Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

The Frustrating Search For America’s Heart and Soul

Several years ago, I returned to the country of my birth, Ukraine, after two decades of growing up and living in America. When I was in the capital, Kiev, I met a local guy who also loved traveling and exploring the world. He has traveled all over Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and even backpacked a bit in Africa. Feeling very proud of my adopted country—America—and my adopted city—New York—I asked him if he had any desire to visit the Big Apple.

He immediately brushed me off.

“Why? I’ve already seen Times Square and those yellow cabs in so many American movies. I don’t see any reason to physically go there,” he curtly replied.

It was a ridiculous reply—even bordering on childish (especially from a grown up 33-year-old guy). As a very proud New Yorker, I immediately protested and began selling him the “capital of the world” with all my might and vigor. I felt it was more than my duty to do so. I told him that he’s very naive for thinking he can understand a city or even the entire country just by watching a couple of movies on some plastic screen in the living room.

“You do understand that those are just movies, right?” I asked him sarcastically but also seriously, as though he had just insulted everything that I considered important.

He smiled and nodded out of politeness. But I knew he wouldn’t be buying a ticket to New York City anytime soon.

Several years have passed since and lots of things have happened. I’ve lived in a bunch of new countries. I’ve met lots of new people. I worked on and completed new projects. Throughout this time, I’ve traveled back and forth to America to visit family and friends.

My thinking has also changed. It’s now more inline with my friend. I know it sounds strange and even ridiculous to say this, but I honestly don’t believe there’s more (at least, really much more) to New York (or the rest of America) beyond to what people already have seen in the movies. Or, if it does exist, I haven’t yet discovered it.

Yeah, I know exactly what you’re thinking: yet another guy sells everything, packs up his backpack, escapes his responsibilities of life in America, goes traveling around the world, gets “elucidated” about the sheer greatness and diversity of the world, and then, thinking that he’s some unique snowflake—but is actually like thousands of others before him—reaches the predictable and highly unoriginal conclusion that America somehow sucks, and that he doesn’t want to live there anymore.

Explaining the unexplainable

But that’s exactly what happened. You see, I consider myself to be a pretty eloquent guy. I’m heavily introspective and spend the majority of my waking moments making sense of the world and explaining such things to different people. Heck, I even have a blog that’s filled with plenty of long and thought out articles like these where I attempt to break down and explain many concepts that keep me up at night using plain English words and sentences.

And, for the longest time, what’s been bothering me is the sheer difficulty, even bordering on inability, in explaining America to all the random people I’ve been meeting abroad. It’s getting tougher and tougher with each passing year.

Whereas before I used to ponder and eventually come up with a logical answer, nowadays, it’s a type of question that I prefer to dodge and avoid. I just don’t have a satisfactory answer. It’s always much, much easier explaining pretty much any other country.

Mexico? Easy. Amazingly open and friendly people, colorful and spicy food, great music, cheap living. Quick tips: go to Mexico City and Playa del Carmen.

Brazil? Really easy. Palm trees. Tropical. Fantastic climate. Friendly and open people. Beautiful women. A billion exotic juices that don’t exist elsewhere in the world. World class BJJ training. Quick tips: go to Rio, Buzios, Belo Horizonte and, if you like big cities, checkout São Paolo.

Russia? No problem. Cold. Reserved people who require warming up before they open up to you. Super masculine men. Super feminine women. Very hearty food. Quick tips: choose St. Petersburg over Moscow.

I can easily come up with similar definitions for Thailand, Argentina, Romania and Italy.

Furthermore, what I find really interesting is that all these other countries don’t really merit an explanation in the first place. Everyone knows that Brazil has palm trees and friendly people. Everyone knows that Russia is cold and the people are super tough. Everyone knows that Mexico is synonymous with friendliness and great Latin culture. Even before having a chance to visit those countries, everything you may think you know about these countries is exactly true.

And America? Of course, New York has the famous yellow cabs, the Central Park, the Wall Street, and the Bull statue near the Stock Exchange. There’s also the Brooklyn Bridge and the famous hot dog vendors.

Everyone knows about these things. Yes, they’re real. Yes, they exist. They’ve been portrayed in thousands of movies. They’re been plastered all over the Internet in every kind of imaginable filter.

But, still, what exactly is America? How do you define America?

Welcome to America

I’ve just landed in JFK, New York City’s main international airport. New York is busy, loud and wealthy. New York is dirty, impersonal and poor. New York is the capital of the world. New York is an ugly concrete jungle and pales in comparison to pretty much any other big city I’ve visited. New York is a paradox. America is a paradox.

As I walk around the city, the only thing on my mind is making sense of the environment. I’m searching for something. There’s something I’m looking for. But what? What I’m looking for? What the fuck do I want? I don’t know what I want, I just know when I’ll see it. And this isn’t it.

At least, I haven’t found it yet.

Perhaps I need to clarify what I mean. What the fuck am I searching for? Why should I be searching for anything in the first place? What is lacking? Surely, these questions do need a clarification. I must to be more specific.

Or maybe not. I don’t need to clarify anything because this issue never pops up whenever I’m outside America.

Maybe I need to rephrase my objective. The key word is expectations. I have certain expectation when I visit great foreign nations and cities. I have certain things that I plan to do. I have certain things I want to see and explore.

When I’m in Mexico, my goal is to explore Mexican culture, enjoy the bustling and historic Mexico City, eat authentic Mexican food and have great churros from food stands.

When I’m in Serbia, my goal is to explore Serbian culture, eat amazing Serbian food (fantastic meat) and hang out with Serbian people.

When I’m in Brazil, my goal is to explore Brazilian culture, go to fantastic Samba bars, enjoy lively street parties and eat amazing churrasco at “kilo” restaurants.

But whenever I’m in America, my expectations suddenly become blurry, diluted and confused. What are my expectations? What’s my purpose? To checkout the blinking billboards on Times Square? To snap a couple of pictures of a yellow cab? To snap a selfie from the top of the Empire State Building? To pay $14 (or maybe more now) for the latest and greatest Hollywood blockbuster movie in a New York movie theater?

Labels, not humans

As a human being, I want to connect with other human beings; I want to connect with people. America has many big cities with millions of people. All kinds of people from all different walks of life. I see them everywhere. But I can’t connect with any of them.

I can’t because everybody is different. Everyone has different interests. Everyone has different needs and wants. Everyone is part of a specific cult: liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, anti-abortion, pro-life, etc.  Everyone thinks differently.

This just covers their beliefs. Ask anyone what they do for a living (always a favorite question at parties), and the replies will always be some ambiguous label. There’s always some guy who’s a “digital marketer.” Someone else is a “social media guru.” And let’s not forget the “customer experience representative.”

I have no idea what the heck all these labels mean. I have no idea what these people do. I don’t know how they can help me. And I don’t know how to connect with them.

It seems everyone is part of something except me. There are hipsters, hippies, yuppies, environmentalists, human rights advocates and feminists. I’m just a guy, a traveler, a human being, but everyone is something else. Is being a “regular” person no longer good enough? No longer fashionable? What if I don’t fit into any of those labels? What if I don’t fit into any of these groups?

