Season Two: Post Seventeen.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel over to the states 6 times now. It’s a unique country that is easy to both love and hate, all at the same time. The most important thing to consider when looking at America’s worst and best attributes is the fact that it is so big, it may as well be a continent. Comparing say, California to North Carolina is a bit like comparing two European countries, so it’s definitely not somewhere you can judge as a whole. Touring and my own travel endeavours have meant that I have travelled all over California, hit up some classic spots such as Vegas and the Grand Canyon, as well as now touring the East Coast twice and I have also spent some time in New Mexico and Arizona. I have fond memories from all the trips but there are definitely a few things that I always find a little unsettling about the ‘Land of the Free’.
My Top 3 favourite things about America:
1. National Parks/Wilderness/Untouched areas
Due to being such a massive country, as well as human beings (who aren’t native) having only been there for several hundred years, there is still a lot of America that has yet to be messed with. They keep good care of their national and state parks and have such vast geography that they vary from place to place – large forests, mountain ranges, deserts, swamps, plains, beaches etc. Everywhere I’ve been in America, it’s always the wild places that really draw me in. I even appreciate the long drives through the vast expanses of nothing but small towns that are separated by huge areas of land, you simply don’t get much of that in Europe.
2. (Non-Chain Restaurant) Food.
America is pretty well known for its food. The trouble is, the commercial restaurants are so readily available that it means not everyone dives into the little independent places. These places are where the real food is. Nothing beats a local diner that’s been kickin’ out the specialty dish of that area for the last 60 years. As someone who requires a lot of food too, you can always guarantee you’ll be fed enough in the USA, something that always settles my food related anxieties. I do want to put a real emphasis on the fact that I don’t mean American food as in burgers and fries, I mean a whole spectrum of cuisines form the downtown local hero eateries. If we’re highlighting cuisines then I actually think that American Mexican food is the best cuisine that I’ve experienced out there.
3. Customer Service.
Although it can be so over-the-top and in-your-face, the level of customer care in America is almost hilarious. It must be horrible, at times, to be on the other side of it. However, when you are the customer, you can take full advantage of it. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t abuse this regularly, I just appreciate the effort and the lengths at which an American host or server will go to in order to make your customer experience the highest they possibly can. You can see why Americans can sometimes complain about the somewhat normal level of customer service when they come and visit the UK, what they’re used to is borderline excessive!
My Top 3 least favourite things about America:
1. You HAVE to drive EVERYWHERE.
As a runner, this is so frustrating. I find myself either on treadmills or running laps of car parks when I’m in America. Unless you get in your car to drive to a park, then you’re pretty limited. It’s not like in the UK where you rock out of your front door to cruise down the road, up a farm path and around the block. Even in the suburban areas, its rare to find a sidewalk that goes any further than a couple of miles; even then people look at you like you’re mad when you’re tanking down it at 6:30am in your shorts. Perhaps this is why I won the Brooklynite Half Marathon…
2. Signage for Food outlets.
Everywhere you go there are signs, and more specifically signs for food outlets. Every other building is a Dunkin’ Doughnuts, McDonalds, Cracker Barrel, Hardee’s… There is no escaping it. It’s so in your face and just this horrible reminder of the poor nutrition and health of the average American individual. It makes the average British diet of a few too many drinks at the weekend seem like a clean eating superfood fast. It’s almost sickening and no surprise that America is on some constant health warning due to its residence being mostly sedentary and constantly full of processed sugars. All part of the excessive culture I guess.
3. Everything is out to kill you.
This is a quote directly from Scott’s (Riskee) mouth, as we walked into a Walmart. Obviously you need to take it with a pinch of salt, there is a lot to America that is forward thinking and not EVERYTHING is out to kill you, however, there are definitely basic things that should not be able to kill you that, well, can. For example, water – most of the water comes in a plastic bottles, endless amounts of plastic bottles everywhere you turn. I was listening to a nutrition podcast and the doctor was saying how harmful water kept in a plastic bottle is to your stomach bacteria, I know there’s plenty of plastic elsewhere but this does make water more likely to kill you. Also, fruit and veg, there’s absolutely no way that it grows to the sheer size and look that the apples and pears of a typical American supermarket’s fruit and veg section dons. You can tell that there’s something not quite right when they literally have entire separate sections, as well as entire separate supermarkets, that sell the non-steroid fuelled veg. Hilarious!
Good old America. I still intend to visit you but I am glad I don’t live in you.