More proud of America than ever

The week of thanksgiving I sat down to book tickets for my up and coming trip to the UK. One of my cousins was getting married in February and I promised that we would make it out there for the special day.

I’ve always tried to find the best priced tickets and have driven as far as Toronto in order to save money. I was fully prepared to drive out to another airport this time, when my wife came home and told me a bunch of her photographer friends were messaging her saying that ticket prices to Europe were really low.

President Trump had just been elected and the stock market was soaring. The dollar was getting stronger and it was thanksgiving week, where retailers are usually looking for your buck.

So, on the day I was ready to commit to another long drive across countries in order to afford to see my family, I typed in a search from our local Cincinnati. Sure enough, the prices were cheaper. A lot cheaper.

On this day you could buy tickets for nearly the same cost as Toronto, which always has cheap flights to Europe. I pounced on the tickets from Cincinnati. Glad to be able to get affordable tickets from a much more convenient location.

As soon as I bought the tickets I thought about my in-laws and how they had never been to Europe before. They had always wanted to see my home nation, but time and money had always been a barrier, just as it had been for us.

“Why don’t you message your parents and ask them if they want to come with us?” I suggested to my wife.

As soon as she messaged them, I added that I had never seen tickets priced that low before. I really hadn’t.

They messaged back saying that they would think about it. I thought for sure that the prices would go back up the next day.

In the morning they messaged back saying that they would love to come out there with us. I quickly checked the prices, they were still incredibly low. “I’ll be right over!” I text back.

I managed to match up flights and get them seats right next to ours on the four separate flights. I became incredibly excited about the prospect of my in-laws finally being able to see where their son-in-law grew up.

Over the next few weeks I planned and mapped out many things for them to do on their trip out with us. I wanted them to taste all the highlights and see the best parts of where I grew up. I wanted them to experience as much of the history and beauty England has to offer as possible.

What made the trip more challenging was my 10 month old son. Being so young, he needed a lot of sleep and a lot of attention. He did really well on the planes heading over and we were glad to have an extra set of hands to help out.

We decided to stay in a two bedroom flat in the heart of Canterbury, as I wanted my in-laws to be able to get straight on the train to London easily and to be able to really experience the city of Canterbury first hand.

The first few days went really well. They got to see my hometown, where I grew up, a castle, London and even my Dad’s side of the family.

They were really enjoying the trip and I was glad for that. But my wife and I weren’t getting much sleep, as our son was waking us up during the night. I was doing all the driving and I was starting to get worn out.

During the second week we took the Eurostar to Paris. I had my reservations due to the terror related incidents in the Capital, but my in-laws really wanted to see it. We left my son with his other grandmother at her fathers house in a village close to the Eurostar Terminal. He was in safe hands.

We ventured into Paris, snapping away pictures and taking it all in. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it. But the fast pace of the day really wore me out.

Between the lack of sleep and the end of the trip looming, my mood was taking a downward turn. I had enjoyed showing my in-laws around, but I still hadn’t seen half my family members and I really didn’t want to fly back the next week. I could have stayed a lot longer.

I kept my composure as best as possible, but I was having a hard time keeping my raw emotions at bay. I really didn’t want to leave. I love my home country and all my family. I could envision raising my son there. I didn’t want to go back.

My cousins wedding came and went. I got to see the rest of my family and I even managed to drive my in-laws all the way out to Stone Henge. I was extremely glad to have been able to show them so much of the UK in such a short period of time, but I was extremely drained.

In the weeks that followed, I looked up local house prices and jobs in the area. I seriously contemplated moving back. Having grown up there myself, it was easier to envision raising my son there compared to the US.

But, just as I suspected, the house prices were too high and there weren’t enough decent paying jobs. The same reasons I left the UK ten years ago were still true today.

Over the next few months several terrorist attacks happened in the UK and in places we had just visited. The attack on Westminster bridge happened exactly where my in-laws had stood for a selfie just weeks before.

I felt profoundly sad for my home nation as I read the news. I contrasted this with ever tightening security here in the US. I felt extremely glad that we had elected President Trump to office.

As spring gave way to summer and we paid my Jeep off, things became easier as my wife’s business took off and bills became easier to keep up with. I thought about the opportunities we had here and our ability to gain all the things that we have.

Many of my cousins, who are around the same age as me, still live with their parents. This is not because they are lazy bums, but simply because the house prices are so outrageously expensive. Many of them travel over an hour each way each day to work in London to make decent money.

By contrast I travel 20 minutes to work each day. I don’t make a lot of money, but it is decent. On decent money I am able to afford a house, a car and a really good quality of life. I realized fully that I wouldn’t be able to do that anywhere else in the world.

In America, if you work hard, if you take opportunities as they came, you can live well. That cannot be said anywhere else in the world. It is a real privilege.

“You realize what you have in the US would cost nearly a million pounds here right?” My friend had said to me while we were over to visit. What a contrast.

As summer moved on, my uncle called me and explained that he was going out west again on his motorcycle. The year previous he had flown all the way out there, bought a couple of bikes and been on a road trip of a lifetime with his brother out to the coast and back.

This time uncle Colin was heading out to Bonneville. After getting off the phone with him my wife told me I should go out and join him. She knew how much I had been wanting to ride a motorcycle out west.

