Growing up in the US, I was surrounded by national forests, state reserves, and community parks. It was always there and it was always available...
Now, after living in the Caribbean for the last 8 years I can confirm the old cliche, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Don't get me wrong - island living is fantastic. We have beautiful mountains, crystal clear waters, spotless skies, and a loving, family oriented culture.
But there are parks, and there are parks.
It's almost a disservice to call the US National Park Service a park service.
They are guardians of many of the world's most majestic sights. But not just guardians - they are masters of hospitality. Roads are clearly marked and maintained, maps are accurate and freely available, trails and shuttles are accessible for people of all abilities. Rangers are rugged and well-educated, peace is protected, and exploration is encouraged. Man's permanent footprint is carefully withheld and mandated to be discreet when necessary.
I've been fortunate to spend time in some of America's best 'parks' during the last two summers. It's something that helps me reboot my mind from the challenges that arise from a great blessing, that my hobby is also my profession.
So when people ask me, "What do you miss most about living in the United States," my answer is waiting on the tip of my tongue. It's the Parks.
Zion National Park
Springdale, Utah USA
(July 24, 2012)