Politically correct

When you have a country where everyone considers themselves part of a particular cult, whether it’s along political, cultural or some other lines, the standard way of communication no longer suffices; a remark that someone might find funny, witty or just useful—regardless if it’s completely true and logical—can easily offend someone else. That’s why you need a whole new language—a politically correct language.

In America, everyone talks in a very politically correct way. Everyone talks like a professional politician, even though they don’t have any power and don’t get paid for it. It’s gotten so ridiculous that I cannot even call a woman beautiful because someone else (not only other women, but other guys too) can easily get offended that I’m “objectifying” women by describing them using adjectives that represent a person’s physical appearance instead of their intellectual capacity—and by doing so, they infer using their “special” logic that I’m somehow emphasizing the former and downplaying the latter.

This is one of the biggest problems and explains why it’s so hard to genuinely connect with others, especially women. Whenever I’m on a date with an American girl (or Americanized girl who was born somewhere else), there’s always a hidden wall between us. We both know the wall is there. We feel it.

The wall is what separates the politically-correct speech from the more intimate conversation that should be taking place between two human beings. We’re both afraid of beaching the wall because we’re afraid of saying something that might inadvertently make the other person uncomfortable for completely superficial reasons. I’m afraid she’s going to get personally offended if I utter a politically incorrect joke. And she’s afraid that I might “judge” her if she says something that’s not vetted for political correctness.

Discussing touchy subjects like politics is something I have be very careful about (or better yet avoid altogether) because I don’t know if the guy next to me is a conservative, liberal, libertarian, right-wing, left-wing, centered, tea-party, or 100 other things. I don’t know if my random remark about homosexuals or abortions will suddenly turn him into my sworn enemy.

Discussing male-female relations is even worse: I can’t make a joke about an innocent date I had last night because the innocent-looking hipster next to me can be a white knight or social justice warrior who, at a moment’s notice, is more than eager to bash me about some “sexist” behavior. I really can’t win; pretty much anything I say can easily offend someone and they’ll never talk to me again.

It’s truly ironic that we live in a democratic society that’s blessed with an array of freedoms (including the freedom of speech), yet we can’t exercise these rights for the fear of reprisal and public shaming.

Politically correctness is something I never have to deal when I’m abroad. On my second day in Serbia, I immediately made a bunch of friends by making political jokes about Yugoslavia, Milosevic, Putin and institutions like NATO. I did the same with cultural topics. I connected with the people precisely because I was able to avoid celibate and politically correct speech and talk about the things that people can connect on a deeper level.

Here in Lithuania, I have no problem joking about political topics like “Russian aggression” and say many very politically incorrect things about European Union,  Russia, local politics, or pretty much anything else, and I can easily make friends for life. Locals know that it’s all just government propaganda and they don’t take it seriously.

Another easy way to make friends around the world is by telling them how politically-correct and ridiculous American culture is. They always get a nice laugh out of this.

Not talking like a politician allows you to truly connect and feel the people on a much deeper level that you could’ve achieved otherwise. It means being able to flirt with women instead of sitting across from each other and discussing something that’s already been discussed ad-naseum, like last night’s episode of some television show, news program or some celebrity’s choice of clothing.

I cannot tell you how truly free it feels to not deal with politically-correct bullshit everywhere. This is true freedom. Not the “freedom of speech” but real, unadulterated and unfiltered ability to connect with another human being on a actual human level.

Unfortunately, this is something that a guy who has always lived in a politically-correct culture and communicated in a politically correct way will not be able to do. At least not right away. He’ll need to spend lots of time abroad to rid of him the harmful politically correct thinking and speaking. Until he does, he’ll be accompanied everywhere by a thick “wall” that’ll greatly limit his engagement with others.

Individualistic-Capitalistic Culture

I was born in Ukraine. My native language is Russian. These two characteristics represent important cultural links that allow me to connect with certain groups of people; that’s why if I’m in Ukraine, I can immediately connect with pretty much anyone. We speak the same language (at least, in certain parts of the country), know the same customs and understand each other on a very culturally deep level. I’m one of them. That’s more or less the same for other former Soviet Union republics like Russia or Belarus.

But in America, a Ukrainian or Russian guy isn’t my countryman or brother. He’s now someone else: he has become my fervent competitor. We no longer possess common cultural links. We’re no longer harmoniously working together: we’re competing against each other. Competing for a good job, competing to impress others with the newest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or a luxurious car. We’re no longer “Ukrainians” or “Russian-speaking.” We’ve been stripped of our national identity and reduced to eager rats in a capitalistic rat race.

I have noticed the same with other nationalities. After living in Brazil for a couple of years, I can easily spot a Brazilian who’s from Brazil and a Brazilian who grew up in America. My Mexican friend who’s been living in US for just a couple of years feels the same way. A person—whether he’s Russian, Brazilian, Croatian or Colombian—who grows up in America is now an American. The longer a person has lived in America, the less their cultural origins matter. A Brazilian and a Colombian who has grown up in America do not argue whether the former or the latter culture is better or worse. They’re now all part of the exact same culture: American culture.

You cannot talk about cultures without mentioning the women. In many ways, at least from a man’s point of view, interacting with the women let’s you truly get the feel for the culture. I’ve dated my share of Ukrainian/Russian women in America and Ukrainian women in Ukraine. And I can tell you that comparing the former to the latter is literally like night and day. There’s absolutely no comparison. Both may have been born in the same country, but they’re completely different people. American culture overshadows and masks just about anyone’s indigenous culture.

Less personal and more competitive

Strangely enough, my barometer for understanding a country’s culture is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) training session at a local academy. I’ve been training it  for over eight years, and I always make an effort to hit the mats in every single city and country that I spend more than a couple of days. Not only is getting on the mat a good way of escaping the craziness and unfamiliarity of a new city, but every time I come into a new academy, I feel like a medical technician trying a new experiment in a lab. An hourly training session allows me to get a cross-section of a local culture really quickly.

In Brazil, the birth land of the martial art, training is a very casual affair and is a fantastic way to make lots of friends real fast. It’s very common to talk about all kinds of very politically incorrect things. There’s an egalitarian  culture where you can easily approach more experienced guys for any assistance. It’s also not uncommon for the whole class to meet up afterwards and have dinner or grab one of the exotic juices at the local juice bar.

This is more or less similar in Latin American or European countries as well. If you’re a foreigner, people are curious where you’re from and how long you’re in the country. If you’re a local, hitting up a local school lets you quickly integrate into a new group and make new friends fast.

In America, training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more competitive and less personal. What should be a casual training session suddenly turns into a competition. I train with one guy after another without introducing myself. I know nothing about them. I also get the feeling that I’m not even supposed to know anyone’s names. No one cares about getting to know anyone on a personal level. Nobody is there to make friends. Everyone seems to have enough of them. Everyone is busy working their crazy and ambitious jobs. Everyone has places to be. People come to train and then go home.

