I have to start my US posts with one admission – That I was never fascinated with America and anything American, barring of course Robert Frost . This country was not in my top 10 wishlist nor was I ever tempted to study/live there or marry someone with a US tag.For someone like me who was always interested in culture,history and literature besides natural wonders, Europe held greater fascination .

However when I got the opportunity to travel around US , I decided to go with an open mind .I wanted to explore the country as a tourist/traveller and I must admit that I liked what I saw. If possible, I would even like to return – but only as a visitor. Nevertheless the trip has been great and I must say that its not just the place, but the many people we met – from friends, family to perfect strangers who made the trip happen for me. And so, here is my perspective on America which is not going to be a travelogue featuring destinations, but it will be a random expression of my thoughts and experiences in the country.

Battery Park – Manhattan

Normally we all wear the garb of a tourist when we visit a place . We usually have a short span of time, less money and a list of must see places and we run from one place to another taking pictures and buying souvenirs.Time means money and we do not want to waste even a moment hanging around anywhere. Sometimes, we call ourselves travellers and we seek to experience a place, its culture, meet people and go to off beat places. The travellers tend to look down on the tourists as they walk around with a bit of a swagger and a knowledable air about them. And then of course comes the vagabond, who has absolutely no agenda and who just wanders soaking in everything and letting the place and people get under his skin.

In this trip, I have been all of the above . There have been days when Ive played the perfect tourist to the hilt,especially when I did a whirlwind trip of the west coast and bought more souvenirs than chocolates.Sometimes I was the traveller with a swagger . For instance there was an American lady from New Jersey who asked my help to buy her a train ticket to New York from the automated machine . She said that in all her three decades of living in Jersey, she had never bought a ticket to go to New York and she got dropped there by car. She asked me how long I had been here as she assumed like many other Indians I was living here. I told her I was barely three days old in US.

Pier 39 – SFO

And then for many days, I enjoyed being the vagabond ,walking around Manhattan and Central Park, listening to some amazing music on the streets of NYC and SFO, looking at birds and squirrels at parks or watching people and their antics . And needless to say the best experience was in being a vagabond. I am glad I had a busy husband at work while I roamed around ( although I cribbed about him dragging me off early morning and dumping me at a museum or in some subway. ) I hardly saw many tourists in NYC except near the site of the twin tower and the bull at Wall Street. The crowds that filled NYC on weekends were mainly locals and people who came in from neighbouring towns and states.

A hoarding at Times Square

To give you a basic update – I spent little less than a month in US and explored NYC for almost a fortnight . And then we took a ten day holiday to do a whirlwind trip of the other coast. But the streets of New York have left a lasting impression in my mind. The skyline and the statues, the museums and the shows have of course been captured in photographs, but what stays in my mind is the energy, the music and the efficient but dirty subways (Just happenned to see Taking of Pelham 123 in the flight before I landed in the US and I felt like I reliving the movie while travelling through them ) The heart of any city lies in its public transport and while the subway routes are rather confusing for a visitor, I had learnt the difference between an Uptown and a Downtown train before I left.

Most of US that I saw is indeed man made and this is probably one of the reasons that I was never really excited initially to spend loads of moneys to see tall skyscrapers and never ending bridges. I had never been a fan of big cities except Bombay , but here I literally had to eat my words. Man made here means scale and scale is well, beyond words. And the experience of walking down the Brooklyn Bridge or the Golden gate or seeing the lights of Manhattan coming up from an evening ferry or watching the skyline from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building may be considered touristy , but the infrastructure and scale here makes you wonder whether everything is just about money or good foresight and planning.

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

Ive had many conversations with friends, bloggers and strangers on the American way of India, racism, Obama, recession, emotional security, children and of course travelling. I would save these for another post. While there are so many memories and thoughts that are pouring out, there are a few I would definitely like to forget – The immigration interview for instance and the paranoid security at airports.

Its 4.45 am India time now and even after 3 days, my jet lag continues. I will go back and catch another 40 winks , before morning dawns .


  1. vishesh 10 April, 2010 at 11:00 Reply

    Ha 🙂 I can understand about that city thing..When I went to Singapore, I too was at awe at skyscrapers, their public transport system etc..

