Why I think that the USA is the best travel destination!

As I’m writing this I’ve been to 96 countries through out my life. More than most people ever will and certainly more than I could ever dream of in my wildest dreams whether you asked me for 25, 15 or 10 years ago. This also means that I often get the question: “What is the best place you have been?” or “What is your favorite country?“. The world has a lot of good and beautiful places to offer, but I don’t even have to think twice before answering: the United States. This often comes as a surprise or maybe even chock to some people – especially Americans. For Americans I think the main reason is that you take what you have for granted and don’t know what you got until it’s gone. It also feels less exciting to explore your own “backyard” – it’s funnier exploring someone else’s. For non-Americans I believe there are a lot of different prejudices and that America doesn’t really offer any real culture other than beers and barbecues. Well, luckily enough taste is individual but in this post I will explain why I think that The United States of America is the best travel destination out there.

Three reasons I love visiting the United States
One out of three main reasons to my statement is actually a highly subjective feeling of “coming home” every time I travel to the United States. Cliché? Probably, but I simply get this wonderful vibe as soon as I land at the airport, pick up a rental car (which you need unless you are in New York) and drive away knowing there are some adventures on the road ahead. I’ve been to all the “corners” of the US; north-east, south-east, north-west, south-west, Hawaii and some inland too. The coasts are my favorite but I get a good feeling all over this wonderful country and one of my last travel goals is to visit all of its 50/51 states. But do I really base my statement that the US is the best travel destination on such an abstract thing as a feeling? Of course not, there is more substance to it.

If my first main reason was a little abstract and subjective , this one is very specific and simply a fact: diversity. The USA is so diverse in many ways and should offer something (or actually a lot) to most people. To get a little perspective: it’s the 3rd most populated country in the world, it’s the 4th largest by area, there are people and cultures from all over the world living there and as a funny little fact you find both the warmest and coldest places on earth in the US, Death Valley in California and Mount Denali in Alaska with a recorded temperature of -73 Celsius. Whether you want a massive city like New York or Los Angeles, or a small mountain or surf village – there are plenty of them. Deep wild forests, scenic coasts, deserts, tropical areas as southern Florida or Hawaii, mighty snowy mountain peaks and pretty much every kind of scenery you can imagine. All these different environments obviously makes a lot of different activities possible whether it’s nightlife, shopping or all kinds of outdoor activities with it’s many and different national parks. Being a capitalistic country (or THE capitalistic country) you can find pretty much anything, anywhere and at anytime. I’ve had some of the best meals in my life in the USA and their grocery stores are simply the best in the world with so much fresh food to choose between. So whether you are a hipster, a fashionista or an adventurous outdoor freak you will find endless of places to go and things to enjoy!

The final of my 3 main reasons is the most important one: the people. A place is never better than the people living there, it’s that simple. So what’s a typical American like? Impossible to say, in my opinion. With somewhere north of 320 million people living in the US, it’s very hard to pick a stereotype and since there are people from all over the world and from all different cultures here – it’s actually close to impossible. But that’s what I like about it, diversity once again, from Wall-Streeters to hippies. But it’s not only about diverse people – I really don’t care where people are coming from, it’s how they act that’s important. Throughout my trip the most and strongest relations I’ve built are with Americans, for many reasons. Since there are many of them, it’s a big chance of meeting them when you travel but it’s not only about numbers – it’s about attitude too. In my opinion Americans are very friendly, openminded and easy to connect with. I feel I’ve gotten good relations and friends in the US now, but I also like the small funny situations and conversations that I feel only happen in the US. For example in the grocery store, on the subway or wherever in your everyday life. What I also like about them are their winning mentality and “nothing is impossible” attitude. When someone wins something in Scandinavia, they often come with typical Scandinavian loser mentality kind of quotes like: “I can’t believe I won” or something like that, almost apologizing for winning. While in America, they say: “I’ve visualized this moment in my dreams!“. I’m more of the latter.

