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Life In The USA Is Just Like I Thought

I’m not there yet.

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ASTORIA, New York City- Travel isn’t about chalking up as many countries as possible and tallying UNESCO sites. You can do that for a year or two and feel real cool but feeling real cool but it just isn’t enough to build a life upon.

No, the travel life is about seeking a deeper understanding of the world and yourself. Sometimes this means racking up a dozen countries in three months; sometimes this means staying in one place and getting to know it intimately. There are no rules other than to keep seeking.

Funny that we make up rules that we make up rules for travel. Travelers are people who, almost by definition, don’t like the rules and aim to live lives that enable them to skirt as many of them as possible — or, more accurately, to make up their own rules.

The USA is full of rules. Taxes and insurance and tips and … This is a country that has ruled itself into oblivion. It’s a great place to escape from. However, I have returned. I returned because I wanted to give my kids better opportunities for their futures and to give myself better access to what I need to advance professionally. I like my work — I want to go as far as I can with it. To do this I needed a globally central base of operations. I chose New York City.

But coming here hasn’t increased the smoothness of life. It’s actually done the exact opposite. My wife and I fight here more than anywhere else in the world. Put us out in the middle of nowhere with nothing and we’re fine. Throw us into the heart of our own country and we grind each other down — scraping and scraping until we hit bone. I’ve become a skeleton here, and I’m starting to fear that I beginning to look like everyone else out in the streets. I’m starting to blend in, becoming invisible.

But I’m appreciating the contrast. I’ve never lived like this before. It’s something new to log into the chronicle of life. And, for a traveler, new is always appreciated.

I also know that I being in NYC means traveling more than ever. I’ve had three international trips and a half dozen domestic jaunts so far. If February I’m set to give a talk in Michigan. In March it’s South Africa. In April it’s Ukraine.

I’m in the center of the world. Sure, it feels idle here, but I’m always just one jump away from the periphery — where the action happens.


Filed under: New York City, USA

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

8 comments… add one

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  • Trevor December 22, 2019, 1:36 pm

    Ive been here 2 years thats enough. funnily enough i am living in the same house as i was born in. lol.

    2 years… what did i do in that time?

    8 weeks in switzerland, trips to Portugal, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,Germany, Denmark, Moldova, Transnistria, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia

    but now im counting down the days til i’m outta here, again… for good (?)- i always say that. going to where the action happens.

    see u on the road somewhere.

    best wishes to u and ur family this festive season….


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    • Wade Shepard December 22, 2019, 1:43 pm

      Thanks, man. Happy holidays to you too. We’ll meet up out there sometime!

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  • Jack December 22, 2019, 4:19 pm

    I get what you are saying. I think everyone has different ideas of giving opportunities to our children and our ideas for them. I think we are all a product of our upbringing and how that influenced our world view. You are making the best choice for your children because that is what you know and that is to be commended.

    I wonder about myself. Here I am back in the US also with my wife working. I see a lot of parallels but you are traveling. I’m at home wishing I could be traveling more. I have a couple of trips planned in the new year(South America).

    And yeah there is bull to deal with in the US that I didn’t have to worry about abroad. WTH is this $120 water/sewer/garbage bill I get every month. Power bill, heating gas bill. Internet bill. Car payment, car insurance, renter’s insurance. The list goes on and on. What is the point of it all? Oh yeah and the state income taxes. All of that stuff that when we are abroad we don’t have to worry about.

    Oh yeah and cell phone EIPs and high cell phone bills. I could go on and on.

    Life is simpler outside on the road, but that’s not in the cards right now.

    One of these days, I’m gonna say F it and I’m gonna pack up all our backpacks and a few rolling suitcases and we are going to hit the road again. 🙂

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    • Wade Shepard December 23, 2019, 10:30 am

      Yes, the USA life is a good experiment to come back to every once in a while. There are some advantages to being here — I’m 5 minutes away from LaGuardia, 60 minutes from JFK, and 70 from Newark. I don’t believe there is a place in the world that gives me such access to the world’s air travel lanes. Also, the place is truly multi-national and multi-ethnic. Everybody is the Other in NYC. But, yes, life is truly easier abroad, and I have to admit that my wife and I have already been talking of retreating. Are the extra struggles worth the extras that we’re getting for being here? I’d say yes … so far.

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      • Jack December 23, 2019, 10:46 am

        I think you made a good decision on NYC. It truly is a crossroads in the world and you can literally get anywhere, usually non-stop but at the most one stop. And the airfares are the cheapest. For you in your life now, that works.

        I’m one of your cheerleaders because I have seen how you have grown and blossomed.

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        • Wade Shepard December 23, 2019, 11:20 am

          Hello Jack, Yes, I guess that’s true 🙂 Thank you very much for this.

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  • Anthony December 31, 2019, 11:07 am

    Not sure that NYC is best for flights… I have always found that Europe is just closer to Asia, Africa and cheap flights inside EU.

    According to this Wikipedia article it may be Dubai… Paris (3 airports) for example feels a lot more connected than Toronto with its 2. It might be because it is the top tourist destination.

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    • Wade Shepard December 31, 2019, 12:22 pm

      Hello Anthony.

      Thanks for sharing. I’m looking at convenience of routes and pricing as my criteria here mostly. For a destination with good flights to North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia the best I found was NYC, when it’s all averaged out.

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