Home | Preparation | Presentation | World Tour | Interview | School Corne | Sponsoring |
Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

Partenaire







 Travel Diary : “America”... or...”The United States of America”

Commonly called “America”, the United States are only a part of this double continent. However, this country of a decent size makes a lot talking about himself. Indeed, we can say that the United States are maybe today the most powerful country in the world. The influence of the country crossed its borders a long time ago.

You may understand that during the last two years of my journey in Europe, in Asia, in Africa or in Central America, I have been introduced to the american culture through its music, its cinema or even its food. Thus it has been very interesting to discover the place where this culture was coming from...

In July 209, I was entering the United States by Texas, which is the second biggest State of the fifty of the country. Until March 2010, I have been able to cross thirty-three of them. Still by hitchhiking, I had the opportunity to meet many people and to understand a little bit better the way of life of a country which is sometimes considered as a contemporaneous Empire.

My journey by hitchhiking in the United States


As an Empire, one could say that the country has its assets and his weaknesses, that there is a light side of its force and a dark side of it. Of course, everything is not all white, neither all black but let me express my point of view: the one of a foreigner in the country of Uncle Sam.


 

The local and exportative american culture

In this first part, I doubt bringing further information to my dear readers but I am going to start to explain my observations about the United States by the information I got about its culture.

As you can see from the title of this part, a good part of the american culture is possible to find in most of the other countries of our world. Often close to the acculturation, the music, the cinema, the food or other parts of the american culture are getting sticked to the european, the asiatic, the african or others ways of life.

 

-Eating fast, a lot and bad for cheap: “the american fast-food”

Who don't know “Mad Donald's” or “Burger King” nowadays? Those names have already toured the world but are the only one to share the business of the fast-food in the United States.

Here I am eating a huge american burger...


The “Fast-food” is a very expanded way of consuming in the United States. Mac Donald's, Burger King, Subway, Wendy, Dennys, Arbys, Jack in the Box, Apple Bees, Friday's, Dunkin Donuts... Today, all those corporations can be considered as the urban-landscape of every suburbs of the major american cities, which are then boring and unoriginal.

The main asset of the american fast-food is that we are coming to have a “fun-meal”. On top of that, the food is cheap. The dishes are so big that you will leave the restaurant with a feeling of being... restaured. The sodas are free-refill, you just need to pay your first glass (which may be as big as one liter). You can refill this same glass as many times as you want on the fountain of  sodas of the restaurant.

The problem, important, is that the food that you can have in the fast-food is very bad for your health. Be careful then.

 

-Entertainment-Land

The United States have surely one big asset: the one of “Entertaining You”. The money spent in the industry of cinema, music of simply entertainment is absolutely huge.

Most of the cinema of the world is coming from one area of Los Angeles in California. Everyone has at least heard of Hollywood and its famous little hill.

The Hollywood's hill


The american “blockbuster” is a movie with a big budget, often produced in the United States but that you will probably see in China, in Paraguay or in Mauritius Island...

Some big studios like the 20th Century Fox Warner Bros or Universal are earning millions of dollars of profit by the movie (even if sometimes bad movies don't get that much).

The sign of “Universal Studios” in Los Angeles

 

 
The country in Nashville, the blues in New-Orleans, the hip-hop in New York, the grunge in Seattle... The american musical culture is indeed very rich and diversified. My journey in the United States was very rythmed by the musical influences of the different americans states.

A local house-gig with my host in Oklahoma City


If there is a place that expressed perfectly the feeling of “show business” that I got in the United States, it would be Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a city built in the middle of the desert in the state of Nevada. The reason to come in Vegas is to be entertained by its casinos and its shows. “Show business” is a very well chosen expression because the goal of this entertainment is to collect a maximum of money while being sure that you keep smiling.

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas”, is titling the sign behind me


Money seems to be something quite important in the United States. In the next part, we will try to understand which influence it can have in the life of one in this country.

 

The importance of work or the American Dream

It has been very interesting to discover the United States after having spent a long time in some countries of the Third World. Indeed, the importance of life is evaluated according to different criteria.

In most of the Third World countries, it seemed to me that the population had a greatest appreciation of the social side of life. In the United States, the priority was maybe more towards stocking goods in a way of life that became ultra-capitalistic.