It’s a big country – where to go?
Being such a big country in terms of area, it’s close to impossible to cover it all even if you spend an entire year here. So you should of course spend your time, energy and money wisely. Which means; do what you like to do! You want city life, shopping, wine and dine – go to New York! You want sunshine and lazy days by the beach, go to Florida. In my case, I want a little of everything so my favorite is without doubt California which I think has got close to everything.

Knowing where to start isn’t easy but I guess what’s makes it so good is the perhaps most scenic coastline in the world offering some amazing surf and sunsets. Then you can add some big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Tired of the coast or big cities? Luckily enough it’s not far to mountains, deserts, forests, cosy little cities and all kinds of amazing national parks. Last but not least; a really chill and lovely vibe.

One general tip, that goes for all over the US except New York City, is to rent a car. It’s a must! They don’t call it the nation of cars for nothing and the whole infrastructure is based on driving. A car also provides freedom and flexibility and I must say that there is no better holiday than going on a roadtrip being free as a bird!

Are there any negative things about visiting the United States?
All this being said, nothing or nowhere is perfect – but that’s fine. Beauty lies within imperfection. So what are the bad or less good things about visiting the United States?

Let’s start with a hard fact: it’s expensive – or at least it has gotten expensive! I remember visiting the US from 2007-2012 wasn’t too bad in terms of prices. But then the US dollar sore to really high levels which has made it pricy. I also have a feeling that prices have raised a lot the last 5 years, especially in popular and nice places. For example, when my friend and I road tripped New England recently, we often had to pay around 30 bucks for a few hours of parking. But to find tasty, healthy and good food for less than 10 bucks is still possible.

Another sometimes annoying thing is the traffic. Patience is probably my worst attribute and I really get to test it sometimes when driving. The roads are fine, big and it’s extremely easy to drive in the US, it’s just that in and around the big cities the traffic jams can be, or at least feel, endless. This can take a lot of time, but luckily enough on holiday you hopefully have a lot of time.

And also, I do believe there is a big difference of visiting the United States and living there, unless you have a good economy. I’ve heard that living there can be a life of working to pay the bills, which means a lot of working and not really time or money to explore this wonderful country. If you are below middle class, perhaps you can’t afford a health insurance and that can put you in some serious trouble.

Conclusion
Writing this article was good for myself – and I hope you like it too whether you agree with me or not. I’ve always put the US on the #1 destination to visit and writing this I really had to reflect about why I think so and that process made me even more convinced of my choice. As mentioned, I’ve now been to 96 countries and next year I’ll try to reach 100 – adding Faroe Islands, Greenland, Belarus and one more. But if there is one place that I’ll always go back to, it’s the United States. Since I’ve been away on this big trip of mine now, I often get asked if I have any new destinations or travel dreams and I mostly ask: “No, I’ve seen most of the places I want to.” My future trips, besides reaching 100 countries, will go either to really high mountains around the world because I love the challenge meanwhile and the reward you get after you have climbed it. Besides that, 9 out of 10 holidays or trips will go to “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave“.

The hyped Cuba and why I deleted Snapchat

A hype is defined as a clever marketing strategy where something is advertised as something you “must” have, but often it’s not substantial at all. In terms of travel destinations, Cuba is the biggest hype I’ve ever experienced and in this post I’m gonna tell you why (I think so). Call me negative, call me picky, but keep in mind that I’ve traveled under standards that you probably can’t even imagine nor handle in terms of accommodation, transport and food – so picky is the last thing I would call my self. Most people you speak to usually say Cuba is sooooo cool and it was sooooo good and all that politically correct sh*t. I’ve spoken to a lot of people saying this, but when I ask them: “Will you ever go back?” The answer is usually “HELL NO!“. So, why wouldn’t you go back to a place if it really was that amazing? Here’s why: it simply isn’t amazing and I’m going to tell you why!

