As we are about to leave the States after two and a half months in which we visited six states and nine cities, we thought it would be a good time to write a summary about the country and it’s different aspects.
First, we would like to say that in general we liked the country very much. Coming from Canada, we didn’t experience a very strong culture shock, as a lot of things are very similar. So here are our feelings about the country presented under different topics.
Although we didn’t spend much time in nature, I can say that nature is everywhere here—even in cities. Everywhere we went we could enjoyparks, lakes and forests. I was amazed by the great variety of trees and birds we found here. The country is huge, and despite the fact that the US is a very big polluter, you don’t feel the pollution as much as you do in other cities in Europe (maybe if people felt the pollution more they would do more about it!). Concerning landscapes, we didn’t go to any mountainous regions, so what we saw was a bit flat (especially in Minnesota). We enjoyed the desert around Vegas (though we didn’t go to the canyon), lake Michigan in Chicago, and of course the prairie in Walnut Grove.
Distances are definitely an element that you have to consider while traveling in the States. If you drive, you won’t have any problem, as the US is really a paradise for cars and bikes! But if you don’t… well, I’m not gonna say it’s hell…but it is not always easy, and it can be expensive, as the only choices left are trains and buses. Sometimes you don’t even have a bus to take you somewhere, so you have to find a carpool or maybe hitch hike (which we were told is forbidden). We first wanted to cross the country by bus, but we found out that it would take several days (4–5 days) to do so, and it would be very tiring, so we decided to fly (which is sometimes cheaper than trains), and I think that’s what almost all travelers (those who don’t drive) would do— unless they had plenty of time and energy!
Inside the cities, transportation is easy, but bus and subway lines are very long, so it takes a long time to go somewhere.
Generally the US is not a cheap country, but what is great is that (except for transportation) you have a lot of alternatives to save money, such as Couchsurfing for accommodation and supermarkets for food.
Here you can see the money we spent each month.
In the US you can get almost any food you can imagine. I am a vegetarian (not a very strict one ), Bassel does not eat everything, and we both are Muslims. In other words, we eat mainly vegetables, cheese and fish if we can’t find halal meat. I can eat any kind of food, as I appreciate trying different kinds of cuisines, and the States are really a good place for that. There are plenty of Mexican restaurants, especially in Los Angeles. We also found good Thai food, Greek and Mediterranean food (which includes kebabs—not always halal), falafels and other Middle Eastern dishes. It was not very hard to find halal meat—you just need to look for Middle Eastern communities. There are also plenty of Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants. And of course there are Pizzerias everywhere. So food is really not a problem here! However, in the beginning of our trip we found ourselves eating a lot of junk food in the streets. Things got better when we had the opportunity to cook.
In the supermarkets you can find whatever you need. The cheapest is Walmart. Supermarkets became our main food source, as it is not only cheaper but also healthier to cook rather than to eat in restaurants all the time.
7 Eleven supermarkets are also a good choice for coffee, tea and snacks—but it is not very cheap.
So, we ended up eating everything but American food! Fortunately, our trip to New Ulm and our stay at Ron and Faith’s house gave us the chance to taste some traditional American food: squash, sweet corn, baked potatoes and pumpkin pie. And that was really delicious!
I have to say that even if we tried to avoid junk food as much as we could, we went to McDonald’s a lot!!! Mainly for the coffee, the toilets and the Wi-Fi, but I must admit that I’ve changed my mind about the chain and discovered that even at McDonald’s you can have healthy food (if you eat only salads and don’t put too much seasoning sauce on it!). They also have a very good oatmeal in the morning. It is also one of the cheapest coffees we found.
We found American people very nice, generous and always willing to help. Everywhere we went people were nice. Even when they didn’t know us they would come and help us find directions or information. It happened several times that people in the street let us use their cellphones to make a call.
We also had the chance to get to know the American people through Couchsurfing. That was a wonderful experience through which we had the opportunity to talk about many different topics with many different people. I feel that without Couchsurfing, the information and the things we learnt about the country would have been much poorer.