Let's see how this system is working.


-Working life

To be honest, I would say that the american is not scared about working. Working is even a reason to live in the United States.

However, it is possible here to realize your projects. Indeed, if you have enough motivation and good bases, it will be perfectly possible for you to realize your dreams.

We call that the “American Dream”.

You can touch the dream, like all those luxury cars in the Car Show in Chicago. It is even possible to try them by going inside, just the time to imagine what would become your life if you succeed in realizing your dream.... But the dream is not always for everyone.


In the United States, if your dream become true, you will become very rich. You will have so much money that you won't even know what to do with. The “american dream” is attracting many people coming from all over the world, looking for a quick way to get rich .

After this, you won't need to put yourself on your knees on the ice to get all those dollar bills, like here in Portland in Maine.

 

-Innovation
The american has no fear to try, to create, because you can gain so much. The country is like a huge supermarket, where everything can be sold. By the way, the biggest supermarket in the world are in the United States. We call them «Walmart».

A supermarket Walmart in Oklahoma City


By this way, the spirit of creativity is stimulated 'by the possibility of earning money. It is possible to see now many kind of innovative objects. One of the big pole for innovations is the “Silicon Valley”, in the suburb of San Francisco in California.

Useful or not, it is not important because if it get sold, it will make work the economy of the country.

A very special mean of transportation in San Antonio in Texas. You won't even need to walk... And useless to say that it works!

 

The self-satisfaction

Many american citizens are considering their country as a “great country”.

Many facts helped me to understand that the country was loved. Let's see how it is possible to see this fact.
 

-The star-spangled banner, “nationalism or patriotism”

How many times have I seen the star-spangled banner in the United States. I have been able to see it almost everywhere in the country. In front of the houses, on the caps, on the tee-shirts, on stickers, in the television...The flag is everywhere.

The star-spangled banner... Even in cake (Austin, Texas).


Also, it is possible to hear the american national anthem (by the way also called the “star spangled banner”) or also the “God Bless America” at each sport event or important moment for the country (which can be many).  
 

-The limits of the international politic

The good things for the United States are maybe not good for other country.
Yes, there are many assets in this country. Nevertheless, I don't think that the way of doing of one country is something that you can easily export.

I really found that the United States was not very internationally open. As turned to himself, as if the country was the center of the world, very few american people know something about the world outside its own borders.

It is sometimes thought that if the United States are “great”, the rest of the world must be like it. In this way, that would be a daily fight to americanize the world.

You think that what I say is a little bit mean? I have tough pictures for you...

As you know, the second world war ended up by a last attack from the United States against Japan. This one was nuclear. Two atomic bombs were thrown on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the August 6th and 9th 1945, killing more than 300 000 people.

In Nashville in Tennessee, a war memorial has been built. On one of the monuments, we can see this:


A picture of one of the two atomic explosions, with above the title “Victory”... I am not sure that this fact needs to be a so high feeling of self-satisfaction...

That is something to think about, especially when we see that the United Sates has been involved the last decades in at least five different wars: Korea, Vietnam, Koweit, Irak and Afghanistan.
 

-The positives intentions

In the other hand, the United States are also involved in many positives international interactions.

Many projects, like the fair trade, are helping some Third World countries to have an interesting exchange of goods.

For example in Austin in Texas, I have been able to drink some coffee coming from the Caribbean island of Dominica.


Those are often independent projects. They are helping the workers of the third world countries to have a better profit of their product.

Like the brand of the coffee is saying: “Drink coffee, change the world”

I think that this is more in this way that diplomacy should work, other than with weapons of mass destruction...

The Rotary Club is an international organization which is trying to create positive actions locally and internationally. The politic of the Rotary Club is mainly to create and to fund projects. Those projects can be building schools in Ecuador or to create wells in Uganda.

I had the opportunity to visit this kind of organization, which is quite important in the United States. I will write a newsletter about it in the coming weeks.

Here I am talking in the Rotary Club of Elisabethtown in Pennsylvania.


 

The Peace Corps volunteers are american people doing a community work mainly in some Third World countries. I had the chance to meet several of them on my way and I have to admit that often, I was impressed by the interactions that they had with the local population.

