Travel 101: Overwhelmed in the USA

Stephen F. Dennstedt

So I’ve been back in the USA for one week (San Diego County to be exact). And I’m kind of overwhelmed. Choices. Too many damn choices. And new ways of doing things. Five years abroad has made a huge difference in my perspective. Everything seems so big—I went into the local supermarket and it was just aisle after aisle of choices. And sanitized. When shopping for food abroad I’m now used to limited choices (like maybe one or two). And smells ((usually good smells).

In the States everything is shrink-wrapped, bubble wrapped, boxed or canned. Want to buy butter? The butter aisle has about fifty choices: butter, margarine, whipped, stick or pats and salted or unsalted (not to mention the various sizes). Coffee is the same way: cans, bags, whole beans, ground, drip, percolator and instant (and lets not forget caffeinated and decaf). Wandering around left me lost, confused and paralyzed with indecision. Every single aisle presented the same challenge.

Checkout was the same. California passed legislation (during my five-year absence) against plastic bags (a really good thing). However, now you need to bring your own reusable canvas-cloth bags with you to bag your own groceries (who knew?). It’s even the same in places like Walmart or Target. I was totally unprepared. ATMs aren’t the same either. When I left the States in 2012 ATMs only dispensed $20s. Now you can select different denominations depending on your requirements by sorting through various menus and sub-menus. It used to be so simple. Abroad it’s usually just one denomination—sometimes you have a choice between local currency and USD.

Go into a local restaurant or cafe here and the menus are like small books. Page after page after page of (you guessed it) choices. I guess I’m not really complaining (or maybe I am). It just seems kind of decadent somehow. I don’t think most Americans fully appreciate the plethora of choice they have. Abroad you simply buy what’s available and make do. Oftentimes the thing you want just isn’t available—in the USA the thing you want is always available or you have fifty alternative choices. And here Amazon, Zappos and REI online are your best friends. Online purchases usually ship free and are on your doorstep in a day or two. It’s taking some getting used to let me tell you.

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8 responses to “Travel 101: Overwhelmed in the USA

  1. I lived like that back in the 80 ties ,in a country where there was one brand of tooth paste etc etc .We had everything we needed and more .Simple is so much better !

  2. That is something that I have contemplated also…regarding the enormous variety of resources available to us here…I am often truly grateful for the richness that it adds to my cooking…the healing herbs and oils that I am able to obtain – It is incredible!

    I do however, understand the overwhelming feeling one has when going to the grocery store though! Ha Ha! Thanks for the tip regarding the shopping bag requirement (I do use my Trader Joe canvas bags most of the time but I often forget them when it comes to shopping at non-grocery stores.) R and I are scheduled to move back to So Cal in July or August.

    • We may still be here in July or August. My son, Shawn, and I are thinking about a short two week trip back to Merida, Yucatan (in August) so I can show him around and introduce him to my friends in Mexico. If Joel and I are still here we would LOVE to see you again and get one of your GREAT hugs. 🙂

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