My name is Leah and I am a 17 year old American girl living in New Hampshire. This summer I discovered something profound about my country in an unusual way, when I decided to travel across the country by Greyhound bus. I traveled, beginning in New Hampshire and making my way down the east coast, across the South, through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally reaching my destination in California. In total, with frequent stops and visits, I spent a month on the roads of America. I am probably more familiar with this country than many of the people who claim they know it. Most Americans have not met the America I have met. They haven’t met the college kids riding home for summer break, the retirees relishing in their freedom and searching for new lives, the homeless traveling in search of a better meal and place to stay, the young mothers searching for that refuge to raise their families, or the immigrants searching for newfound opportunities. The America I met was a fabric made up of hundreds of stories woven together, all connected by the bus. These aren’t the stories of the rich or the comfortable; they are the untold tales of the impoverished, searching, and restless. There was the shoeless woman who rode from New York to Tennessee with a single bag in hand; the schizophrenic man draped patriotically in an American flag; the poor, sad looking girl who rode alongside me from Arkansas to Texas; the beaming, bright college athlete visiting his family; the helpful, compassionate young woman who lifted my spirits in Memphis; the 19 year old marine who saved my life numerous times; the elderly Hispanic woman who shared a cramped seat with me as we trundled through a flashflood, and countless more. Although I rode the bus alone, I never spent a lonely day or stumbled without receiving the help of strangers. Of course, riding the bus is not at all glamorous or fun, and at times can even be frightening. While traveling through southern New Mexico in the dead of night, our bus was suddenly halted by police; we had reached the Arizona border. German shepherds on taut restraints sniffed everyone’s luggage. Officers in uniform asked each passenger for identification papers and proof of citizenship. Looking around the bus, I realized I was one of the only non-Hispanics riding. While the police searched, tension and fear rippled across the faces of my fellow passengers. The elderly woman beside me spoke no English, but turned to me with a grim smile as if to say “good luck”. As soon as the police left without confrontation, she turned to me again and smiled with relief. This encounter in my journey marked a turning point in my mind, a light bulb going on. In New Hampshire people would be outraged by a search like that. Why, in the Southwest, should this be customary? Why should we doubt or mistrust our countrymen? We are all connected by this land of promise for the same reason: hope. That journey gave me a connection to fellow Americans that I hadn’t found before. We rode the bus together, night and day, in silence or in buoyant banter, and although we all came from different places we were all connected by the bus. We all carried a dream for something down the distant road that promised us a better life. We are the voyagers, the pilgrims, the hopeful, restless, and the optimistic. This is how I define America: by the hundreds of nameless, faceless souls, who journey each day; whose stories may go unheard by most, but not by those who take the time to ride the bus and listen.