What is completely natural such as grabbing some beers after training or hanging out on weekend with your training partners is something I would never dream of even proposing in New York, Miami or San Francisco.  Training is just yet another activity of many in a person’s busy day.

Reduced to a business model

There’s also the capitalistic aspect that always rears its ugly head—and gives the saying that “there’s no free lunch” a more emphasized meaning. After the free introductory class (when it comes to BJJ, there’s an unspoken custom of always offering a free introductory class to newcomers anywhere in the world), the head instructor always wants to “chat” and that means he wants to pitch me to signup. He wants my money.

That inevitably means getting me to commit paying a monthly fee via some long-term contract that’s very hard to get out of (usually I need to move somewhere else and then show the instructor my new utility bills as proof that I really did move.) I also heard that some American academies actually charge you for a free class. That’s not capitalistic but outright greedy and arrogant. Take my advice: don’t train at these “McDojo’s.”

The rest of the world is more casual about taking your money. When I was in Belgrade, Serbia last year, I went to three classes and received world-class instruction before I insisted on paying for the whole month—even though I knew that I would be leaving the country before the month was up. That has been my pleasant experience in Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and most other countries.

People are more lax about taking your money in the rest of the world because money isn’t everything; life doesn’t revolve around money. But in America every human interaction is reduced to a business model.

As a business guy myself, I understand another business man’s point of view. But it’s still really annoying to know that all this nice behavior is just a mask for luring a new prospect into an expensive and difficult to get out of long-term contract.

“You’ll go crazy”

Four years ago, I was on a flight to London, England that would mark the start of my European adventures. On the plane, I was sitting next to an elderly gentleman from Italy. He was flying back to Italy after spending a month in New York.

He asked me where I’m from. I told him I grew up in New York. He looked me at with amazement and reverence.

“What an amazing city! Lots of things are always happening. So much excitement. It’s also very efficient unlike Italy,” he mentioned.

“I think everyone should live there between the ages of 22 and 48,” he added.

“Why only until 48?” I asked him.

“Because you’ll go crazy afterwards!”

Those were wise words, indeed. But I think that the time period can be shortened even further. Nowadays, I see a lot of people come to America for a very short time. They come to earn a higher education degree (masters, PhD) or to work in a competitive field before moving back home.

When I was training BJJ in Manhattan, I met a young Spanish guy from Valencia. He was probably in his early or mid 20s. He was studying for his masters at NYU. I asked him what he thought of New York. He said it’s nice, but he’s looking forward to going back to Spain when it’s over. He thinks the quality of life is much better in Spain. Having been to Spain many times, I certainly cannot disagree.

Another friend of mine, a Mexican guy who just turned 31, has been working in New York for about a year, but knows it’s all temporary. The objective is to gain the proper experience and then return back to Mexico and settle into a comfortable life in Mexico City or Monterrey.

I’m noticing a trend. People come to America for 3-5 years. They work in huge corporation or small startups. They learn how to build and run companies. Then they take all their knowledge and experience back home and build something. People are now viewing America as a temporary pitstop on the way to some grand destination—instead of the grand destination itself.

The American Premium

My ex-girlfriend lives in a tall skyscraper in downtown Manhattan. It’s a small but nice and cozy 1-bedroom apartment (two rooms plus a tiny kitchen). The rent is $3,000 per month.

If I had lived in America all my life and never ventured abroad, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the exorbitant cost of living. After all, she lives in one of the most desirable and famous cities in the whole world. She also has a very nice job that allows her to afford this lifestyle with ease. It’s seems a completely reasonable rent for what she’s getting.

But I fail to see any value. I’ve been around the block (and the world), and for me, paying $3,000 per month to live in some concrete jungle is a complete ripoff. That kind of money can buy me a much higher level of living somewhere else. I can rent a nice apartment in Rio de Janeiro near the beach for that kind of money. I can rent a fabulous apartment or a house in Croatia or Montenegro that’s right on the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t even get me started on what this kind of money can buy you in the less developed parts of the world or even smaller cities that aren’t frequented by tourists.

She has no trouble affording such an apartment, but that’s because she literally works like a slave for a big corporation. But what does the $3,000 per month apartment really get her? Access to cool restaurants, perhaps. Cool bars and lounges in the near vicinity or via a quick subway (metro) ride.

That’s pretty much it.

Oh, and, of course, how can you forget the bragging rights with having a prestigious Manhattan zip code next to your name on your mailing address. But for $3,000 per month? That’s quite a premium. That’s the American premium.

It goes without saying that $3,000 is completely different money in Manhattan than in a place like Croatia, Brazil or Vietnam. In New York, it’s not very difficult to make high five figures or low six figures. That might not be the case in Brazil or Croatia. But so what? I’d rather make less money and have a more balanced lifestyle than working like a slave and have a decent apartment with a fancy zipped.

Living in a pseudo reality

On my last week in New York, my cousin invited me to watch a movie she had recently rented via Red Box, a cheap video rental service. She pointed out that the movie should be good because it had received multiple Oscar nominations. Although I rarely watch movies now, I was interested in catching up and seeing the latest and greatest that Hollywood can offer.

The movie was around three hours long. It chronicled the life of a family that’s living in rural America. It’s shot over a period of twelve years, so you can see the whole family grow up and mature. The children become teenagers and go to college. The parents divorce and develop new relationships, only to marry, divorce and remarry again. The movie ends with one of the kids questioning happiness and the meaning of life.

I didn’t like the movie. But not because I disliked some of the actors; I think the acting was pretty good, and some of the actors are indeed quite famous. The real reason I didn’t like the movie was because of something else, something deeper that involves our sorry state of culture.

Why do people watch movies? As far as I’m concerned, the whole purpose of sitting for a couple of hours and watching other people do something on a plastic screen is to temporarily transport yourself into another life—a life that’s richer, more exciting and more interesting than the one you’re living now.

That’s the major reason why I’ve watched Jason Bourne so many times. It represents an exciting life that an average person just doesn’t live. My lifestyle isn’t terribly boring, but I admit that I don’t have crazy assignments that take me from city to city and country to country day after day. That’s what makes watching such a movie interesting and exciting.

That’s completely not the case if what I’m watching is actually less interesting and exciting than my own life. This was one of those movies. It’s about a bunch of regular people who are living a regular life in rural America, and not much else.

The whole time that I was watching the movie, the only thought I had was: it’s them who should be watching me instead of the other way around. Instead of me paying for the movie, they should be paying me. My own life—the life I’m living right this moment—is much more interesting and exciting than theirs.

Maybe I felt this way because I haven’t watched a movie in really long time. I literally felt like I was in some matrix, as I was watching and becoming intimately familiar with some run-of-the-mill suburban family.

It made me think. If such a movie is so popular in the country and praised by its society (by being nominated and/or winning various prestigious awards), then what does it say about the underlying society? That the real life of the people in the society is less interesting than the life of some random small-town family? Surely that must be the case. Otherwise why would be people spend their money and time just to watch a random family in rural America grow up?

