America. It’s a pretty spectacular place, and I’m not just saying that because I was born and raised in the good ol’ US of A. No, I’m saying that because many people all over the world say it as well. I had the privilege of traveling back to America recently after 3 long years away, and it helped me to see my home country in a new light – for what it is in the greater scheme of things and in relation to travel.
Now, I’d like to present to you the best and worst of my home country, the USA:
Best – The Food Portions
America is known for its level of big thinking, and it is a mindset that travels into the size of cars and the size of the food. I absolutely adore the food portion sizes in the USA, especially after living in Australia and other parts of the world where you sometimes feel a little cheated by how much you pay to get so little. To put it into perspective, a large pizza in Australia would be the equivalent of a medium in America, and a small french fry at McDonald’s in America would be a medium in Australia. If you’re like me, you like the one where you get more for your money!
Worst – The Food Portions
It’s a fact about America that I both love and hate: the food portions. Sure, you get more food for your dollar, but it also puts more temptation in front of your face when dining out. If you’re like me, then you will snack on something because it tastes good, and because it’s there, even if you feel a bit on the full side. I put on a good few pounds while traveling through America (but it was well worth it!)
Best – Security
For being such a strict country when it comes to security in the airports, America does have it down to an art. There were long lines and plenty of people passing through the gates, but you won’t realize that because everyone is prepared, taking off shoes, popping laptops out of their cases and clearing their bodies of metals in a timely fashion. It’s a well-oiled machine.
Worst – Customs & Immigration
Coming into the country as a citizen can still mean that you wait in a line at Customs & Immigration, but that line definitely has nothing on the line for those holding foreign passports! In Los Angeles, Pat and I had to split up when in the immigration section, and let’s just say I had to wait a good HOUR on the other end before he made it through. What a nightmare.
Best – Cheap Prices
Considering America is a developed country, your money sure does go further here than in other parts of the world (cough, cough, Australia). I already mentioned that the food portions are typically larger (more budget friendly if you plan to share meals, etc.), but there’s also cheap shopping, as well as more plentiful budget accommodation options outside of the hostel realm.
Worst – Size
Those visiting America on a holiday will quickly realize just how big the country really is, and that means travel between the top destinations takes time and money. New York is way on the other side of the country from San Francisco, and Chicago and Florida are no quick trip in between either. To get around, you will either need to fly or have the extra time to spare for road trips. Obviously, I’d recommend a road trip as the best way to see the diverse lay of land, but time is precious for many.
Best – Mexican Food
You cannot visit the USA without enjoying a giant burrito, a bowl of free tortilla chips with fresh salsa or just a margarita and a taco. You simply cannot! America is home to some of the most delicious and plentiful Mexican food (outside of Mexico), and it would be something that almost every American misses when they are away from home for any extended amount of time.
Worst – Asian Food
The overall quality of Asian food in America is lacking. Chinese food, for example, has turned into only that offered in buffets or in the fried and over-sweet-and-sour-sauced kind. While it may be mighty tasty, it wouldn’t be classified as authentic by any means. To get good Asian food, you have to stick to the big cities that have a larger Asian population.
Best – Customer Service
It’s a customer service culture meaning people will typically go out of their way to please you in restaurants, hotels and other areas where making the customer happy works in their favor.
I love being able to sit down at a restaurant and being immediately met with waters and a server to take my order. I love that I don’t even have to ask about a drink refill; they ask me! Yes, I am important. Thank you!
Worst – Tipping Culture
Ah, but what goes with the customer service culture is a tipping culture. You have to (well, you should) leave a tip for services like at hotels and restaurants. When factoring in your travel budget for the USA, it is good to add on a bit extra for tips when collecting bags from bag storage at the hotel, or when a waitress does a job well done. It’s part of the reason the customer service is of the standard and level that it is, so I believe in tipping.
The USA is an interesting part of the world, for lack of better words. There are both good and bad features to traveling there, but I feel the awesome sights and cities – NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, baseball, Florida beaches, the mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes – all provide a reason to plan a visit there ASAP.
The ‘Blog your Backyard’ Project
Share your local expertise and join the Blog your Backyard project! Become an ambassador for your country (home or adopted) by sharing your experiences and tips with other travelers. Submit your entries starting August 8th on WorldNomads.com for a chance to win one of 20 awesome excursions with Urban Adventures. Plus, if you want to share more of your local expertise or get answers to all of your travel questions, download the FREE ‘Ask A Nomad’ iPad app1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.