In Rio Blanco in Nicaragua, Michael was doing an interesting work with the local community. This day, the mayor of the village asked him to give english lessons to the children.

 

The power of the media

-Gangsters in Mexico and terrorists in Afghanistan

Because few americans are interested about the rest of planet, the medias can say a little bit whatever they want about it. Believe me, very often, they really say whatever they want!

The information that you will have are very sensational and it ends by an exaggeration of the facts by continuously repeating negative information.

Thus, I met many american people who told me that Mexico was indeed full of drug dealers, that I will surely get kidnap in Colombia and that I wouldn't survive 5 minutes without that a bomb explode in Afghanistan.

Of course, none of them have been neither in Mexico, neither in Colombia, neither in Afghanistan.

Here I was with a group of mexican gangsters in Merida in Mexico... No really!

-The fear to divide, the fear to rule

I was often chocked by the network of information “Fox News”. A feeling of hate was coming from this channel to tell the facts of the day. This hate was often racial, against everyone who wasn't white, nor anglo-saxons nor even protestant. The last month, I was watching the show of Glenn Beck on Fox News. Glenn Beck is the new head of the network... And he surely got there because he wasn't afraid to do too much. Glenn Beck was crying on live. He was crying because he was scared for his country, Indeed, Barack Obama was in power, he wanted to try to change the healthcare system.

Glenn Beck was saying in live that Barack Obama wasn't anymore in the school. He could not benefit anymore of the affirmative action and convert his 9/20 in 15/20 to become president. Being black wasn't enough...

Fox News uses fear to convince the people to vote republican. Sometimes, fear leads to violence.
 

-The right of owning a weapon

Owning a weapon is an important thing to talk about in the United States. In some states, it is very easy to get one and to use it. In Texas, it is even allowed to enter bars and restaurant with your gun on your belt.

But why this need? According to Fox News, the borders with Mexico are very dangerous and are full of dangerous drug dealers. People need to defend themselves. They even built a wall...

The wall separating the border between the United States and Mexico  (Picture coming from internet)


Supersize me

In the United States, everything is out of size. I really didn't feel like Gulliver when I discovered this country  

-The road system and its vehicles

The american roads are simply excellent. It is possible to go everywhere with your «truck » like the american people say. It is funny because « truck » would mean « lorry » in normal english. However, the word is not so far from the reality, the vehicles being absolutely enormous!

The last pick-up Ford in the Chicago Car Show. You almost need a scale to get in!


The road had to adapt to the vehicles, and they are also absolutely huge!

Remember when I was in New Jersey, and its 19 lanes on the road.


 

-To the surconsummation

There is no limit to the “big” in the United States. This is true for everything that can be product or built.

New York City is of course the perfect example, as I was saying in the last newsletter. Also, when I entered Texas, I was talking about their pride of the State:'The biggest, the greatest”.

Above, I was talking about the fast-food. You have maybe seen the documentary “Super Size Me”. This one was explaining the possibility to order a huge portion of food in the notorious fast-food Mac Donald's. After one month, the reporter, who was also the cobaye of the experience, was very sick and became fat.

The no-limit about the size is also touching the american themselves. There is an important problem of obesity in the United States.


-Advertising

If there is a surconsummation, there is also something to be consumed. To know what and how to do it, the advertisements know how to tell you.

I was telling you sooner that I counted more than 15 adds in a movie in the television, During the Superbowl, which is a very important event in the United States, I counted up to 37 advertisement breaks. The Superbowl is an american football event which is supposed to last 2 hours. You can add to this one hour of advertisement, at 2 millions of dollars the 30 seconds and you will understand in a better way the importance of advertising in the United States.

There is even a ranking of the better advertising spots showed during the Superbowl.

Here I am in a bar of Indianapolis during the last Superbowl

 

The culture of the self

-Vehicles and Stickers

The “truck” or “pick-up truck” or “car” is without doubt the belonging number 1 which will say which place you have in the american society. Like the system of castes in Indian, where your social place can be recognized by your appearance, in the United States, your car can give an indication about your personal success and in a certain way your social situation.

In the same way, the vehicle of the american can give an idea of the interest he has for the country.