  • People 4 out of 6
    – Some say Cubans are the friendliest people in the world, and I agree to a certain point – they are very friendly. Far from perfect though; a bad thing about the Cuban people are that they are extremely lazy and also (sorry if offending anyone) pretty dumb to be honest. I don’t blame the people for this, I blame the communism because that is a political view that breeds lazy and dumb people since everyone is paid the same anyway – so why try harder. A few examples: 2 of my 3 ordered taxis never showed up, so I almost missed my pretty expensive bus rides. This caused a lot of stress and trouble. Also, when I after a week finally found a small kiosk selling energy bars, it took me an hour wait to buy them with only 2 people in the line ahead of me. I’ve never witnessed such dumbness in my entire life!
  • Food 2 out of 6
    – This is pretty well-known actually. The food on Cuba is horrible and it ain’t cheap either. The only reason I’m not giving a 1’er here is because it’s luckily enough on the rise. Both in Havana and Trinidad there are now restaurants for the foreigners to go. Some of them were OK, but most pretty bad and in relative terms expensive. I usually don’t complain on prices, but when you pay 20 US bucks for a meal and it tastes like dog food – I complain. Also, it’s pretty much impossible to buy anything in kiosk and there are no grocery stores.
  • Safety 5 out of 6
    – I felt very safe everywhere in Cuba. Big city, small city, main street or back alley. Even the dogs were kind and there are a lot of wild dogs all over Latin America that can be scary. The statistics also support this, but there are still pickpocketing, thieves, traffic etc that can be dangerous. Also, I met some women traveling around with stories of unpleasant situations with men approaching them. Also one was even harassed sexually in a taxi, so as a woman I would be vigilant. But that goes for everywhere nowadays, unfortunately.
  • Nature 2 out of 6
    – As a disclaimer I must say that I didn’t go all over Cuba, but I did visit some mountains, coastlines and took a bus across the country. When it comes to spectacular and beautiful nature, Cuba is not the place to go. That simple.
  • Culture 2 out of 6
    – I expect a lot of people to disagree here, meaning that Cuba has a lot of nice culture. I struggle to find the beauty in the culture here. It’s mostly about being lazy with a “mañana mañana attitude”, drinking beer all day long and then there is this horrible latino music that it’s impossible  to take cover from. I like to read, so I searched for cafés and parks to read in but it was impossible to find a single place which was quiet. Always and everywhere either high music from speakers or live bands asking for money – the only reason I would give them money is if they quit playing. All this being said; I’m not much of a salsa dancer, so if you are Cuba is probably heaven.
  • Activities 2 out of 6
    – This is of course very individual, because different people likes different things but I’m trying to be objective and I must say Cuba doesn’t offer a lot to do. Again, I think the communism is to be blamed here. Had it been legal and easier to run businesses there probably would have been a greater choice of things to do.
  • Architecture 4 out of 6
    – Cuba is different and interesting when it comes to architecture. It feels like you are 50 years back in time, which in some ways is a cool thing. The average buildings, whether residential or commercial, often look cute, cool, old and just very different – definitely nice. On the other hand, there are no impressive buildings, new or old, like the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Manhattan Skyline, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House.. You get it, just not spectacular, but definitely cute.
  • Price level 2 out of 6
    – Surprisingly expensive I must say, especially in relative terms. You can easily end up paying around 15-20 USD for a meal which is a lot in a poor country in Latin America. Then also, when the food sucks it feels even more expensive. Think like this: if you buy a totally broken car for 1000 USD – that’s actually more expensive than a brand new Porsche for 100 000 USD. The Porsche isn’t expensive, it just costs a lot of money. Big difference.
  • Authenticity 5 out of 6
    – 
    It feels very authentic but like everywhere in the world, it’s getting touristic so if you want to experience the real Cuba you should probably go now – or preferably even yesterday.
  • Convenience and comfort 1 out of 6
    – 
    This is not the place to go if you want a typical or relaxing holiday. Bad food, you will struggle with the language unless you speak basic Spanish and in every possible way not much comfort at all. Internet is very limited and slow too, which makes some things a little complicated when traveling. To have a break from always being online is a good thing, but it’s also good to be able to choose that yourself.
  • Beachlife 3 out of 6
    – I only went to two different beach areas in Cuba, but I must say that they were very average in terms of how nice the beach and water was. Also, not many activities or restaurants. Caribbean is probably my favorite ocean, but go to other islands if you want a really nice beach holiday. (Disclaimer: Varadero is said to be super nice, but also a charter place – I didn’t go).
  • Total: an average of 2,83 – I can be humble and say 3.

