Despite officially being the 50th, and last, state to be added to the Union (60 years ago yesterday actually – Happy Birthday Hawai’i State!) Hawai’i has an even greater honour now, being the 39th and final state I visited during my journey across the United States.
After nearly 3 months, over 12,000 miles of driving and 10,000 miles flying the Rainbow State ended a trip I had been dreaming of most of my life. Sadly I was not able to visit all 50 states in one hit, mostly due to the sheer cost of travelling the states.
The difference between the USA, where it cost a rough average of £40-50 per night, compared already with some of Asia, such as Japan and South Korea which have so far averaged accommodation around £15-20 a night, in addition to travel costs, food prices and hidden charges such as “resort fees” mean the money has certainly disappeared quicker than expected!
On the plus side it means I have an excuse to return in future and do some more exploring.
The one thing that has remained true throughout the journey has been the kindness and friendliness of all the people I have met, from the staff at hotels and attractions to random members of the public who stop just to have a chat. It is something I have never really experienced in the UK and it took some getting used to, for example having a happy conversation with someone stopped at a traffic light who just wanted to say hello as I walked past because they liked my T-Shirt!
Unfortunately spending so long in the USA has also highlighted some of the ways they are so different from us and make you miss home. The biggest thing which hit me was the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas where 22 people were killed and 24 injured in about 6 minutes around 1040am.
It was only a few weeks since I’d been in a Walmart in El Paso myself and highlighted how easy it may have been to get caught up in something like that.
Unfortunately these shootings aren’t even rare;
As of July 31, 2019, 248 mass shootings have occurred in 2019 that fit the inclusion criteria of this article. This averages out to 1.2 shootings per day. In these shootings, 979 people were injured and 246 died (for a total of 1,325 victims).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2019 (Emphasis mine)
I have, however, thoroughly loved the time I spent in the country and I am happy to say there was only 1 occasion where I met someone who didn’t greet me with a smile (a very unhappy security guard who did not appreciate me cutting through his parking lot when walking back to the hotel one night in Texas).
I have driven through some of the most beautiful places including The Arches National Park, seen some incredible sights such as the amazing SpaceX rocket launch and booster landing, and been lucky enough to experience unique opportunities for example being flown across Alaskan glaciers in float plane. It is impossible to pick a favourite but these moments will stick with me for life.
I have also learnt enough about American Presidents to last me another lifetime!
It was with a growing sense of nervousness, then, that I boarded a plane towards Tokyo, Japan and left the familiarity of the USA behind. No longer would I know the language (my two words of Japanese being sufficient to say “Hello” and “Thank you”), be able to read the signs (“左に出る”?!) or get help from people when I am lost.
Thankfully the amazing people at Google made this easier than ever. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed at the way it can direct you not only to the train station but let you know which train, platform and even recommend the best carriage! Then the Translate app which allows you to hold the camera up at any text and it will translate it in real time, it is a life saver.
I am also humbled by the people of Tokyo. A massive city of over 9 million and yet they are all polite and welcoming. We may not speak the same language but you can feel their respect and desire to help. I have only been here for 3 days and I already love the people and culture.
I only have a few more days left in Japan before moving on again and I look forward to seeing what awaits…