In Maine, the locals are giving the proof that they can be useful to the society by taking off themselves the snow on the road!


It is also possible for the american to express himself thanks to his vehicle by using some “stickers”. The stickers are delivering a message about the personality of the driver.

In Miami in Florida, this man obviously loves his wife.

|

-The sport and the importance of looking good

The United States are a very original country when we are talking about sport. “Soccer” (commonly called “football” in the rest of the world) is not the main sport.

Indeed, base-ball, american football, basket-ball, ice-hockey are much more important .

The sport in the University is even sometimes more followed than the professional sport. It is possible to study for free if you belong to the main team of the University (remember the annual fees that can reach 50 000 dollars).

The buildings are impressive, like here the football stadium of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.


This is not the biggest one... Some Universities have stadiums that can welcome more than 100 000 spectators, like the University of Michigan.

Sport is indeed important and is also used to keep a good health. Of course, this is very paradoxical with the obesity rate of the population but... The United States are a country of paradoxes.

Remember this man exercising himself in outdoor in Venice Beach, situated in Los Angeles in California. This, also, belongs to the United States.


 -The individualism
All this culture of the self and this apology of the difference is one of the consequences of the individualism in America. Every person is unique but in the United States, every person try also to be different. We are using all the possible ways to be different from the neighbor: tattoos, clothes, vehicles, houses, dog clothes, sunglasses...

Sometimes, the limits are so far to become better that it goes in incredible directions. The MTV culture is a perfect example... Well, you already know the “Jackass” and brothers... Because we also export them.
 

A rich nature

The United States are a beautiful country, without doubt. The country is also huge, so there are many different things to see, especially concerning the landscapes and the fauna.

-Its diversity

From the west coast to the east coast, you will have the opportunity to discover a very diversified landscape.

First, you have the Pacific coast on the west side, which is quite dry in the south close to Los Angeles and that become forestry in Oregon and then Seattle.

The Big Sur, close to Monterey in California is a part of the coast to not miss.


A little bit more in the east, you will arrive in the desert of Nevada and you will be able to observe the incredible rocks formations in Utah and Arizona. You can find the Grand Canyon and the Arch of Moab.

The arch of Moab in the State of Utah


Straight after, you will enter in the Rocky mountains. This is the biggest in the United States, even if the highest pic is the Mount Mac Kinley in Alaska. The Rockies are situated from Canada to New Mexico, passing through Colorado, Wyoming and even Montana.

The Rocky mountains in Colorado


Then, you will enter the huge plains and mais fields in the center of the United States. The landscape is very boring because it is just flat. Those plains are coming from Kansas to Ohio, we call it the Midwest.

The flatness of the Midwest, here in Kansas


Then, you will arrive in another chain of mountains, the Appalachians. Those formations are much more older than the Rockies so they are less high and less sharp. The Appalachians are starting in Canada and are going down to Alabama. There is even a hiking trail crossing this chain of mountain from north to south, this is called the “Appalachians Trail”.

The “smoky mountains” in the Appalachians in North Carolina


Finally, you will reach the other coast of the United States, the east coast. This one is very different from the west coast. The North-East is called “New England” and has some forest but is much more industrialized than Oregon or the State of Washington. The coast is changing when going to the south, where we see the vegetation becoming a forest of feuillus in North Carolina, then palm trees and swamps in Florida.

The Everglades swamps in Florida, full of crocodiles and alligators.


Without forgetting Hawai and Alaska, which are the two States out of the “mainland”. I had the chance to visit Alaska and to discover its incredible landscapes with forests, lakes and mountains.

On the road in Alaska...


 

-Its protection

One asset of the United States is that the country is trying to take care of the environment. Contrary to others countries in this planet, I have been rarely witnessing people throwing trashes along the road. On this side, the american knows his responsibility as a citizen.

Also, there is a lot of laws created to protect the environment. In the United States, you will find a lot of nationals parks with many regulations.

The national park of the “Dry Tortugas”and its Fort Jefferson, next to Key West in Florida


It is even allowed to close the island if in need!

 

Hitchhiking in the United States


Honestly, I really doubt that I will hitchhike one more time in the United States. Indeed, this is extremly difficult to stop a vehicle by this mean in this country and this, for several reasons.


