Being in a relaxed mood after my summer break, I was looking for a topic for this newsletter. As the impressions I have brought back from my last trip are still having such an impressive effect, I decided to share some of these with you.
Our family tour started in Boston in the United States. The trip’s destination was something special for me also because I had avoided air travel in the past five years in an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. To my inner self, I justified this flight with the saying “Travel broadens the mind.” As there are at least two renowned universities (Harvard and the MIT) in (or near) Boston I thought the city would be a good starting point for an educational trip…
We were educated and gained insights on differences both in Boston and during our journey across some of the New England states.
We saw how incredibly expensive life in the United States is. You may end up paying up to $30 for parking your car at the beach, no matter if you want to stay the whole day, or just one hour. A breakfast for your family of four adults that fills your stomach for a couple of hours might as well cost more than $100. And if you want to go to a museum, you will have to pay an admission fee of between $100 and $150 for four people. It was a once-in-a-lifetime journey for us, and after a couple of days, we had got used to the “burning” credit card. You may also put it this way: we have gradually become numb.
But then we tried to think about how Americans can afford to live comfortably given these prices if they do not belong to the privileged. The people we, as tourists, met in supermarkets or restaurants receive a minimum wage of $2.13 (for tipped employees) and $7.25 (for non-tipped employees), as described in the article in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ). As we surely did not know what the serving staff actually received as a fixed wage, it was very difficult for us to carefully decide what amount of tip was appropriate in a particular situation.
We visited a lot of places that told us something about the history of settlers coming from England. Among other things, we saw the replica of the Mayflower in Plymouth (Massachusetts) – a ship that brought English settlers to Cape Cod at the beginning of the 17th century.
We sort of stumbled upon a small museum in Bath (Maine) which – to our surprise – did not charge admission. A very enthusiastic elderly couple told us many fascinating stories and showed us the replica of the Virginia – the first ship built by English settlers in America using only American raw materials. This little museum was not mentioned in our travel guide and once again showed us that sometimes you see more when you just stroll around without a specific destination than when you simply tick off your to-do list.
In my view, we learned too little about the history of Native Americans. They were mentioned, yes. For example, we learned that they taught settlers how to grow corn or that settlers did business with Native Americans just to make sure they can survive. But we weren’t really told the story of the tipping point – the moment when the business relationship turned into a relationship of oppression and displacement. I wonder why?
Overall, it was such an impressive holiday that I still haven’t come to digest all the experiences. And that’s also because we stayed in New York for the last four days, and these four days have just covered everything else for the time being. New York is simply unbelievable. You really have to see it for yourself.
In a nutshell: I tend to gather more information about a particular place more intensively just because I have been to this place myself before, and thus I can link this information better with my assumptions and own experiences – well “Travel broadens the mind.”
And needless to say, another side-effect of such a journey is the conscious or unconscious comparison with your home country. After having returned from this journey, I once again have come to the conclusion that many things work really well here in Germany and we as German citizens are socially well protected. Of course, this does not mean that once the impressions from our journey have faded I will not find good reasons to criticize Germany…
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here