Thank you America

Looking back at my time in the states, I realise that I never really got a chance to say it.

The day I flew in to Phoenix, I went straight to camp in Prescott. After the first two initial weeks of orientation and training, most of my time was engrossed with looking after children. During the 12 weeks of camp, I only posted on here twice (weak on my behalf, I’m sorry). Afterwards when I started to travel, I uploaded a post for every city I’d visited but even those only covered the basics. I feel like I never really got the chance to describe my true experience of America or to be thankful for it.

Even though I’ve lived in Argentina and travelled quite a bit, I’ve never really been exposed to tipping until I hit the USA. Tipping is not a thing that happens in Australia. The minimum wage is substantially higher here so people don’t have to rely on tips to earn a decent living. At a restaurant, waiters tend to leave you to do your own thing because they know they don’t need to provide an incredible service to your table. It’s quite peaceful actually when dining out. Anyway, it kind of threw me off when I realised I had to tip in the USA. Officially I think it’s something around 20% of your bill, but everyone I spoke to said that no one really tipped that much unless it was at a really expensive restaurant. Usually it was just a couple of dollars on the table, but it annoyed me how you never actually knew how much you would spend on a meal until you finished eating it (tax was never included either in the prices). As I wasn’t brought up in a tipping culture, it was always on the back of my mind. I didn’t realise until I was safely back home that you’re supposed to tip Uber drivers. They probably all thought I was a stingy tourist that didn’t appreciate their services. I’m so sorry. I gave you all 5 stars anyway.

Unlike my newly acquired mediocre tipping abilities, I can now say that I have a better sense of direction. I don’t entirely know if it’s because I’m now driving back at home or not, but I’m just going to assume it was because of the states. All the roads basically had cardinal directions on them. While you were driving, you could always tell if you were going north, south, east or west. Salt Lake City was specially good at this because all of the streets were named with their cardinal direction and a number in relation to the distance from the city centre. All of the freeways were really good too as they always told you which way you were going. Being exposed to all this surprisingly helped when you had to get around a city without glancing at a map. I was never really good at geography at school, but I managed to end up walking in the right direction while I was in the Unites States. At least that was mostly the case. Whenever I ended up in a sticky situation, my trusty friend Uber would always help. We became quite close by the end of my trip.

For the first time in my life, I’m going to say that I’m very thankful for the metro train system here in Melbourne. Yes, I’ve constantly complained about it for my whole life, but I’ve never realised that it works quite well compared to other cities. The USA was built with the car in mind. Back in the day, no one cared about trains so no one bothered to any construct train lines. Most of the cities didn’t have any fast moving trains. Lot’s of them had trams (that were called trains) that ran in the middle of roads, stopped at traffic lights and where only recently built. The trains here aren’t the most incredible thing in the world (specially on the Frankston line), but I’m happy I have them at my disposal whenever I want to go into the city or down to the beach.

The USA has also opened up my eyes to the grand scale of the world. To cross great distances, I’ve always flown. On planes I usually just sleep or watch an excessive amount of movies. I never realise how much distance I’m actually crossing while in the air. In the USA, we mostly only had buses at our disposal to get around. The mere fact that it took us 17 hours to get from San Francisco to Salt Lake City made me realise just how large the country really was. All of the buses we took were always long. The USA is so spread out, it’s impossible to go to many places without a car. I’d never really experienced that at home as most things are close by or easily accessible by public transport.

Lastly I’d like to thank the USA for making me realise how extremely lucky I am to have my job. My laid back, check out chick (register), casual job pays me nearly $18 hour on a regular day, extra on the weekends and double on public holidays. My job has allowed me to completely finance my whole trip (including spending money) and to plan this blog post. I was so surprised to hear that my American friends made less than $10 an hour as adults in casual positions. I now consider myself lucky for having my work.

So thank you. America you have taught me lots. I’m sorry it took me this long to realise it.

– Nadia

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