The Sovereign Man dilemma

The biggest “pro-America” argument I hear from people who live in big American cities like New York or San Francisco is that their cities have all the advantages that you’d find by traveling around the world (e.g., ethnic food, a mix of cultures, diversity, etc), but without actually getting on the plane and going to some possibly dangerous foreign country.

That’s not exactly true. Let’s begin with food. Take something as common as Chinese cuisine. There are plenty of Chinese restaurants in America, but the food is quite different than the food I had when I was in Taiwan. It’s more Americanized version of the local cuisine.

Even the ubiquitous Mexican cuisine that it’s on every block all across California cities tastes very different from the food I had just across the border in Mexican towns of Tijuana and Ensenada. The food I had in Mexico City had many items on the menu that I’ve never even seen in California. Nevertheless, I still have to give credit where it’s due: it’s still pretty amazing to live in a place like San Francisco or New York and have the option of trying any kind of food you want from tens of different cultures without getting on the plane.

Then there’s the popular argument that America is this magical place that’s the best of both worlds because it’s the only place in the world where you can meet amazing people who’re trying to achieve something great and change the world, as noticed by networking events and startups.

Except that’s true in any big city around the world. That’s what big cities are: a congregation of various people who are trying to do something new and exciting. This is no longer the 90s when America was on the verge of a dot com revolution; there are young people all over the world looking to start companies. I can point you to plenty of places like Moscow, Madrid, São Paolo, etc., that are brimming with startups and other co-working events.

The other common argument is that you can live in a place like New York or Miami, and take frequent flights to nearby destinations like Central and South America. That way you’ll, again, have the best of both worlds (it never ceases to amaze me that people are always trying to have their cake and eat it, too.)

Having done that before, it’s, of course, doable, but I fail to see the point. Why even live in America at all? If you want to experience another culture, then why not live somewhere else more or less permanently and come back to America when the need arises?

As far as I’m concerned, there’s just no substitute for an original. There’s living in Rio de Janeiro or Belo Horizonte, and then there’s living in Miami and having a bunch of Brazilian friends. There’s living in Moscow, Russia, and then there’s living in Brooklyn, NY and hanging with a bunch of Russian people. There’s living in a crazy megapolis like Mexico City (I recommend Condessa), and then there’s living in a place like San Diego or San Francisco and hanging out with Mexican people. There’s absolutely no comparison between the first and second variant in each example.

“My grasping, greedy American soul”

One night, while riding back to Brooklyn on the Q train, I noticed a elderly man sitting and reading a magazine. The headline of the article was “My grasping, greedy American soul.” I smiled. I suppose I wasn’t the only who was searching for the country’s soul; other people are too. I immediately felt better about my dilemma.

America is the richest country in the world, but all this economic wealth comes at a cost. Wealth is not an indicator of happiness; in fact, wealth and happiness can sometimes be inversely related. How can someone be happy if they’re working 9-7 (or longer) everyday so that they can be able to afford the rent on their tiny apartment in Manhattan? It’s no coincidence that the happiest countries in the world aren’t exactly the richest. Brazil and Mexico have enormous wealth inequalities, but people are very happy.

Sometimes it helps to stand back and look at the bigger picture. Fifty years ago, right after WWII, when Europe and Asia were devastated, America was the undisputed leader of the global economy. It had the largest economy of the world.

Back then, everyone dreamed of emigrating to America. Everyone wanted to live in America. Everyone wanted to have an American passport. Heck, that was more or less true as little as just twenty five years ago. Back then it was common for people to come to America and start their new lives and actually build something of themselves. The whole “American dream” and all that. American businessmen and capital would use these eager immigrants as badly needed labor to build all kinds of things.

But that’s no longer the case. European Union is a growing economic superpower. China is growing like crazy. America’s economy is stagnating; its growth has slowed to a trickle and it now imports more stuff than it exports by borrowing money from other countries. In fact, its biggest export is the dollar which circulates around the world so that other nations can use it to purchase  important resources such as oil. (American’s other famous export is “democracy.”)

I no longer see people eager to immigrate to America. At least that’s my impression after spending more than three years living all over Europe. Even in Eastern Europe, where there’re plenty of economic problems, people desire to immigrate to richer European countries like England or Germany—not America.

If America’s greatest export is the dollar, then, maybe it makes sense to leave America but still earn income in dollars for spending abroad? If it’s good enough for the global economy, it’s surely good enough for me.

Greatest cognitive dissonance

America is the greatest cognitive dissonance I’ve ever come across in my life. On one hand, here’s the greatest, mightiest, most amazing and highly developed country in the world that has pretty much everything a person would ever need or want: entertainment, technology, ethnic restaurants, a mix of cultures, order, security, stability, etc.

On the other hand, here’s a country that’s kind of like a mosaic of other countries, but with each specific cultural element being much more diffused, blurred and out of focus than the original. A country that’s known around the world as the land of opportunity, a place where anyone can make anything of themselves.

My brain knows that it’s the greatest country in the world, but my heart is always lonely and confused, and is itching to get out for some greener pastures. It’s an ambiguity that I’ve struggled for a very long time.

No longer. Maybe it’s because now that I’m looking for something concrete and tangible—and not chasing some abstract dream—that the whole American image simply lost its appeal and purpose. And, along with it, the frustrating search for something that didn’t really exist in the first place.


  1. Maverick, I am a fan of the blog and enjoyed this post. I myself have lived abroad 2 years mostly in Asia but also in Europe and a bit in Egypt. I have pasted some of your comments in this post and would like to add my 2 cents.

    “But, still, what exactly is America? How do you define America?”

    It is impossible to define America. I think this is what makes America unique. America is a melting pot. An immigrant from Egypt is no less American than I am even though my ancestors fought in the American Revolution. I find the question “define American food” does a good job of reflecting this reality. Well, we eat a lot of pizza but that’s Italian. We eat a lot of tacos but that’s Mexican. Inevitably the answer becomes strictly “cheeseburgers.” The truth of the matter is that the average American eats food from all over the world on a weekly basis. That is American cuisine.

    “New York is dirty, impersonal and poor. New York is an ugly concrete jungle and pales in comparison to pretty much any other big city I’ve visited.”

    Now, now, Maverick. Taking a taxi into the city from JFK I have never felt, “wow what an ugly city.” It is maybe my favorite drive in the entire world. New York isn’t poor, it is just the extreme of the American wealth gap. Every city that size, or at least most, are somewhat dirty, impersonal and poor. That’s just the reality of being in such a large metropolis. I have never been to Brazil but imagine there are places there that are dirty, extremely dangerous/impersonal and poor. Park Ave. is clean, central Park is clean, as a matter of fact I am always surprised by how clean NYC is. Are some pockets dirty? Yes

    “Why should I be searching for anything in the first place? What is lacking? Surely, these questions do need a clarification. I must to be more specific.”..”But whenever I’m in America, my expectations suddenly become blurry, diluted and confused. What are my expectations?”

