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.
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“.