So, 3 out of 6 in my book. Not necessarily that bad, but on the other hand far from as good as many people say. But again, this is my opinion and I don’t care about being politically correct – I care about my own integrity. I would never recommend anyone to go there, unless you are into salsa music and dancing. Feel free to disagree with me, different people like different things – and in this case places. I’ve been to 96 countries now, and I know what I like and not and more important: I’ve got a lot to compare to!

Why I deleted Snapchat – and why you should too!
My visit to Cuba did however result in a very positive thing: I deleted Snapchat. I assume you know what Snapchat is, if not this part won’t make much sense. This also goes for the “stories” on instagram, which in my opinion killed the photography application and made a place full of low quality content. As mentioned the internet was very limited on Cuba and Snapchat didn’t even work, so I didn’t get to check it for the 8 days I was there. At first it was a little annoying not being able to check it, because let’s face it, I’m also just a simple man that can get addicted to things and all sorts of weird  behavior. And I honestly think we check it just for the cause of checking it – we get nothing out of it! Just wasting time on, in most cases, totally braindead content. So when I got to the United States and Snapchat was accessible again I realized that I hadn’t missed it at all. A relief, to say the least. More about that further down.

Most of you probably remember when Facebook became popular and some people shared their entire lives there: breakfast, work, dinner and the list goes on. After a while this was being seen on as very nerdy and socially awkward. But guess what; now «we» are doing the same thing all over again – just times 10 worse and frequent! The same totally braindead multiplied by 10 behavior and content – just another platform. Even higher frequency and lower quality. Does the fact that it’s a new platform justify the behavior? I wouldn’t say so. Regarding the content; people barely watch it and care even less!

I think that there are some good aspects about Snapchat such as sharing small internal jokes with your friends, but it feels that this «my story» has taken over some people lives and many over-share. I mean – if you are out partying or at a concert, is the party really that boring or the concert that bad that you have to be on your phone? And who wants to see a 10 sec video with noisy crappy sound anyway? It’s almost like things aren’t happening if they aren’t shared and that it has become more important sharing the experience – than enjoying it. Also, imagine how «interesting» conversations can be nowadays:

Two colleagues meet each other at work on Monday after the weekend:

Colleague 1: “Hey! Guess what I did this weekend!”

Colleague 2: “The thing you shared on Snapstory?”

Colleague 1: “Eh, yeah.. That!”

Please, call me a hypocrite if you want to. I’ve been on Snapchat myself and know that I’m way above average active on social media sharing pictures and thoughts. But there is a significant difference; all my posts on instagram, Facebook and this blog are retrospective. My insta and Facebook lags usually 4-5 days and the blog sometimes weeks – and this post actually even 2 months. So I get to enjoy the experience when I’m there and later on when I have a few hours in an airport, like now, I reflect about it,  edit pictures and write posts.

Not being on Snapchat any more is a big relief and if I should describe it with two words it would be that I’m more present and productive. I now enjoy the experiences even more with my own eyes and not through the phone and I’ve also cut a major time thief so that I have more time to read books, watch documentaries on Netflix, update myself on the news or “just” call a friend on Messenger. I’m very happy about my choice so far and it’s been 2 months now.

