Mitch and I have been in the USA for just under a month now. While, at first, travelling from Asia to North America took some adjusting, we’ve gotten into the swing of it and are enjoying the American lifestyle. Before visiting any country you have pre-conceptions about things, but the best thing about travelling is learning that these are not true, or, perhaps, that they are truer than you first imagined. Here’s a round-up of some things I’ve learnt so far from travelling in the USA.
Halloween is a Month Long Celebration
I always knew that Halloween is a bigger deal here than it is in the UK. However, from travelling in the USA, I’ve realised how much of a big thing it is. I’ve seen Halloween cards in shops and endless costumes on sale, but what struck me the most are the decorations.
Halloween seems to last the whole month of October and decorations in front gardens are everywhere. And we’re not just talking pumpkins. There are hands crawling out of garden gravel, skeletons, gravestones — everything you can imagine! We’re lucky enough to be going to a Halloween party next week. But we don’t want to spend too much on costumes and wind up with extra stuff to pack, so we’re stumped on what to go as.
Any suggestions are welcome in the comments!
Spanish is Widely Spoken (in Some Places)
When I think of the USA, I don’t think of a bi-lingual country. However, in LA, El Paso and here in San Antonio, Spanish is very widely spoken. Announcements at bus stations and buses are often in both languages. Signs in restaurants are in both languages and we’ve frequently heard people conversing in the language. Texas was once part of Mexico, which is why El Paso and San Antonio use Spanish so frequently. It must be said, though, that it wasn’t something I was expecting.
Travelling in the USA: Relatively Easy on the Bus
At Santa Monica beach we ended up talking to some hippie type travellers by sheer chance. Without even telling them much about our trip, one of them started telling us which routes we should take to end up in certain cities. He’d gone into such passionate detail about which routes we should take that we didn’t have the chance or the heart to tell him that we didn’t have a car.
Everyone assumes we’re doing a road trip, because, well, the USA is massive. Mitch and I can’t drive, but that’s not stopping us travelling the USA. I totally get why travelling by car is the best way to explore the USA, especially with all the gorgeous National Parks. However, we’re on more of a city tour, and the opportunity arose to travel the USA so we thought, “let’s go for it!”
Travelling without a car has been surprisingly easy. Greyhound buses are very well connected and, although some journeys are long, they get you from A to B with some (not always working) wifi, plug sockets, and a decent amount of rest breaks. We also got to experience the Coast Starlight Amtrak train route, which has been one of my favourite things on the trip.
We’re avoiding planes due to environmental reasons and, although the flight may say it’s $29, add on your luggage and it’s more expensive or similar to the bus. We are taking two flights later during our trip due to time but, until then, Greyhound is doing a grand job at connecting us from city to city.
Accommodation is Expensive
We made a budget for our trip but the one thing that takes the biggest chunk out of that is accommodation. Thankfully, we have some awesome friends who we’ve been able to stay with at various points along the way. However, prices can be ridiculous. Hostels, (you know those “budget” accommodation places), are often more expensive than cheap motels/hotels. On Halloween weekend, we saw dorm rooms in New Orleans get up to £75 a night. £75 to share a room with 7 other people for one night? Come on now. Air BnB has given us some excellent budget accommodation and some cheap motels have also been comfortable and clean. Moral of the story: shop around for accommodation; the prices can vary a lot.
The Elections Are Tense
The whole world is looking at the USA at the moment while the current elections are going on. We watched the first debate and most of the second two. We’ve also spoken to many Americans about their thoughts. So many people are torn. I don’t want to dip into politics too much, but if you feel tense watching the debates and news about it in another country, we can really feel it here while travelling in the USA. We’re going to be in Atlanta the day the results are announced …I await in anticipation.
I am Getting Fatter
This isn’t really something I’ve learnt while travelling in the USA but it something which is occurring. In the past week, I’ve eaten more Mexican food than I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. It’s great, but oh gosh, that guacamole is having a lasting impression on my thighs.