We arrived at Miami International Airport on Wednesday, May 20th. If you have to arrive in the US from South America, Miami is the place to go. The culture shock is minimized by the fact that everything is still in Spanish; we knew exactly where to enter (entrada), where to exit (salida) and where to go to the bathroom (banos). Very comforting!
I imagined the first picture in our return photo album to be the one from the airport that said Welcome To The United States of America. But there was no sign to take a picture of. I don't understand. We had one that said Bienvenidos Ecuador, Bienvenidos Uruguay... where was the one for the USA? Given the fact that we were arriving in Miami, I would have been happy with Bienvenidos Estados Unidos, but nothing. Are we really that unwelcoming?
We collected our luggage, proceeded through immigration and customs and headed over to Avis to get our rental car that would take us to Sun City Center (250 miles north west) where my Mother lives. I had reserved a full size car which would be the largest vehicle we've been in for a year, but we wanted to be comfortable for our 5 hour trip. When I checked in, Darleen, our faithful Avis representative wanted to know if we wanted to upgrade to an SUV. No, the full size is fine. Do we want a GPS system. No thanks, not necessary. How about a DVD player for the kids? An insurance package? A fuel package? I JUST WANT A CAR! TRANSPORTATION! SOMETHING A LITTLE LARGER THAN A TUK-TUK!
Needing to refuel the car (since I didn't get that fuel package), I pull up to the pump at the gas station. Do I want to pay cash or credit? I put my credit card into the pump. What is my zip code? Do I want a receipt? Do I want a car wash? I JUST WANT GAS!
The next day we take my Mom shopping for a table and chairs for her new home. We picked out a lovely set and when I go to pay the cashier wants to know if I am going to pay with cash or credit? Do I want to open a new credit account with Pier One and get a 10% discount? Do I want to be on their email list? I JUST WANT TO MAKE MY PURCHASE!
After having traveled the world for the past year I have come to see that America is the land of choices. But after having lived without all those choices for a year, I have come to realize that I really didn't miss having all those choices. In fact, life was a whole lot simpler when there was no choice. Didn't I feel deprived? No, not really. Has our quality of life really improved with all the choices that we have or has it just gotten more complicated? More time consuming? More confusing?
When I ask myself how has this trip changed me, I guess the first response will be "It has made me want to have a simpler life." But I'm back here in America so wish me luck.