    It bothers me when foreigners say things like this. As if we in the USA owe you a show for coming here. This is not a movie, people live here and work here. Leo Dicaprio isn’t gonna show up to take a selfie with anybody. What should you be searching for? Depends on what you want to do. Not our job to show you anything. Go to the everglades, grand canyon, vegas, D.C, the beaches, Rocky Mountains, best restaurants in the world, best golf in the world, I could go on and on and on. Try doing that in Italy.

    “Locals know that it’s all just government propaganda and they don’t take it seriously.”

    In Russia? I find that hard to believe. Either way, in the USA you cant be jailed for expressing your viewpoint, unlike Russia. Additionally, most Americans cant name the vice president so I imagine as a group Americans don’t take it too seriously either.

    “But I fail to see any value. I’ve been around the block (and the world), and for me, paying $3,000 per month to live in some concrete jungle is a complete ripoff.That kind of money can buy me a much higher level of living somewhere else.”

    This is your opinion, though. Some people hate the beach. some people want to live in downtown Manhattan. some people want ” Access to cool restaurants, perhaps. Cool bars and lounges in the near vicinity or via a quick subway (metro) ride.” Does not make it a waste of money just because you (and me) think its a waste.

    “That’s not exactly true. Let’s begin with food. Take something as common as a Chinese cuisine. There are plenty of Chinese restaurants in America, but the food is quite different than the food I had when I was in Taiwan.”

    Kinda true but the food in the USA is the best in world, bar none.

    • Maverick

      May 2, 2015 at 5:42 am

      Hey Will, Great feedback.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective.

  2. Sounds like you feel you’re entitled to something here in America. Nobody invited you to come here. If you don’t like it, then just leave. No biggie.

  3. I will add that I think the “lacking” feeling people get when in America as a resident or long term visitor comes from the fact that America is a melting pot. There is no culture, history, or community to hold on to to help form ones own identity. There is no feeling of “we are all in this together” vibe. In China for instance culture is celebrated as much as we celebrate our melting pot. This culture and communal nature can help as a crutch. It is easy to feel alone on an island in the USA kind of a “Who am I?” thing

    • I disagree. Of course there’s a culture and history in America. There seems to be a popular belief that America is a cultureless nature. There’s no such thing as a nation without a culture. Where do we get this idea that a country can be culture neutral? Any difference between us and another nation is a cultural difference. There are attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that separate us from other nations, such as Mexico.

      “There is no feeling of “we are all in this together” vibe.”

      That probably has more to do with America being ethnically heterogeneous. In the 1950s, America was like 90% WASP, and you probably had more of that feeling of a nation and community. Not arguing that America SHOULD be 90% WASP, I’m just saying that the less ethnic diversity you have, the more cohesion in national identity. In a place like China it’s been pretty much pure Chinese for thousands upon thousands of years. If it was split between Chinese, Europeans, Africans, Hispanics evenly, you’d probably have no sense of community and strong national identity in China.

    • Maverick

      May 3, 2015 at 10:23 am

      That’s an interesting point. Although I think it depends if you were born/grew up in America or immigrated from somewhere else.

    • As an American, born and raised, I agree wholeheartedly with this. America is a nation of faceless individuals. America, while it has dozens of cultures, in reality has no culture beyond money and materialism. The worst part is that I think many Americans are aware of this, but go along with it anyway! There is no desire in America to change things for the better. The goal here is just to get wealthier.

  4. Seems like most of your “America” comparisons are about New York and that’s the worst case to use. It’s so unique and different from the rest of the country.

    You’re also making very broad generalizations about such a vast and varied country. Would you do the same and treat Europe as one? France is vastly different from Ireland or Ukraine.

    Finally you last paragraphs suggest America is in decline relative to Europe and China, with the economy in tatters and no one wanting to immigrate here. Card to back that up with real data? Last I checked, immigration to the U.S. continued to rise; US has a much better GDP growth rate than the EU; and America has an increase of young people entering the workforce while China is seeing that number decline. America is by no means perfect – I like to say it’s the best of the worst compared to EU and China — but it’s not as bad as you make it out to be.

  5. Great article, very informative and well written. But I don’t agree with your last points about food or jobs. There many other reasons to live in America. For once, there’s no racist, xenophobia or anything like that. That kind of stuff plagues lots of countries. For example, Europeans can can be very racist.

    So, you definitely have the good with the bad.

    • “There many other reasons to live in America. For once, there’s no racist, xenophobia or anything like that.”

      Lol? No racists in America? That’s a new one.

      But I see what you’re trying to say. I think America has at least tried to do things to combat racism and discrimination at the legal level and correct wrongs of the past. Americans when caught being racist are typically ashamed to be seen as such. In some countries there’s no shame at all in being racist. There’s a youtube channel I watch of this black dude that lives in Russia teaching English and the stuff he has to deal with is crazy. Like just walking down the street having dudes throwing sieg heils and shit. Or not being able to take a subway at night for fear of skinhead attacks.

  6. The King of The Manosphere

    May 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I personally think that Miami is the best. It’s warm and close to Latin America for those beautiful honeys.

    But you certainly are right about many of the things. I feel I deserve a metal for even finishing this article, though.

  7. another great piece of art

  8. Solid post. I bet the guys who are disagreeing can’t refute the politically correct bullshit and super competitive society that turns into a rat race.

  9. As an American, I reluctantly have to agree with you.

    As much as I hate to admit it, most of the article is spot on.

  10. Wickedly long post man but very eloquently put.

    Weirdly enough, I’m in NYC right now for a week before I leave to Eastern Europe for the summer. Only reason I decided to stop off was to hit daygame hard for a week.

    Last night while walking around uptown after a day of heavy daygame, I was filled with thoughts of “meh”.

    The city has a low appeal to me and it’s hard for me to even contemplate why so many people “love it here”.

    Granted, different people love different things, but the mere fact that the city transforms you into everything this article describes faster than any city in America proves to me that peoples ideals are skewed.

    While talking with girls I approached throughout the days and discussing the people in NY they always said, “you just adapt the vibe of the city”

    To me the city has one of the most negative vibes of anywhere I’ve traveled and transforms the inhabitants into drones.

    Are you in NY? If you are, let’s meet up for coffee and shoot the shit. I’m here until the 8th

    – Alan

    • Maverick

      May 2, 2015 at 5:47 am

      Hey Alan,

      NYC is a strange place for sure.

      No, I’m in Europe at the moment. Was reflecting upon my time in NYC few months ago.

  11. Johnny Caustic

    May 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    There are two Americas: urban and rural. I think this post is a good description of urban America, and makes a lot of sense for big-city folks like you and me. But many of the predominantly white, homogeneous, rural areas of the US still retain a distinct character and identity, and still have strong bonds of trust and intimacy among the locals. Mind you, there is more than one such American identity–Alabama, New England, and North Dakota all have their own cultures. But most of what you wrote here doesn’t apply in those places.

    • Maverick

      May 4, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      I did talk about NYC a lot and I agree that many things are NYC/Big city specific, but I feel the capitalistic, individualistic aspects still apply to America (and even Canada) as a whole.

