Discovered the real USA

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North America » United States
May 3rd 2012
Published: May 31st 2012
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1. New York City1. New York City1. New York City
Up until I was near the conclusion of my West Africa trip a year ago I had no intention of travelling USA. I figured I’ve got an idea from the TV and movies, “That’s good enough for me.” But over time I was intrigued by the US’s success and how with that success many other countries aspire to it. This one country brings so much hope and admiration but at the same time hatred and distain for its powers. How could I not come here after seeing and hearing this influence directly and indirectly in over 100 countries. I wanted to know if that admiration and distain was and is warranted.

How should we judge USA and its people? Should the world look to USA for direction? Should we judge the everyday people going about their everyday life because of its government? Or are we judging them badly because of tall poppy syndrome?

I feel I arrived in the states at the perfect time in all my journeys, at the end of almost a decade of on and off travelling. It’s a complex country with so much right yet so much wrong. It’s this contrast
2. Road Trip start2. Road Trip start2. Road Trip start
that makes it such a fascinating country to visit. I honestly don’t think I would have appreciated this country as much as I have if I had travelled here any earlier. Now was the time to do it to gain a better understanding.

Many people bag them out as a people but it’s a massive generalisation. It’s like saying that all Arabs are terrorists. Not all people from the states are dumb and ignorant to things happening around the world (...Aren’t we all a bit like that too?)

Now was a good time to visit because over the years I’ve met some fantastic (US) Americans on my travels. Visiting later enabled me to meet real friends I’ve made along the way and the hospitality I was shown by them was some of the best I’ve had in my travels. But it wasn’t just my friends who gave me a great insight into American culture but also their friends and complete strangers. I think the friendliness was enhanced so much more because the perception around the world that they are fake. But US is not all Hollywood.

Sure you have the dumb
3. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park to see baseball if you do the tour don3. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park to see baseball if you do the tour don3. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park to see baseball if you do the tour don
shits with their one-eyed points of view. The big city people who don’t care about the next person but that actually is not the US. The States are kind gentle people who want to make sure you are having a good time and will try and help you to the best of their ability.

No matter what background I enjoyed everyone’s company. From the people at a fashion show in New York City to the college parties, all the way to the dive bar in Eugene Oregon. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I came here at a potential crossroads whether the US will remain no1 or is it the beginning of the end signalling China to come to the floor. It’s a nation (according to the shock jocks radio programme) as reeling from the GFC. No doubt it will come back, the nation is too proud, creative and patriotic to not do so. But to see a world power at a vulnerable stage is not what I expected. Hearing hardships similar to other parts of the world. About losing jobs, friends forced to do their masters at college because they were unable
4. Niagara Falls4. Niagara Falls4. Niagara Falls
to get a job in their field. Seeing every major city with tents up near the capital building or other significant building in a united front for “Occupy Wall Street.”

To discover for your own eyes that it is not perfect, that nothing is 100%! (MISSING)That is what is so great about this country it’s a life lesson. I find it fascinating that we as a 1st world culture find it perfectly fine to complain and suggest how other cultures do their things - I do it, as does everyone else. How would you feel if some culture says that the culture that has served you for centuries has got it all wrong you should change or tweak to our way of thinking. There is a lot wrong with our backyard too.

In a world sense especially in the Arab world the US is a representation of me. I may not like it but it’s true wherever I go in the world, outside an English speaking country, I have a high chance of being labelled an “American.” But not the “American” I’ve hung around with for 4 months.

One of the
5. Ann Arbor - College Football either watch in the south or Uni of Michigan home ground teh Big House USA5. Ann Arbor - College Football either watch in the south or Uni of Michigan home ground teh Big House USA5. Ann Arbor - College Football either watch in the south or Uni of Michigan home ground teh Big House USA
things that the States get criticised about is its stereotyping of a culture and sticking to it. I have already mentioned a year ago about how the British are stuck with the idea that Australia is still living in the 1970’s. Well the States is even worse. Surprisingly though I never heard, “You want another shrimp on the barbie?” Or “the dingo ate your baby.”

That stereotyping did happen occasionally but in all I was accepted. Accepted as a white young male with an Australian accent. I got a comment once saying that I fit in because I look the acceptable look but who’s fault is that not mine and that is probably why I liked it a lot more too.

In Africa I stood out like a sore thumb and I got sick of some people talking to me to get something out of me. Here people talked to me no matter what colour because they wanted to know me for me and show me their world. This is by no means saying that I hated Africa, read my blogs to see otherwise. I’m just pointing out that in this instance that’s what
6. Canada6. Canada6. Canada
I liked about this part of my trip.

