Why you should travel to the places you've always wanted to go.

In school, I wanted to see the United States so bad. As a child, most of my all-time favourite movies were American, and from TV it seemed like a place full of fun, opportunities and amazing people.

But, growing up, the reputation of the United States was slowly tarnished, partially thanks to the media constantly highlighting dark and fearsome events taking place. There was 9/11, then the Boston Bombings, mass shootings, and what seemed like a civil war between the police and oppressed citizens. Slowly, the land of opportunity became the land of corruption and madness in my eyes. With an escalated terror rating and a large homeless community, the appeal of moving to the USA was overshadowed by the desire for safety and security.

I’m from Auckland, NZ, and we have it pretty good. The biggest complaint we have is the cost of housing, but there’s no real immediate threat to our lives on the daily like some places out there, and that being brought into perspective makes one appreciate their home. Before landing this internship, a lot of people told me that the USA was full of fast-paced, emotionally detached people who were barely capable of compassion. Suing seemed like the norm in an attempt to cash in on any given opportunity. Others told me the USA was full of unhealthy people, with bad eating choices left, right and centre. 

The list of negatives go on. To some, this may have been a huge road block resulting in a detour to another country based on someone else’s experience, but here’s what I found during my stay in the USA:

Good people exist everywhere. And so do the bad. Upon arriving in NYC, I met up with a friend who had travelled from Virginia. I’d met him on a hike in Hawaii up the famous Stairway to Heaven. We caught the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn (the subway is just like in the movies). Our original plan was to hire some blue bikes rented off the street, but they were either out of service or snatched up by the early birds. We spoke about how awesome it would’ve been to explore NYC from a rooftop and catch a glimpse of the city like a local would, and surely we did. A local approached us randomly on the sidewalk and made conversation to find common ground and we went from there. Funnily enough, he offered to take us up to his rooftop with amazing views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

From there he called off a meeting he had scheduled and took us around Brooklyn for sunset, allowing us to find streets and look-outs that people would normally miss. He invited us up to his local hang-out rooftop bar, where he swore by the views. The bar didn’t disappoint. I asked him why he had done this for us, and he explained he had come from Jamaica a few years back, and said he remembered the people who showed him around and how much it meant to him, and now he felt it was his time to pay it forward. He also said one thing that stuck with me: Each day he would converse with a stranger, whether he was positively received or not was irrelevant because he believed that’s how life should be lived; openly. He had made many friends and business connections that way, by simply dropping his ego and making the first point of contact. Good people are found everywhere, sometimes in the least likely of places, and they might just show you some of the best spots they know.

Secondly, opportunity still exists in the USA. One thing I love about catching an Uber is the conversation that takes place during the ride. You meet some interesting people. I met guys from Colombia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and an Italian. They all came to the USA with nothing yet worked their way up to be able to have a home, provide for their families, and live comfortably. How? Hard work. I think a lot of us are conditioned to receiving hand-outs, or maybe it’s the feeling of being entitled to one. But the difference between someone who has grown up in a society where hand-outs are openly given, and a person from a third world country, is that the latter is used to working for it. I don’t think there has ever been a successful person who’s said their journey has been easy. Maybe there are people like that out there, I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, these guys (and gals) had all stood by the saying: “earned not given.” I found it inspiring to hear their stories and some of the struggles they met and how they out-worked the odds. The hustle is real here in the USA, especially in NYC. Anything is possible, just ask Donald’s son…

Finally, if there’s anything I’ve taken from this leg of the internship, it’s to go experience a place for yourself. If you’ve always wanted to travel to a country but you’ve been put off by someone else’s experience, let go and just GO. Make your own mind up, see it how you see it. Travelling is an art, and art is perceived by the viewer, maybe you loved Paris but your friend didn’t. It’s exactly the same place, but you both saw and felt different things. So see the country, meet the people, and let your senses take a ride. NYC has stimulated my mind in a different way. I met so many strangers who were welcoming, giving, and just as nice a people as you’d find anywhere else. Sure, there are some bad things going on, but I think we need to remember that there’s a whole lot of good out there, in people of all races. My recent trip to NYC has given me an experience which totally confirms that the USA is still a great place to visit with a lot of good people, street acts, and healthy foods, if you’re about that lifestyle. Not to mention, Times Square and Central Park are amazing too. My Kathmandu boots proved as sturdy in this big city as the hiking trails of California.

For now though, I’m bagless and living on one set of clothes in Iceland. Find out more on my next post…

– Ben Mikha