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A Filipino’s First Time Travel to America: Expectation Vs Reality

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Time check, its 2:20 AM in the Philippines and I am wide awake. With coffee on my right and my laptop charged 100% I have decided to write this blog – First time travel to America coz heck jet lag is real.

My first time travel to America happened last August 26, 2019. First off, no this was not planned ahead of time and two this was for work- I mean my 9-5 job.

So thank you dear employer for bringing me over to the States, ask me about my full time work on the comments below if you are that curious (wink).

My first time travel to America had many debunked preconceived notions. My view of America were what I see in movies and television.

So upon landing on American soil I was pleasantly surprised that the TV America is not the real America – well at least on the region I visited.

So before you raise you’re eyebrows and bash me, let me give you a spoiler that No this is not a rant post nor am I choosing to glorify one country over another. This is based on facts- out of my experience when I traveled to America.

The US VISA Experience

Expectation

I expected my VISA experience to be stressful as you need to wake up early in the morning for your schedule appearance, costly and draining- regardless of the result.

Flight heading to US

Reality

As a Filipino it’s difficult getting a US Visa. It’s like applying for a job wherein the initial, HR, final interviews and the job offer are done at a maximum of a 3 hours timeline.

The stress is both the waiting in line and the internal battle of being positive that your Visa will be approved versus the reality that you may get denied of a visa.

Plus the fact that an applicant needs to pay an application fee that ranges from 8000- 12000 Php (or even higher) dependent on the type of Visa you are applying for.

As a first time visa applicant, I expected the worst but hey it all paid off. So needless to say my expectation on getting a US VISA was the same as Reality.

The Flight Itinerary

Expectation

Upon knowing my flight details – I got excited. An 8 hour layover in Seoul Korea, a four hour layover in San Francisco and a 14 hour layover in Taipei heading back to the Philippines.

Being that it is my first time to travel to America, this got me very excited. I imagined me watching movies throughout layovers, taking photos of the skyline and interacting with the passengers.

Reality

Let’s compare this to getting drunk.

On my first layover from Cebu- Seoul I was a bit tipsy. Still very excited to explore Korea. Had a 4 hour tour of South Korea which I am to write about on my next post.

Korea to America

Upon hoping on the plane to San Francisco, that was where I felt the buzz!

I was groggy and a bit drained probably because I spent much of my energy getting to giddy exploring Korea that I forgot this was not even half of my journey.

Yes, I watched a few movies. Keyword was watched never said I finished them. And upon arriving at my final destination which was Wisconsin I was dead drunk.

The feeling that you are aware of your surroundings but you’re just too tired to move or to be pleasant. The safest thing to do is to keep quiet and pretend to act normal.

Now I know how celebrities feel when paparazzi’s interview them at the airport.  

The People

Expectation

As I have said early on my view of America was what I saw on Television. And by that I mean Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Vampire Diaries, Big Bang Theory, Friends, Breaking Bad, Chicago Hope and the Good Place.

In a nutshell pleasant but you expect a certain ounce of bad luck to fall on you while you are there.

Reality

The pleasantness and warmth of the people from Midwest was undeniable. I stayed mostly in Wisconsin and Illinois and me being Asian I pretty much stuck out like a sore thumb there.

But I was not treated differently. TBH I expected to feel a bit alienated but nope it never happened. I was able to enter stores, restaurants and public transport without me feeling uncomfortable.

Strolling Around Wisconsin

I walked into designer stores and dabbed on some Giorgio Armani perfume, tried on some Nike Airs and fitted a Michael Kors shirt while wearing a hoodie and board shorts.

To all my Filipino readers you know what I mean- you have to dress and look a certain way to get into designer stores and get the best customer experience in the Philippines.

In a nutshell Americans are nice and pleasant people.

The Food in America

Expectation

Huge servings, sugary, savory and delicious. I love my McDonalds here in the Philippines so I wanted to try the US version if there is any significant difference.

Reality

Food in America is expensive, well “real food” that is. For you to get a quality meal you need to spend a little over 15 USD to 40 USD (700 – 2000 Php) or even higher.

First Time Travel In America
Filet Mignon Steak at 35 USD

That is why Americans prefer fast food options. For less than 5 dollars you can get a full meal. Drink options are also unlimited- although I noticed that cola in the Philippines has more fizzle than the US version.

First Time In America
Deep Fried Pickles

I was lucky that I experienced both eating a full coursed meal and trying some staple American fast food meals. Both options are worthwhile experience so if you have the resources to experience both then I highly recommend doing it.

And oh about McDonald’s. They taste essentially the same. I got a big Mac and some fries and their pretty similar with Philippine McDonald’s edging out on the French fries.

The Quality of Air – Environment

Expectation

I always regarded America to be polluted and unhealthy. That was why I was surprised when a few days prior to my trip a good friend Janette from California told me to observe the air I’m breathing once I’m in America.

She said she felt she can breathe more and felt the air to be cleaner than the Philippines.

Reality

She was right. The air was cleaner and to my surprise there were trees everywhere. Now, don’t get me wrong I love my country but visiting the US or even Korea I felt that we Filipinos could do better in taking care of our environment.

Wisconsin Landscape

There are trees everywhere. You can roll down your car windows without eating dust. And their parks, don’t get me started on their parks. Chicago despite it being very progressive has multiple parks with trees that are just divine.

Where you can see skyscrapers but further down the block you can rest at a park with ducks/ swans (couldn’t tell which one but I’m sure they are birds) walking and swimming at a pond.

First Time Travel to America

First Time Travel to America: Expectation Vs Reality

Summing it up. There were a couple of debunked expectations prior to visiting America and some that coincided with my reality. Like any of my travels what I gained is a deeper understanding of the country’s culture.

How

1. We need to stop making what we see in social media as the basis of our reality and

2. Is you take what is good with the place and take it back to your hometown- be it a skill, behavior or mindset.

Even for just 2 weeks I learned a lot from my US trip.

On my first time travel to America. I learned to appreciate the little things in life, to care more for our environment and perhaps the greatest lesson of all is to be kind to everyone.

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Erik James aka Erik the Hungry Traveller is a Human Resource Ninja and at the same time a travel & food blogger. He uses his passion for the arts particularly with painting and photography to add more fun and color to his social media pages. He loves extreme adventures and does not back out on any food challenge. His passion for food and travelling started during his childhood years where he would accompany his parents to business trips around the Philippines. He currently focuses on writing blogs on solo travelling and trying out restaurants that are not your usual run of the mill places. To counter his extreme love for travelling and FOOD he also enjoys swimming and mix martial arts so that he can stay “relatively” fit and healthy. Instagram : instagram.com/erikthehungrytraveller Facebook: facebook.com/erikthehungrytraveller Email: [email protected]

2 Comments

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    Jenny

    I love this. So interesting to me to see your perspective. There are beautiful places here to visit. You picked one of the best. You must come back and check out more. When you mentioned that you never felt uncomfortable or alienated here, it made my heart happy.

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