So curiosity is what got me to the states but once here the original triggers were soon forgotten by the US’s beauty. One day you are walking the streets of New York, the next you are driving along the historic landmarks of Concord and Lexington. From Civil War landmarks the further south you go to the ever-changing music genre’s. From Jazz in New Orleans, to the blues of the Mississippi and Country in Nashville.

What I also loved here is the undiscovered (in a tourist sense) the off the beaten track from the big cities. Driving through the valleys of Pennsylvania approaching Pittsburgh, the vacant cotton fields, the red landscapes of Arizona. The National Parks with sites like Yosemite, Crazy Horse Monument and Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. And so, so much more.

Despite the cities having that “All-American” feel they all have little intricacies. Like Having a beer at a bar with a Senator in Washington DC, getting a kiss off snow white on Halloween in a Pittsburgh’s blue collar bar, Portland’s range of strip clubs and Las Vegas or
7. Minnosota Wild Ice Hockey7. Minnosota Wild Ice Hockey7. Minnosota Wild Ice Hockey
a night out on Sunset Strip LA.

Letting your hair down and have fun was a way of life here it seemed at times. Even when people complained about their life situation as long as their guest was happy they were happy. That was my overall consensus of my travels.

The people made it welcoming, whilst the landscape was what made it unforgettable. Clear standouts are (keep in mind I missed the Rockies and Montana state with Yellowstone NP and the Grand Tetons) the west part of South Dakota for just open roads with the road hitting the horizon followed by West Nebraska’s rolling hills. It’s the best way to get an idea of what the states landscape use to be like. The northeast including Canada during fall when the leaves change colours. In the West, Redwoods National Park actually any national park in California and Oregon. Actually the whole last 3 weeks of my trip in the west was incredible. No make that nearly the whole trip. It has so many different environments within the one country. From snow in the mountains to desert in a day. The great Californian coast combining with
8. Open road at sunrise in Sth Dakota8. Open road at sunrise in Sth Dakota8. Open road at sunrise in Sth Dakota
the forest.

I still however had to do some cliché US things like trying nearly ever fast food chain I came across, eat breakfast at a southern diner, sit on a stool at the bar. I also managed a few college parties with my weakness the big red solo cups. I missed the elusive frat party but I got into others, finally discovering how to play the various versions of beer pong and other games like quarters, flip cup and my favourite the free for all beer pong style Civil War.

I found so many things that I liked about this place that it outweighed the things I disliked like the roads and American’s driving. They are not as bad drivers as Iranians but they are one of the worst. I even joined in on the act eventually creating a warning call with every bad driving move, like cutting three lanes for an exit that had no forewarning, “Hello America!”

I was pulled up recently by a reader saying that I shouldn’t be using the term “America” to inform the readers I’m talking about USA. It’s true I shouldn’t but it’s
9. Mt Rushmore but see Crazy Horse as well9. Mt Rushmore but see Crazy Horse as well9. Mt Rushmore but see Crazy Horse as well
hard not to say it because it comes out naturally. Flowing with the sentence and I can’t pull myself up on it. It’s this bindingness that shits the world because I am not sure too many people from the states realise this. I was informed about 2 years ago that Latin America hate it when the US call themselves American to identify their country when they are all American, South, Central not just USA. So because of that I am going to include my Central America trip in this concluding blog on America.

I hired a car for most of my stay in the states and driving is exhausting. Its long hours driving and long hours exploring, with hours spent researching what you’ve just done and about to do at night. Information is so readily available that you want to find out more and more. So when I flew into Panama from LA I needed a holiday and I didn’t really find that in Central America until I hit Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan in Mexico.

I was expecting a South American feel when I arrived, which is probably why I like the states
10. Nebraska - High School Friday Night Football10. Nebraska - High School Friday Night Football10. Nebraska - High School Friday Night Football
so much too. My expectations were not high, I just drove. Whilst in Central America I was expecting the vibrant feel you get from the South Americans but Central Americans seemed a bit quieter, possibly a harder lifestyle to their southerners.

Costa Rica was too commercial for my liking; good on them the locals looked better off then the rest. But adventure was available in Guatemala without a problem and the snorkelling experience with Juni in Caye Caulker in Belize cannot be matched. Neither can the cave diving in Tulum. Art can be hard to find at a quick glance in places like Central America cities but San Salvador in El Salvador stood out for me.