-A State of police
There are several laws created against the hitchhiker and that's why it wasn't easy for me. Those laws were also very complicated because they were different from one state to another. Indeed, in some States, it is totally allowed to hitchhike and in every kind of roads. This is the case in Oregon, where you can even walk along the Interstate without having any problem.

In some others States, like New Jersey, hitchhiking is totally forbidden in any kind of road. Of course, New Jersey is a State totally urbanized, it would be definitely difficult to stop vehicles inside this megalopolis.

In Pennsylvania, “Do not pick up hitchhikers”


This picture has been taken close to a jail, where it was forbidden to add one more passenger to your vehicle. This day, three nice girls stopped for me, at the very same spot where I took this picture!

In most of the States, I was allowed to hitchhike but not on the roads called Interstate or Turnpikes. Anyway, in some States, I could try to stop the vehicles on the ramps leading to those major roads. In some others States, I wasn't able.

In Maine, it was forbidden to hitchhike on the Interstate, neither on the ramp... but only after the sign indicating my rights!


So, I finally tried every time. Because of this, I have been stopped and controlled by the police, 35 times, during my all duration of my trip in the United States. Sometimes, the police was driving me as far of the road as possible, to give me difficulties to come back there. Some other times, this same police was helping me by bringing me further in the right direction, like in Chicago in Illinois.
 

-The system of public transports

Just few people are using the system of public transports because this one is often inefficient. The Greyhound company is almost the unique choice of autobus that you have and its quality doesn't seem to be as developed as the country.

The bus station Greyhound in Flagstaff in Arizona


Because of this, many americans choose to use their own vehicle. I have indeed been able to observe that the majority of the drivers are using a vehicle completely empty of other people. There is definitely enough place for everyone to stop for a hitchhiker. So why did I need to wait so many hours on the road, watching all those empty cars passing in front of me?
 

-The culture of fear

As I was telling you above, fear is a very important phenomena in the United States. The country changed a lot during the time of the hippies in the sixties and seventies.

The situation of a hitchhiker is today very bad. I was often mistaken with a thief, a murderer or a bum from time to time. Some drivers were even asking me if I was intending to kill them if they were helping me!

To be seen like that was leading to some very surprising reactions of the drivers passing by me. Those reactions were often negatives. During my stay in the United States, I have been the victim of hundreds of insults, middle fingers, people trying to hit me with their car, vehicles stopping and leaving again when I was coming closer or even some crazy offers from some drivers...
 

-Another extreme: the kindness of some people

Hopefully, they were here. I can't name everyone of them but I warmly thank them. Indeed, there is still a number of people who don't hesitate to help without fearing this stupid propaganda against the hitchhiker. Although they were a minority, they do exist.

It was happening sometimes that my drivers were carrying me further than their road. Sometimes they were inviting me to the restaurant. Sometimes, they were inviting me to stay at their place.

This is this America that I like and this one that I want to remember.

Thank you to this family who gave me a ride and invited to the restaurant in Duluth in Minnesota


Thank you to this couple who gave me a ride and then invited me in their elks farm in Alaska


Thank you to this young man who made a way-back from Newark to Washington DC, just because it was raining this day



This is where I am leaving the United States and North America, after 8 months spent there. I have seen positive things, others less.

I have a mixed feeling about the social side and its inhabitants. The United States haven't welcome me as good as I was hoping. Yes, there are still people with good intentions, working for right and good things. However, many other people are orientated on themselves and their own interests, absolutely not interested in what can happen to the others.

The interactions between americans seem to be centralized on the dollar, more than a social exchange. Yes, the american can be generous when we are talking about financial donations... but is this a priority in every case?

I left the United States in an original way from Key West to Cuba this last March. I am going today towards South America to discover a new continent.

Nevertheless, another task is now in front of me: “Crossing the Caribbeans”.

I will let you know very soon about this difficult challenge, while letting you with a little tip about my current mean of transportation.


See you very soon,

Jeremy



Retour au Sommaire

Copyright 2009 - Tous droits réservés - Tour du monde en autostop - Une réalisation ACS Informatique - Creation site internet