  12. Fantastic article. At the end of the day, America is too huge and vast to project the kind of connectedness one feels abroad in smaller countries. And it is competitive, mainly because the comfort and promise of keeping what we have( job security, income, property, material possessions) has gone away. It’s also becoming more transient as cities and states each are experiencing fiscal strain from mismanagement and more people expecting the state to foot new expenses.
    One good thing I see is that one can buy land. I like the idea of having 20 or 100 acres somewhere in the country where you can go to chill and live your life; when you need action or social engagement, you can drive to the city (or fly somewhere). I find people today more annoying so the thought of being away from them is appealing. As an example, you can live in the country around Carolina but then fly down to Medellin for a 10 days of high paced action (girls, clubs, real dancing) and come back and chill.
    But you really set it down fairly accurately.

    • Maverick

      May 2, 2015 at 5:46 am

      Thanks Steven. I know what you mean about the disconnecting part. The feel is there for sure.

      Buying land is a cool idea.

  13. I am a u.s. citizen but a canadian by birth. There are many different kinds of the u.s. Mav, you just need to get the hell out of nyc and discover the rest of it. Try Iowa, then, say Washington state, try Calif, where this is being written, try South Carolina, Montana—all of them are different parts of the American jigsaw puzzle you seem not to have found or tried to find. And while you are doing that I am going to hope to visit the countries you have suggested. God willing.

    • Maverick

      May 2, 2015 at 5:48 am

      Good points, there.

      NYC can corrupt a man’s soul, that’s for sure.

      • As a Brazilian, now living in USA; I can relate to some what you’re saying: relationships are quite different here and after 7 yrs, ( with awesome friends – handful, though!) I do miss the way, we interact with each other in Brazil. But it’s so hard to balance the good and the bad!

        After my first initial shock, my dumb and simplistic conclusion was: like anywhere else: there are good and bad people!
        Simple things like: drink water (free!) in a restaurant / to have a person assigned to stop the transit while school kids are crossing a street, the welcome centers along the highways; made me realize that in Brazil, we are not respected as citizens! Granted, being our fault! but it’s pretty sad to realize how screwed up things are in terms of Brazilian society structure…

        On the other hand: it’s like there is this blindness blanket. A sad rigidness around people; the emptiness that come with a never-ending consumption. It’s like to be continuously fed when someone is not hungry anymore… and the scary part is: not realizing that.

        Being an Engineer, I do see and defend to a point to have standards; but when everything turn to be standardized and pack in a palatable way, it’s easy to kill creativity and determination… but somehow, I can see this happening in small or bigger scales in different countries.

        The poorer countries, however having more basic needs to attend for, ironically keep a bit of an edge in this matter.

        I do think, though, that foreigners develop this kind of “love or hate America” that doesn’t seem fair! Guy saying that he saw NYC because of the movies: it’s like me saying that I saw his country because of a movie! it’s naïve to say the best.

        As an avid reader, I sometimes judge the book by the cover: I maybe attracted or not to read, but without reading it, it is somewhat presumptuous to make any comments.

        USA is not NYC, my opinion: NYC is not USA at all! To see USA, you ought go off the beaten paths! The thing is: America perfected marketing: everything can be a product and that is not always good.
        It’s the same of someone judging Brazil by watching “Tropa de Choque!” or the Carnival ( I’m a carioca that is the most non carioca ever! lol)- it’s very aggravating and totally unfair.

        PS: thanks for the insights about Brazil! 🙂 and I had some interesting reading in your website!

  14. This was an interesting read. The North American soul is tormented and even paranoid — as such so are its citizens. This phenomena however occurred especially in the last 20 – 30 years as mass wealth was transferred to the rich by putting govt in massive debts. People compete with each, and groups compete with each other in a mad sprint pursuit to accumulate money by any means — regardless of the harm or consequences they create. Less money is going around. As such people are burned out and always in a mistrustful state. It is impossible to connect with others who are like this — hence even after 20 years or more of living next door in apartments — neighbors do not know each others names. Beneath the surface of colorful Times Square lights is a ugly reality.

  15. Clifton Jewett

    May 3, 2015 at 12:32 am

    “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

    – Alexis de Tocqueville

    Now more than ever, there is no majority in America. And what does that mean for conversation?

    I am not a Christian, but American Babylon, the book by long-time New Yorker Richard John Neuhaus, I think, best puts into words the emptiness and restlessness of NYC about which you’ve hinted. Please allow me to recommend it.

    I’ve never actually been to NYC, but I know the feeling exactly. It’s the feeling Italo Calvino sums up at the end of Invisible Cites, the feeling of everything swirling into everything else. I can feel a feeling of “Los Angeles” more in Los Santos than Los Angeles.

    We can’t have a culture in America; we’re obliged to be above it. There is no American culture beyond this increasing refusal to perform one, because it could only be a performance for us (of course, Baudrillard reverberates through my keyboard in mangled form here).

    As Nils commented on that post of yours:
    “…as we’ve seen in all the Silicon Valley success stories, a good deal of programmers there had (or joined) a really good idea, a great solution to a fairly big ‘problem’.”

    The big problem I see in America is how afraid everyone is of everyone. Home of the brave? The General Social Survey has shown things getting worse for decades:
    “These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.” Smaller numbers of close friends. Growing numbers of hikkikkimori.

    “Is there an app for that?” is the kind of thinking Silicon Valley is best at, and Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together demonstrates why it will only exacerbate America’s weaknesses.

    These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

    If there is an American “culture”, it is the money-focus you speak of – but is that really culture at all? Or is it a process of abstraction akin to that which drove you from programming to something with more human interaction?

    “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

    – Alexis de Tocqueville

    A professor I know recently got back from his homeland of China and told me to appreciate the higher air quality (in my small US city) and how, by working a little harder, we can afford a good life here. Who moves to America? Those willing to sacrifice friendships and culture back home (or those without them anyway) for work and property, or the freedom to maintain some culture that would have them ostracized back home. The selection bias in the American sample continues from de Toqueville’s time to the present day, and it isn’t hard to see why the group that has it hardest descends from those who didn’t freely choose to come.

    A few quibbles:

    The cost-of-living gripe is specific to parts of America. Growing up in a cheap area, LA pains me – DC and NYC seem unlivable.

    I can see no grounds for being more sanguine about the EU economy than the US economy. US getting worse relative to Europe? Sure, depending on the timespan in question. Is the US less attractive to immigrants? I think there are just more competitors.

    About the trade deficit, I used to worry about it, then I saw how bad things were in China’s shadow banking system and how Greece will only be the start of the Eurozone’s collapse. Now I hardly ever sleep.

    Sweet dreams, though. Thanks for your piece.

    • Maverick

      May 3, 2015 at 4:36 am

      Fantastic comments, Clifton.

      I’m actually about to dive into “Democracy in America” soon. I think there’s alot to learn from Alexis’ work.