In my travels sport has mostly taken a back seat but in the states it took centre stage and it is such an easy way to get talking to the locals. I was around for football season and to be in a stadium with over 110 000 people for a college football game where the winner is already known because the opposition is so bad can only be done in… “America.”

Food was a mixed
11. In and around Kansas City11. In and around Kansas City11. In and around Kansas City
bag with some fresh foods in Seattle to the not so fresh like attempting to find the spiciest Buffalo wings in the states. I was a sucker for buffalo wings especially on Monday night football nights where it was usually 50c buffalo wings and $2 beers at most bars in all states. This was not including a tip.

My distain toward tipping was mainly brought upon by “dumb Americans” influencing their culture onto other poor countries. By introducing their tipping scheme, when that country does not have it. This makes those people think that every white person tips like the US when in actual fact we don’t. So through their inconsideration I have been pressured into tipping people in a culture where the locals don’t tip (Which I stubbornly refuse)… Oops hang on I’ve just sidetracked a little on my love affair with the US… calm blue ocean… calm blue ocean.

Actually I got use to it eventually – tipping - probably because it was the end of my trip and the Aussie dollar was going so well. But it felt good especially handing over a dollar to tattoo tits in Philadelphia and pigtails
12. Chicago - The Bean could spend a few hours watching the happiness of ever new persons first look12. Chicago - The Bean could spend a few hours watching the happiness of ever new persons first look12. Chicago - The Bean could spend a few hours watching the happiness of ever new persons first look
in Nashville for every beer. It didn’t felt good however when I was told I should still tip when I haven’t received good service.

So in the end as much as I don’t like how much the US culture is infiltrating Australia and the backwaters of this world. Like hearing hip-hop in Eastern Europe or SE Asia I really enjoyed “America.” And I think if people had the chance to meet the real people from the states they’d realise that the states has too many diverse people to be stereotyped completely.

It is a big country with a big heart but you can’t blame a whole country of people on its political points of view and actions at least not entirely. I know there are some things the Australian governments has done which I am not happy with but when it comes to the crunch I will always be proud of my country. Just not as outrageously patriotic as they are here.

Although I do think Australia is getting more like the US in that regard. All of a sudden in the space of less then a decade Australian flags are
13. Tailgating Pittsburgh13. Tailgating Pittsburgh13. Tailgating Pittsburgh
getting paraded around on cars, shirts, in front of houses, concerts and festivals. People are getting Southern Cross tattoos. What ever happened to Australians not needing to be told, “We are from the lucky country” because we already knew it.

I’m really concerned that we are becoming more like the US. Think about how many times the commercials and promos tell you what you are suppose to think and how, “The whole of Australia is talking about…” Channel 7 is the worst for that. What are you telling me that 21 million people are talking about some singer from a reality TV show… please.

Sorry off tangent again… Most people from the states are just going about their everyday lives like everyone else in the world. Don’t judge them all the same because some politicians want the power to rule the world. Heck majority don’t vote and when you start listening and watching the Presidential candidates and the cheap shots on both sides of Parliament its no wonder most don’t give a shit.

I am going to miss a lot of things about this country. I will miss the excitement on
14. Gettysburg 14. Gettysburg 14. Gettysburg
everyone’s faces because I have given their part of the states the time of day. Some places I went to, like in the mid-west, is more remote on the tourist trail then some trails in Africa. I will miss rocking up underneath a bridge and asking a guy holding up a piece of cardboard with the words “I NEED TICKETS!” on it and ask him, “Hey mate what tickets have you got?” to get into a world class sporting event. I will miss seeing some rusty car drive pass me at high speed on a highway or some truck driver change lanes without indicating all at the same time. I will miss you Jimmy Johns Sandwiches, you are 10 times as good as Subway (try the Gargantuan) I will miss you too Chipotle, no fast food chain has ever filled me up for just $7. Sonic and your half price shakes from 2-4pm.

But now I’ve left I won’t have the excitement of the rare Australian song hitting the airwaves. Or hearing it randomly at sporting events. Bands like, AC/DC, Wolfmother, The McClymonts, The Temper Trap, Empire of the Sun, a half hour special on Paul Kelly
15. Philly art15. Philly art15. Philly art
and the week of my return Gotye made No.1. ‘Somebody that I use to know.’ It was getting played all over the place and when they had enough of that version they’d play the remixes. It was always a thrill to inform that these artists are Australian and the surprise on the faces that they are not “America.”

