Taking Off
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Taking Off

TRAVEL|TAKING OFF

5 Things My Husband Brought Back from His First Trip to America

A messy pile of American candy bars including Reese’s, Butterfinger, Mounds, Heath, and Almond Joy.
Photo by the author

Hey people of the internet, how’s it going? If you’ve been following Taking Off for a while then you may have read my wildest travel story about the time I Swiped Right in Serbia.

Well, the saga continues, because shortly after that post went live, me and my husband were whisked away on a business trip to the good old U-S-of-A.

That’s right: Mr. Green Laser Douchebag (as he was formerly known) made it to America for the very first time in his life.

I wouldn’t call it your typical grand tour of the USA; the trip took us through California and some sleepy seaside towns of the Oregon Coast.

Have you ever been to Oregon? It’s fucking weird. And I can say that knowing I won’t offend anybody because they’re proud of the fact that it’s fucking weird. It’s practically their state motto.

Despite the Sasquatch paraphernalia and 8/10 men looking like serial killers, my husband — “Matt” to most Americans — loved it. He’s obsessed. This was a dream come true for him. And, after living in Serbia together for almost 6 years, this trip was a total “Freaky Friday” moment (we happened to watch that movie during the trip, which he’s also obsessed with it).

Seeing someone experience your home country for the very first time is eye-opening. Perhaps even more telling is what they choose to remember the trip by. After coming home and unpacking all our things, it struck me that each item really does tell a story.

In our case, it would be a rather random and confusing story to anyone who might have stolen our suitcase and opened it up. There would be so much intrigue at first glance — signs of trouble, antique goods with no obvious value, and enough sugar to trigger early on-set diabetes.

It certainly makes for an exercise in self reflection. So, what did we learn about ourselves?

I’ll let our suitcase do the talking…

A Parking Citation

Yep, he’s a bad, bad boy. Turns out parallel parking your car on the “wrong” side of the street in pursuit of a little shade is a no-no.

A $48 no-no.

The “wrong” side of the street means that your car is facing the opposite direction of oncoming traffic. In America, that’s the left-hand curb. Normally it’s obvious, like duh, who would cross into the opposite lane before parking? But this happened to be a wide, empty street with no line running down the middle — so that shade seemed like fair game.

Personally, I was annoyed about the ticket; but my husband was thrilled. Turns out he had a running joke with his friends that he was bound to get into a little trouble. He had gone so far as to ask me if I thought any cops would be chill enough to pretend to arrest him so I could film it as a prank (the answer being no, by the way) — so when this happened it was the next best thing.

He made me take his picture holding the citation and when we came home he tried to display the actual ticket next to one of our wedding photos. Our wedding photo!! I tore it down right away.

A parking ticket hanging next a photo of a couple on their wedding day, on a shelf.
No, no, no! Photo by the author

Oh, and P.S. We paid the fee online.

An Antique (?) Knight’s Helmet

“Matt” discovered antiquing. This was weird to me, because antique shops always used to remind me of death and old people. (I mean, where do you think that stuff came from?)

The first couple of times we popped into these shops, we just had a quick look around. But as time went on we started scouting them out because, let’s be real, there’s not much else to do on the Oregon coast ahead of the tourist season.

It turned out to be a new passion for Matt. Some items that always caught his eye were model cars and vintage Coca-Cola paraphernalia. Those things are classic, not to mention iconically American.

What he brought home for himself, however, is this small replica of a knight’s helmet.

A miniature knight’s helmet on a shelf
Photo by the author

What’s the significance? Is it even antique? I don’t know. But a find like this brought out the little boy in him.

It’s crazy because so many people associate America with cutting edge technology and things that are shiny and new; a lot of tourists come here planning to buy something like the latest gadget from Apple.

But, the thrill of treasure hunting and delving through the eras turned out to be an immersive experience I recommend. Not just in the States, but anywhere you go: look at the mundane items that people have coveted over the years and you start to scratch below a society’s surface.

So, reflecting on that experience, I actually learned something that’s going to change the way I travel.

And, here’s a tip: You’ll find truly unique gifts for people back home that don’t just come from any old tourist shop.

Candy. Like, A Lot.

In the end, we couldn’t buy antiques for everyone, so we stockpiled candy on our way to the airport and literally shoved mini chocolate bars into every available inch of the suitcase. If anyone in TSA had opened that shit, they probably would’ve slipped us a note to see the doctor.

We’re talking Ghirardelli, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, Heath, Mounds, and novelty flavors of Kit Kat. Don’t get me wrong, you can buy a lot of American candy in Serbia, but for some reason they don’t have any of these.

Matt tried a lot of other candies before then, mostly from the Dollar Tree, to the point that it made him a bit sick.

The lesson? He can’t control himself.

A Pinecone

Unlike everything else, this item was totally free. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill, scraggly little pinecone. (Psh, who cares about those?)

This is a massive specimen handpicked from the slopes of Lake Tahoe. The sheer size of our trees in some parts of California is truly impressive, so I think that’s what Matt meant to capture with this prize. It nearly took up an entire corner of the suitcase.

A massive pinecone from Lake Tahoe held in someone’s hand for scale, with snow on the ground
Photo by the author

Okay, so what does a pinecone say about a person? What did we learn from this item?

Nothing, really, it’s a fucking pinecone. But, I guess it speaks to Tahoe’s incredible nature, which is something my husband enjoyed and looks forward to experiencing in many other parts of the country someday.

T-Shirts: 3 for $19

Everybody loves a bargain. But, I don’t know if everybody would consider that the highlight of their trip. This is something Matt continues to gloat about to this day.

We stumbled upon these shirts one day at a dock-side kiosk in Oceanside, CA — not usually the sort of place where you go clothes shopping. It was a day like any other and we were casually browsing the inventory. Suddenly, there it was: a sign that said T-Shirts 3 for $19.

Matt was hooked. He bought 3, all for himself, 2 of which are identical aside from the color. He couldn’t try them on, but when we got back to the hotel they turned out to be the perfect fit. PER-fect.

Three tourist T-shirts, 1 white 2 black, from Oceanside, California
The talk of our trip. Photo by the author.

We bought many other shirts on our trip. All other T-shirt purchases were measured against this 3-for-$19 deal. How much for 3 shirts? What’s the quality? How good is the fit? He was really pleased to tell everyone about his 3-for-$19 shirts everywhere we went.

Now that we’re home, they’ve initiated an entire “tier system” to his closet. The Oceanside shirts are Tier 1: premium fit and condition.

So yeah, if you want good shirts go to Oceanside.

What Does Your Suitcase Say About You?

Looking back at this list, that $48 parking ticket was the most expensive thing on it! I guess that says we’re cheap, but fuck it — we know how to have a good time. Maybe that’s the American Dream for us. And, on the plus side, Matt’s now very well dressed.

One thing he didn’t bring back? His $4 sunglasses from Walmart. Those got left behind in the rental car by mistake. Luckily we have this gem to remember them by:

Man in a baseball cap and sunglasses standing in Walmart and holding two 6 packs of Mountain Dew
So American it hurts. Photo by the author.

What did you bring back on your last trip, and what does it say about you?

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