  16. One thing I’ll say in America’s favor is that our cities are extremely varied. Going to Brazil made me realize that. For example take…


    Belo Horizonte:

    Sao Paolo:


    If you look at those photos, Brazilian cities mostly look the same. The same bland, cinder block architecture.

    But you look at America and it’s extremely varied. New York City looks NOTHING like Miami. Boston looks nothing like Chicago. LA looks nothing like San Francisco. Seattle looks nothing like New Orleans. Philly looks nothing like Phoenix. DC is nothing like Houston.

    America is not very old, yet it’s old enough to have some great pre-war architecture, yet new enough to still have modern skylines. So you look at a place like Chicago and you’ve got this really cool mix of architectural styles that blend old and new. You don’t get that everywhere. A place like Seoul or Tokyo may be very modern but you don’t get that historic feel. A place like Rome or Prague is very historic but there’s not much of anything cutting edge. I think in America you have that balance between the two. You can see shimmering towers worthy of Dubai in Manhattan, and see Beaux Arts neo-classical edifices rivaling anything in Paris. I think that’s something to take pride in.

    And then on top of that, there’s so much geographic variety. You got everything. Islands, beaches, deserts, plains, forests, mountains, arctic tundra. Many people in other countries see our movies and think it would be awesome to hop on a Harley and ride through the desert on route 66. Our live near the coast of California and surf.

    America most definitely has a heart and soul. If it didn’t we wouldn’t be such an artistic powerhouse. So much of the music the world listens to comes was created here. Jazz, blues, rock n roll, rock, country, bluegrass, techno, house, disco, hiphop. Only the UK can rival us in musical creativity. We pretty much clean up in popularity of films.

    I think there’s plenty to like here. I also like many things about other countries too. Each place has its own set of problems and often where you’ll be happiest is where you have to deal with the fewest problems. I think if you live in any place for long enough, you’ll get sick of it. Especially if you’re the type of person with a restless soul and who constantly wonders what’s going on over the horizon. Maybe you just spent too much time in America and you got burned out. It happens.

  17. To all the guys who’re picking on Mav for saying that he’s generalizing about America based on his experience in NYC, I think you all missed the other parts of the essay, namely political correctness, capitalism/individualistic, and this “disconnected” feeling that another person mentioned.

    Those things definitely apply to all of America (and even Canada), not just NYC.

  18. Joe Capitalist

    May 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    It seems like your main argument is about capitalism. I don’t know man, but what do you expect: America IS capitalistic. Some countries are more so; some countries are less so. You gotta just deal with it. Or do you want to live in a communistic world?

    • North America is not capitalistic. It has turned into something else which still needs to be defined and understood. Some of the biggest socialists are corporations – who get bailed out by govt when in financial problems. Corps do not compete but cooperate to maximize profits — and pay little to no tax. There has been a massive transfer of wealth to the rich by putting govt in debt. In fact the rich do not create jobs but eliminate them — according to a wealthy business man whose talk was banned on TED Talk. It is the demand from the middle class that create jobs — but the rich have also wiped out the middle class — who also pay the bulk of govt taxes. — Adam Smith would likely be horrified to see how his ideas have been distorted into something else that was not his intention.

      • Maverick

        May 6, 2015 at 8:52 am

        North America is not capitalistic. It has turned into something else which still needs to be defined and understood. Some of the biggest socialists are corporations – who get bailed out by govt when in financial problems.

        This is a fantastic point. How can one say the culture is capitalistic when huge companies are regularly being bailed out by the government. That’s socialism mixed with crony capitalism.

      • The US has a mixed economy. In California, as elsewhere, a lot of neighborhood hospitals have gone bankrupt owing to a Federal policy which states that they must accept uninsured patients; some of these hospitals then end up with 80% of their patients being uninsured; then the government pays them a minimum amount to help them cover the costs of taking care of the uninsured patients; the patients are happy, because many of them are receiving socialized medicine, they cannot afford insurance and they cannot afford to pay, and they ignore subsequent hospital bills that come in the mail. The hospitals then go bankrupt and are bought out by larger medical chain hospitals, or mega chain hospitals, which is exactly as the government intended all along; the mega chains who buy out all of the neighborhood hospitals, which the Federal government has driven into bankruptcy, are then guaranteed support in the form of Obamacare, or mandatory insurance… None of this would be going on in a free and fair market capitalist economy, it is owing to back room negotiations between Federal government officials and the big medical corporations, and it reeks of corruption.

  19. NYC hardly has any real Americans, just the residue of the last 150 years of immigrants. The whole urban East coast from DC to Boston is almost the same way. San Francisco is a lot nicer, but expensive. The Atlanta area, particularly close-in suburbs such as Decatur, it is possible to find a decent neighborhood with shopping and restaurants within walking distance and rents under $1000/mo. – sometimes much under. My area near Emory University has lots of smartish people and some decent looking women. Atlanta has little unique character, but it it does have a small bohemian district, lots of trees, and is pretty typical of the US. Hardly anyone is really a Southerner here

    Smaller cities / large towns are often more livable in the US than the big ones. Some of the places I have enjoyed: Frederick, Maryland; East Grand Rapids, Michigan; San Marcos and Austin, Texas ; Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Vermont; New Hampshire; Maine; the more scenic areas of Appalachia; the mountain areas of Colorado, particularly ski resort towns; the West in general (particularly the scenic parts that aren’t yet de facto Mexico – Idaho, Montana, Utah).

    Being already in Europe, you ought to try out the Greek Islands, especially during the off-season. Athens is OK for a while, but it isn’t quite Greece. (Though you would likely enjoy a stint at the Hotel Orion at the top of Benaki where the foreign models stay and nightly trips down the hill to Exarchia where the local radicals and international bums gather, it gets old after a few weeks.) Chania on the western end of Crete is a great place if you enjoy simple pleasures. The Dalmatian coast is also worth the trip, but I gather you have already been there. I hear Dubrovnik isn’t what it used to be, which is a pity. Normandy and Brittany in France are relatively unspoiled, but the best food is in Belgium. Few places in Germany are worth a trip, but I liked Heidelberg. Some other random places I liked in Europe: Salzburg, Barcelona, Vienna, Oxford, and the smaller towns in Northern Italy.

  20. Btw, forget NY, if you really want to analyse a troubled city — then you really need to analyse Toronto and what it has turned into – many other cities are following its direction.

  21. Mav,

    I think you’re being short sighted here, and the point is that every country has it’s benefits and draw backs. For example I am living in Brazil for my work, and yes there is a lot of what you said that is beautful/correct about brazil. The climate, the women, the food and drinks – amazing. Yet at the same time, this country is a fucking broken shit hole. The infrastructure sucks, people are cut throat on the road, people are cut throat in society – they do whatever they want, they don’t obey the rules, they don’t wait in line – it is dog eat dog every man for them selves. At the same time the cost of everything is higher than the USA.

    If you’re asking me if I’d rather live in Sao Paulo or a Large american city, I’ll choose a large american city every time. Quality of life issues in Brazil are significant.

