The first European settlers to move to what would become the eastern United States wanted to build a life far from the rest of society. Over time, when the population of the eastern seaboard grew larger and denser, new generations of American settlers set out to make a life for themselves out in western mountains and prairies, far from the bastions of civilization. Carving out a home for oneself in the farthest reaches of the continent is a truly American tradition, a tradition that is still possible today.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Hinsdale County in southwestern Colorado has more wild and roadless land per capita than anywhere else in the contiguous U.S. It is one of the few places on the mainland where it is possible to wander more than 10 miles from a road. The county seat is in Lake City, which has a population of just 375. The economy in Hinsdale is largely based on tourism to the famous four corners region of the southwestern states.
Among the 50 U.S. states, Alaska offers the best opportunities for remote living. While it is impossible to get farther from 30 miles from a road in the lower 48 states, Alaska has vast roadless areas. In fact, one bend on the Etivluk River is 120 miles from the nearest villages of Ambler and Atqasuk. Out in the Bering Sea, St. Matthew Island is even more remote. The closest village to St. Matthew is Mekoryuk on Nunivak Island, 209 miles away. Living remotely in Alaska requires a hardy resilience and the ability to survive on one's own. Fishing, resource extraction and tourism form the basis of the Alaskan economy.
The Territory of American Samoa is an unincorporated region of the United States, much like Guam. American Samoa, however, is part of the Samoan archipelago, which is located in the south-central Pacific Ocean. Even farther from the continental United States than Guam, it lies 2,200 miles southwest of the Hawaiian islands, just 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand and among the islands of independent Samoa. American Samoa includes the islands of Tao, Olosega, Tutuila, Ofu and Aunuu, and the contested coral atoll of Swains Island 280 miles away. The capital of American Samoa is Pago Pago. English and Samoan are widely spoken on the islands, with military, tuna packing and tourism supporting the local economy.
Guam is an island in the Mariana island group, lying 5,800 miles west of the California coast. It is an unincorporated territory of the United States. The capital is Hagåtña, with only two other major settlements on the island: Mangilao in the east and Tamuning in the west. The military provides the majority of jobs on the island, although Japanese tourism is also economically important. English, Chamorro and Japanese are widely spoken in Guam.