As most of you who actually read this know, i spent the past seven weeks traveling around Europe and most of you who read this also know that I am not the biggest fan of the United States of America, despite having lived here my whole life. Now, when most people travel to other countries they tend to realize how broken and horrible their own country is, or at least that’s what I’ve heard from all my fellow traveling friends and all the blog posts on the internet. But spending these past 7 weeks in Europe actually had the opposite effect on me. Let me explain.
Some of the reasons are petty. I have developed a greater respect for the USA because water is free, using public bathrooms is free (who decided that people have to pay to use the bathroom!? like in all seriousness, what kind of torture is that?) and we drive on the right side of the road, which makes crossing the road possible without almost dying. I also appreciate that most washing machines in the United States are faster than those in Europe and most people in the States drive automatic cars. I know driving stick shift is not impossible but it would have made learning to drive that much harder. In the States, you also don’t have to pay to use the highway. Yes, we have tolls in some states and we pay taxes but a vast majority of highways and interstates cost nothing extra to drive on. I also discovered that I like being in the USA because I know the customs of things like where to get served at a restaurant and which side of the sidewalk to walk on.
There are other things though that aren’t so simple. Being in England especially made me realize how incredible the fact that the then 13 colonies managed to become their own country is. I have learned for years about the American Revolution but I never really understood the other side of the story, England’s side. In London though, I was surrounded by England’s history and heard over and over again how vast and powerful the British Empire was. The fact that the tiny, almost powerless 13 colonies managed to free themselves from England’s power is amazing, and other countries saw that too. The American Revolution lead to others declaring freedom as well and not only did the USA take what, in my opinion, was rightfully theirs, this country has also grown to be one of the superpowers of the world. We are not an old country. Not when you compare us to England or Spain or France but from the very beginning the United States of America has made an impression. That impression has not always been good and what we have used our power to accomplish has not always been right but the very fact alone that we have that power as a 237 year old country is something to be proud of.
I am not saying that the USA is the best country in the world or that the USA is perfect. There are many things that I learned and discovered while in Europe that made me like the USA less (like the fact that we have to pay for college and that our drinking age is 21) but being away from my country for so long and being defined, for the most part, as “American” made me realize that there are some things about that label to be proud of. I am not saying I love my country now and am willing to sacrifice all for it but I am a little less weary of being label a United Staters (and American–but we aren’t the only Americans!)