I’m sure my positiveness about the states and the states ability to help travellers forget about the worlds cares will shit some readers but I couldn’t help it. The careless joy of being in the car can not be underestimated. As a backpacker with a car I did feel free. I feel one of my greatest journey’s from the culmination of the previous 4 and a half years of travel was here.

I surprised myself because I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much. It opened my eyes a bit more in what I enjoy in travel. It is not just being cramped up in buses to get from A-B. It’s getting out there and discovering a great mass of land with no border crossing……… Sure the US has many problems like the rest of the
16. D.C16. D.C16. D.C
world but its what makes it so good.

I advise anyone who is reading this and has travelled the world like me and said “Screw the US there’s more to the world then USA.” …Still make the statement because its true but don’t make that comment force you to never come here. It is one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world and there is so much more I want to discover. Few countries in the world I have had goose bumps so many times from driving over a crest or struggled to produce a word and substituted it with the word “Whooaa!” It is one of the few countries I have almost made a deal with myself that I will return. Hopefully however next time I come and visit I won’t be put away with the Mexicans for extra questioning at the immigration.



The Cities not to miss - New York, DC, Boston, Portland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle

States you have to include – Oregon, Texas and South Dakota

Biggest disappointment – Florida, Memphis (time and day of the week
17. Jimmy Johns gigantuam sandwich and great meal after a college party17. Jimmy Johns gigantuam sandwich and great meal after a college party17. Jimmy Johns gigantuam sandwich and great meal after a college party
on that one) Costa Rica.

Best Nature - Redwoods NP, Yosemite NP, South Dakota, Upstate New York and Quebec state during fall and the leaves changing. Caye Caulker snorkelling with Juni, Semuc Champey in Guatemala

Best drink - Anything out of a red solo cup, Oregon beer

Best Fast Food joints –

Jimmy Johns (Outdoes Subway 10 fold),

Chipotle (Mexican so filling for $7)

Sonic (the shakes are amazing!)

Lorenzo’s and sons pizza the best pizza in the states in Philadelphia.

**I have provided a link with each photo which represents a blog entry I made along the way**

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 34


18. Nashville - Oohh man what a place18. Nashville - Oohh man what a place
18. Nashville - Oohh man what a place
19. Miami and NASCAR19. Miami and NASCAR
19. Miami and NASCAR
20. New Orleans - too drunk to get a night photo20. New Orleans - too drunk to get a night photo
20. New Orleans - too drunk to get a night photo
21. Louisiana Thanksgiving in the US21. Louisiana Thanksgiving in the US
21. Louisiana Thanksgiving in the US

31st May 2012

Thanks for taking the time
We would have loved to meet you but know your time was short. Thank you for taking the time to look around and give us a chance to change your mind about us. We are kind and generous and don't always fit the stereotype. I'm always sad when someone comes to visit the US and only see Vegas, LA and New York because they have not really seen the US. They leave with the wrong impression. The US is about small towns and the people in them. The heartland of America. Thanks again for sharing your impressions.
31st May 2012

great country
I have several good friends in the USA. I like the country. I think most people in the world should learn to separate people/government. I still have to go to Nashville, Chicago, the Great Canyon and New Orleans. They are on my list.
1st June 2012

You have me half convinced :)
Drew..I read your blog with a very open mind because like you, as an Aussie I have serious issues with US cultural impacts on the rest of the world and now particularly Aus. A local supermarket opened here the other day with a million dollar fireworks display and applause from a thousand strong crowd - when the hell did we get like this?. I have relatives in small towns in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas and as much as I try I cannot get over how DUMB redneck swamp people they are...after reading your blog I felt that perhaps I needed to reassess my own prejudices to the US and perhaps take a chance on finding people like Dave and MJ and not tarring the entire country with the same brush...hope no offence caused to any of you from the US. Thanks Drew.
1st July 2012

good read
As someone who has lived in almost every major region of the United States, and experienced so many different little cultures in this country I could not agree any more with this blog post. There is a lot wrong with the USA, there are a lot of fucked up people in the USA, but there is a lot of good to be found here and everyone most definitely does not fit the stereotype that I constantly hear people from outside North America generalizing us all into. It truly makes me happy to know that you found out a little bit about what my country actually is. Also I have been reading your blog on and off since 2008 when I was a freshman in college, I've only traveled North America, Southern Europe and Brazil and I can definitely say that it has been my cheapest way around the world. I just turned 22 and am finishing up school so I think that it's almost time for my own journey to be frank with you. - Mike

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