s math is just different. You won’t find plentiful six-figure jobs in Columbus, Ohio. Or Missoula, Montana. Or Iowa City. But you won’t find $2,000 studio apartments, either.
If life is increasingly a popularity contest orchestrated by social media, places like Columbus haven’t got a chance, right? Maybe. Or maybe they have a secret they’re not telling the rest of us. I’ll try to find out and let you know.
I also want to find out how the country is feeling, six years out from the Great Recession. One thing I know: The stock market is up and unemployment is down, but Main Street isn’t being renamed Easy Street in many towns.
This year, along with Credit.com, I will be asking a simple question of people I see: What’s your money story? There will be plenty of ways to answer. Maybe you’ll talk about your biggest money mistake (Student loans? That pricey new car?), or that big raise you just got, or why you took a second job waitressing at Denny’s. I’d love to give a voice to people like you, so we can all better understand what’s going on in America. There might be a free water bottle in it for you.
If you are along my route — Pittsburgh, Chicago, Iowa City, Omaha, Denver and then on up to Seattle — please let me know. Even if there’s not time for coffee, we can chat here. As always, I want to hear about your frustrations, your Red Tape, the ripoffs you face, and the dreams you have. We’ll be using the hashtag #AmericanMoneyStories to collect these stories on social media.
As a reporter, I know hiding on the coasts gives me a skewed version of life. These trips fill my head and heart with stories for the whole year. Even if we don’t meet face-to-face, it’s worth it for me to pull through your neighborhood and get a feel for the place. I thank you in advance…and I plan to leave books in random places around the country as a token of my appreciation.
I’ve done three of these trips in recent years (you can read more about some of those crazy adventures here). There are always surprises, things never go according to plan, and some kind of magic always happens. I hope you can be a part of it.
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Top image: Evan Meyer; other images courtesy Bob Sullivan