    We are consumerist, are are capatalist, we are focused on efficiency and effectiveness and this can be bad. However, there are a whole set of benefits we derrive from this focus that you will never experience in all of the fucked up ness that exists in Central America.

    In sum life isn’t a romantic adventure in any country you live in. There are benefits and draw backs. The USA is not heaven and is not perfect, however no country is.

    The takeaway is that we all need to remove romanticism from our minds when we think about truly living and experiencing life in another country. There is good and bad everywhere, you need to decide what you value and what trade offs you’re going to make.

    For me? I’m moving my ass back to the USA when this is all said and done.

    • lol lol lol Hello Bill:

      you made me laugh so hard with your straight forwardness about Brazil! geez, I loved it!

      I’m Brazilian and I do indeed see your point and agree with it!

      When I visited Australia, I conclude that I’d rather live in a place where society is structured and the citizens are somewhat respected than in a place where the party come easy with zero rights but the crème of la crème of the society.

      I’m really sorry about your experience in there, I wish it would be different but we have long ways to go to become a mediocre decent country… 🙁

      by the way: have you ever visited Ilha Grande or Penedo / Itatiaia: enjoy the beauties since you need to put up with our issues! Good luck

  22. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. And who knows, I may leave America one day. But, as the cliché goes, “There’s no place like home.”

    I was born and raised in Texas and I’m probably more loyal to Texas than to the Union. You said you can hang out in Mexico, or you can live in San Diego and hang out with Mexicans. Well I haven’t hung out with Americans abroad, but I love hanging out with them here.

    Sure, they’re lost, entitled, fat, and all those other negative attributes Americans possess, but dang it! they’re my countrymen. They’re my people. It’s my homeland. I’ll always love it, even if I were to leave and find someplace better.

  23. You forgot sports. There is at least one sport for every single country where at least once in four years or so the entire country is glued to the television cheering for their national team representing them. The US of A has no such thing. Sure, the whole country celebrates super bowl but there is no trace of a unifying nationalistic passion.

  24. My comment is more concerned about the first section, concerning travel and exploration.

    I think you’re confused about America because it’s where you grew up. Like so many other Americans, you have no desire for exploring America. More importantly, you’re nowhere near as open-minded about rolling into a new American city. In your mind, it’s already tainted — it’s American. Nearly every American is guilty of it, it seems.

    You’re not even trying to explore America in the same way you are other countries. America has several regional identities, so you should pretend they’re different countries you’re going to explore.

    Look at your example for Brazil: When I’m in Brazil, my goal is to explore Brazilian culture, go to fantastic Samba bars, enjoy lively street parties and eat amazing churrasco at “kilo” restaurants.

    You could write up similar vignettes for San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Charleston, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Portland, Minneapolis, Anchorage, or Missoula. They’re just simply not as exotic to someone who’s grown up in America.

  25. As someone who grew up and lived in America for most of his adult hood, I completely agree with most of what you’ve written.

    It’s a very soulless country. I’m really jealous of all my friends from Brazil, Argentina. At least they have something to be proud of. Me? Not much.

  26. America is where smart people make money and stupid people give it up. America is where I numb my emotions before I take an illicitly-gained military-grade weapon and destroy as many people as possible with it. America is where I piss on the homeless man dying in the cold. America is where I smile and pretend conflict does not exist.

  27. This is, if I may skip the political correctness for a moment, the funniest shit I have ever read. You, sir, are a fucking idiot.

  28. I don’t normally comment, but I had to in this case. While I begrudgingly agree with your sentiments on America, but it would appear you’ve never been down south. If you had you would’ve excluded the southerners from your sentiments. Most southerners do feel like they are brothers and unite around their “southern roots”. The south is unique from the rest of the country. It has it problems just like the rest, but has the scorn of the rest of the nation and has naturally banded southerners together as one group. So if your from the south in the U.S. you identify first as a southerner or from the state you hail from.

    Just ask any Northerner what they think of the American South, and usually the terms “backwards”, “ignorant”, and “slow” come up.

    Southerners do feel common bond with one another have always rallied around one another.

  29. I am also living abroad and living adventures in exotic countries. I really like your anecdotes, which always start with … a few years ago I was sitting in a bar in Copacabana drinking a mojito talking to this local dude 🙂 this motivated me to write down more of my own memories- Great stuff keep it up

  30. This is thoughtful blog article. Well said.

    America has its ups and downs like every other country. In America, you have tremendous opportunity to make money but interpersonal relationship is more of business oriented and on the surface, it’s polite but distant. I lived in my neighborhood and for over more than ten years, I don’t even know any of my neighbor’s names. Tried reaching out before, conversations end short and polite with “Weather is good today”. “Good morning” and depart.

    I think the political correctness and the whole “I’m offended” feeling is taking its measure. I think the missing link is the social interaction. America has almost everything that can make average human live comfortably with no problem but the missing link I would say is deep human connections.

    • Thanks TS. Great comment.

    • What countries do you have deep human connection, and what does that actual mean in the real world? That your neighbors knock on your door at 11pm to talk about personal problems? That everyone on my block and my coworkers know all my business? I guess there’s pros and cons to both sides. As a person that’s intensely private, I kind of like just keeping things on the surface with neighbors, unless I happen to have a lot in common with a neighbor and we just click and become normal friends.

      Also I’m sure this is just a factor of living in large cities in general. I’m sure in smaller towns and rural areas in America where people still have town hall meetings and everyone goes to the same church, you may have that connection that you are speaking of. I think large cities with over 5 million people anywhere in the world are going to be somewhat alienating.

  31. I know this is a blog for guys but I’m going to opine because I’m an American and although I haven’t traveled as much as you I’ve been to a few places. I’ve been though out most of Mexico and probably to lots of places you wouldn’t even imagine there because I speak Spanish fluently and I look Mexican. I’ve also been to Scotland, England, and Portugal. And in the US I’ve been to NYC, Washington, DC, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California.

    I think in order to understand the USA you need to get out of the big coastal cities like NYC and LA and San Francisco. You need to go into flyover country and meet regular people. And like most places it helps to read the history of a nation to understand its present.

    Having said that I do think that what made America its own country has been destroyed a lot by left-wing social justice warriors who are committed to undermining the country from within with uncontrolled immigration (both legal and illegal) and a philosophy of whining entitlement and self-pitying crybabies. When I was a kid in the USA, we had an identity and we had a culture. We still have a culture but our identity has been and is under attack.

    I do agree with you that lots of people come to the US to use it for economic or educational advancement and then leave. And that’s one of the problems with our culture and our identity. People come and take but leave nothing and invest nothing of themselves here.

    As for your great love of Mexico, well, I’ll just say that one needs to spend lots of time with Mexicans to really know them. Superficially, many are very nice and friendly. But, it’s been my experience that once they feel they can trust you, the claws come out and they aren’t really so nice. And if you really think that Americans are always out for themselves, you should try trying to make a life with Mexicans or other Latin Americans. The level of self-centeredness and treachery they display is astounding.

    But I did enjoy reading your article as I always find it interesting to view traveler’s opinions of the US.

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