To cut a long story short I booked off a couple of weeks of work and readied my motorcycle. After he arrived in the States, my uncle headed out ahead of me to see more of the northern states. A few says later I rode my bike from my driveway in Cincinnati, through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, into Colorado and met him a couple of days later in Colorado Springs. From there we rode through the mountains into Utah and towards the Bonneville Salt Flats.

After a couple of days at the flats I left him, as he intended to head south to Vegas and then back east to visit his friend in Atlanta.

I then rode my motorcycle through the mountains and dessert of Nevada, past Lake Tahoe, through Sacramento and a through San Francisco before heading over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Over the next several days I rode my motorcycle up the California coast before beading back inland and through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Along the way I met many different people and saw many different places. Even in the most remote places I was able to find motels with comfy beds and warm showers and restaurants with plenty of hot food.

Again I thought to myself how lucky I was to be in this country. I could ride a motorcycle for thousands of miles across multiple states, through wildly varying terrain and still find a place to sleep for the night and a hot meal.

I wondered how many other places in the world where you could show up out of the blue and get all that at any time in the evening.

Riding across the US gave me a new appreciation for this country and gave me time to think about all that I had.

I have a big house, a loving wife and a happy and healthy son. We have everything we could ever need and some. We didn’t need to go to college, straddle ourselves in debt and become CEO’s in order to afford all this. We just had to work hard and be smart and take the best opportunities we could find. Again, where else in the world can you say that?

This country isn’t perfect and I do get home sick, but I am extremely grateful for the opportunities it has already afforded myself and my family.

I think a lot of those people who are upset with this country would do well to venture out into it and see more of it for themselves. I think they would be surprised by just how much is out there to work hard for and enjoy.

Jet lag

It’s 3am UK time. I am wide awake. It seems that my body clock has been spun completely off-center. It’s funny, I always used to sleep fairly well on my return trips to England when living here, but now that I am more of a visitor than a resident, my body can’t seem to adjust, at least not yet anyway.

Today Brooke and I will be heading up to London on the train to see The Phantom of the Opera. There are three things that I wanted to do with Brooke on her first visit to the UK, which I didn’t get a chance to do last time. One was to eat at the Punch Tavern, which we did yesterday. The second was to go to a theatre production in London, which we’re doing today. And thirdly to head to Paris for a day or two, which we’re planning on doing next week before we leave.

Whenever I used to travel to the US; I used to compare prices between products and services in the Canterbury area, and in the Cincinnati area. Now, after having lived in the US for 4 1/2 years I find myself doing the same in reverse. What I remembered is the high cost of housing and petrol/gasoline, but what surprised me was the day to day cost of food, clothes and various home products. I remember thinking how cheap everything was in the US when I used to visit, but lately it seems that everything is so expensive. It is true, many items have gone up in price in the US, inflation it seems, is far higher than you’ll hear about in the media.

I can see now why both the UK and US governments behave the way that they do when it comes toward oil and gasoline/petrol. The UK has made it practice to restrict its citizens usage of the resource since it needs to import more of it. Whereas the US economy is built off cheap oil, and the US government builds its blunderous foreign policy off retaining its dominance on the purchase of cheap oil. Of course, both governments are wrong in their policies, since there are alternative energy resources readily and cheaply available. But it does explain why prices and inflation are higher than ever, and why energy prices are so high.

I was amazed at the cost of a meal at the Punch Tavern; £5.79 for a meal with a pint of beer. That’s amazing! Brooke and I would easily drop $40 – $50 for the same meal each back home, and yet my dad only paid about £22 for himself, my mum, Brooke and I.

On recollection. There really isn’t a ‘better place’ to live in the world, your home is where you make it, and what you enjoy out of it. Sure, there are better places, and I enjoy the 28C/86F warm sunny weather back home in Cincinnati compared to the 9C/50F cloudy drizzly weather in Canterbury right now. But the walk that Brooke and I took yesterday evening along the back woods where I used to jog as a teenager were so quite and so peaceful. The wooded areas were full of bluebells, something that I’ve wanted to show Brooke since I first met her. And the fields were quiet and rolling. There wasn’t a sound in the air, except a few rumbles of cars in the distance and the chirp of birds in the air.

I think life is meant to be lived, and it doesn’t matter where you are, nor too much what you’re doing. But how you’re doing it, what you’re doing it for, and whether you’re enjoying it or not. Life really is too short. I grew up in this country, I’ve lived here 4/5 of my life, and yet I feel more like a stranger now than anything, even though I am used to the customs and find myself easily able to blend in and get around.

I’ve grown up a lot since I left England. America is the land of opportunity, though not all Americans, perhaps even the majority don’t use the opportunity. I think England has as many opportunities as America, but perhaps not in the same context. You can get a good education in England far cheaper than in the states, but to buy a place to live here in Canterbury you’d need to be practically a millionaire, whereas in Cincinnati they’ll pretty much give you any mortgage you want, and you can buy a house for not much more than a car in certain places.

I feel bigger now than when I left England, bigger in mind body and soul. I left the old country with many ideas, expectations and dreams. I have achieved many of them, and am proud of myself for doing them. I owe all my successes in life to my wife and my parents, without their support, I doubt I would have achieved half of them. It makes me very happy to be spending the next week and a half with all of them in the place where I grew up. I shall make the most of this, and enjoy eating my favorite meals and seeing old sights, friends and family.

Now to try and grab a couple extra hours sleep, so that I don’t feel like a zombie while walking around London!