Though, there is one sad thing about not being on there anymore. I used to stay in daily or at least weekly contact with some friends of mine via Snapchat, since it’s pretty convenient to chat there. So in one way I feel  more distant to some friends. We humans like to take the easy way out and our smartphones makes contact even easier – yet less authentic. Ages ago we only spoke face to face, then over phone, then perhaps e-mail or SMS which is similar to today’s chatting but required a bigger effort. We are going from authentic conversations face to face towards chatting on different internet platforms, one more braindead than the other. The smaller the format and the more cryptic it is – the “better”.

So, to summarize this up:

If visiting Cuba was a 3 out of 6 – deleting Snapchat was a 10 out of 10! A feeling of freedom and speaking of freedom; my next destination is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave – and I can’t wait to get there!

 

Just chilling in Jamaica

They say there is never a second chance to make a first impression, which I agree on is true to a certain level. But at the same time, a person or a place can have a bad day that very first day you meet them. It’s funny how big the gap can be from the first to the final impression sometimes. When I first arrived Jamaica, I got a skeptic, bad and uncomfortable feeling. When I left I was relaxed, happy, satisfied, in complete harmony and almost a little sad leaving this truly wonderful place.

The reason I was a little skeptic when I first arrived was the fact that crime rates here are very high, so maybe I was a little biased. I landed around midnight and on the bus to my designated stop I could almost feel the danger lure around the corner. As soon as I got there I started to rain and as I checked in at the place I was staying I met an American couple recommending me to get insect repellant as soon as possible. After seeing her leg full of mosquito bites, I trusted them. So, a lot of crime, rain, clouds and apparently lots of mosquitos was my first impression. I went to bed really early this night feeling that this could be a long week.

I woke up around 6 AM the day after – and it was like a completely other world. Blue skies and had not seen or heard a single mosquito so far. The first people I encountered on my 3 minute walk to the beach were very friendly – so Jamaica really showed a completely other face today. Now to the best part; the beach here in Negril – Seven Mile Beach. As you can understand from the name it’s long; about 7 miles or 11 kilometers. I prefer quality before quantity and here you actually get both. It’s big and the sand is just AMAZING! White, fine, soft, don’t get really warm in the sun. Last but not least, the water here is the clearest that I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot of tropical waters. Crystal clear and also very calm all day because it’s protected by a coral reef which offers some great snorkeling or diving. Truly a paradise when it comes to beaching and enjoying the ocean! Usually I would have get bored after a few days at a place like this, but somehow I wasn’t here. It simply was that nice!

About the crime rates I was advised not to walk around at night time, and when everyone says that there must be a reason for it. However, in the daylight I could stroll around as much as I wanted to and it was interesting to wander in to the «town» to see how average local people actually lived, and trust me, they live VERY simple! I was invited to a man’s «hut» where he had lived since he was a child. Of respect for him I didn’t even think the thought of taking photos, but it was pretty much just a wooden bed and a table with 4 «chairs» or things to sit on and the «floor» was simply just soil. No electricity or water. Keeping this in mind when I go back home will definitely make me appreciate my own apartment and even though it’s average or maybe slightly better – I will look upon it as luxury.

I’ve now been to a lot of poor parts of the world: South America, Central America, the Caribbean, parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. I really like cars, so I usually turn my head when a nice one passes by. However, in the parts of the world just mentioned I pretty much never had to turn my neck. I’ve developed my own «Porsche-Poverty-Index» which can give a certain understanding of how poor a place is. Let’s say you walk around in Oslo, Stockholm, London, Sydney, Los Angeles, Paris or any big city in a western country – you probably see a Porsche pretty much every other minute. When I spent 5 months in South and Central America – I saw 4-5 on the entire time. None in Africa, none in the Caribbean and very few if even any in certain parts of Asia.

Speaking of cars, I’m off to a country known for it’s old colorful cars and  also communism. You probably understand that Cuba is my next stop. To be honest I’ve never had it on my list of places to go, and I’m not really looking forward to it, but it will probably be interesting and when I’m this close I feel it would have been wrong not to go there.