What I missed most from the U.S.

Traveling internationally for months at a time brings a lot of awesome experiences but also some realizations about back home. Now that we are in the U.S. again, I am beginning to realize many of the things we take for granted here. After a few weeks back in the states, here is my list of most missed things.

  1. The US Interstate System

Thank you, President Eisenhower! Efficient, high speed travel across long distances in your own car without relying on railways or airplanes. we drove 500 miles in 8 hours from Charlotte, NC to Akron, OH with only 8 total turns…all of which are within 5 miles of the start and finish. The other 490 miles are entirely on Interstate 77 with wide open lanes, tunnels straight through mountains, and barely a second thought.

Compare this to hand-painted signs pointing to dirt paths down the side of a mountain.

2. Supermarkets

We take for granted that we have 24x7 one stop shopping for fresh produce, packaged foods, coffee, medicines, beer and wine, and even miscellaneous items… need firewood? Some flowers? Pencils? Draino?

South Africa has wine sold in the supermarket, but beer sold in the separate liquor store…but only before 8pm. Need Ibuprofen or cough drops? You’ll need to head to the dedicated pharmacy. Want some flowers in Bangkok? Go to the dedicated flower market. Want real ground coffee beans in Croatia? Better try a different country.

3. Teeth Brushing with Running Water

Unless you’ve lived in a place where the locals even say not to drink the water, you may not understand this. It’s easy enough to drink bottled or filtered water, but brushing your teeth is a different story entirely. The twice daily ritual all of a sudden takes ten times longer and costs $1 per brush in bottled water just to rinse off your toothbrush.

4. LTE and high speed broadband

We love, love, love T-Mobile. If you do any traveling internationally, they are absolutely the best mobile provider. In nearly every country we have free texts, free 2G unlimited data, free calling back to the US when on wifi, and $0.20/minute calling to nearly any country from any country. While slow, 2G is fast enough for navigation which can be a life saver when you are driving on the opposite side of the road, in a foreign country, with monkeys climbing on your car, in the middle of nowhere. But wow LTE makes a huge difference back in the USA. We can watch Netflix and Hulu from the middle of a lake if we want to.

For all the studies I’ve read about the US lagging behind other countries with high speed data, let me tell you that is absolutely not the case. While usable in most countries, the broadband definitely does not have the infrastructure behind it in many countries to support the fast speeds Consistently — this is the key word. A typical day using broadband goes like this: super fast, slow, reboot router, fast, power outage, dead router, get new router, super fast, government censors websites, slow, stream 5 minutes of Netflix through a VPN, power outage, go to bed.

5. Low cost and efficient energy

Gasoline and electricity run 99% of our daily lives. What happens when they are expensive and inefficient? You have more pollution, sweat like mad, get electrocuted (only a little) when plugging things in, and pay more for less.

For everything that can be said about clean energy, I have a new appreciation for how far ahead the US is over countries in making the most of our natural resources. While we use more energy than some other countries, it seems to be used more efficiently with less pollution. We were in Hong Kong and Shenzhen China for 5 days and only saw the sun through the smog a few times. This is definitely not a good sign of things to come.

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