    Welcome back 🙂

  2. Anu 10 April, 2010 at 11:21 Reply

    i have never wanted to go to the US of A either… just like you, and europe has always had the same fascination too…. so can really identify with you…so am really looking forward to more posts about your experiences

  3. Sriram 10 April, 2010 at 16:30 Reply

    A Lovely inisight into your lil trip. Au`contraire, I was ALWAYS fascinated by america, Though not about culture, about their tryst with democracy, the oxymoron that they have been in being a democracy and strength of their union coming from the division of their states.

    Even today, that country and its systems, if not culture fascinates me.

    And reading what you have to say makes me smile and take a look at things differently.

    Adding to your lil episode of helping a co-passenger buy a train ticket, I know for all that we expect of the USA, they still have/had phone support for pulse dialing until atleast 3 yrs ago in the US, which we bypassed in India.

    Good one though.

  4. Priyank 11 April, 2010 at 08:14 Reply

    Hi Lakshmi! I had very very similar observations when I first visited places in North America. I don’t know if its a good thing or bad, but now I feel so much at home here that I take all this for granted… and while reading your narration, I felt like I was reading a post from someone who was visiting my home turf. 😀

  5. Lakshmi 11 April, 2010 at 09:22 Reply

    Deepak – Thanks..glad you liked it

    Vishesh – Big cities do not fill me with awe…but yes, I like the planning that goes behind them and the laws that people abide by

    Anu – This has been such a touchy issue, you wouldnt believe the number of people who got so upset when I said it and obviously, its only Indians who have moved there who reacted !

    Uma – Thanks..Travelling is also about a lot of observations and thoughts and I thought i will start penning these down as well

    Sriram – Thanks for the comment..Im glad you appreciated my perspective..I do agree with you on the democracy though I spoke to a few people who had some thoughts on it..I must gv it to people there for following and obeying the laws there..

    Unseen Rajasthan – Thanks and welcome to backpacker

    Priyank – I havent been to Canada , and hence I cannot say much..being there for many years, one tends to take a lot of things for granted..like Ive got used to the bad traffic and pollution here 🙂

  6. Tarun Mitra 11 April, 2010 at 15:08 Reply

    It seems it would be an interesting read. People who usually go there are enchanted and spellbound by America, from your paragraphs it seems you haven’t lost your mind there. Apart from that, your last picture of Liberty statue is very good, hoped that posted a bigger picture of it. And one question, do they still go thru the torture as given in hoarding in second to last pic.


  7. Rajesh 11 April, 2010 at 22:51 Reply

    Fantastic post with beautiful shots. Me too happy to be in India. Ten years back I had a stay of 1 year in America. That was more than enough for me.

  8. asha 12 April, 2010 at 11:43 Reply

    A very lively narration.I must admit here i was in awe of US of A while I was a student, but of late even i have developed a fascination for Europe.

    LOL at the bollyhood hero poster.

    Keep coming with more such experiences, it makes a lively read.

  9. Aaarti 13 April, 2010 at 18:04 Reply

    Gosh, i know how much you went thru before the trip!! and am glad you enjoyed it…

    Very diff from yur usual posts, loved reading thru, and sharing your experiences.. granparents when they landed in the USA in ’99 dint take uncle’s address [sily all of us also happily forgot], and he hadnt come to pick them up… they picked up a conversation wth a local lady, borrowed some coins from her, took her help to dial mama and then waited for him… :))

    Looking fwd to reading more and seeing more shots!!

  10. Jeevan 14 April, 2010 at 22:07 Reply

    Just not to say thus, I was too fascinate about Europe, esp. the country sides. I guess most of the developed cities are much artificial! And if I get a chance to visit western I would go for Holland and England as it exist much nature space. If we go in open mind we get to enjoy much, and unexpected is something that comes in surprise.

  11. abhi-shrek 22 April, 2010 at 01:23 Reply

    Stumbled across this a while back, I studied in the midwest, St. Louis, worked in Dallas, Los Angeles, Detroit and now in DC. Have travelled extensively over here, money and time permitting over the past several years, nice to see a viewpoint from an Indian perspective and NO, I do not have any family in the US, its just me.

  12. rody 26 April, 2010 at 22:22 Reply

    I am not so fascinated about America trip , but i enjoyed your post really very much.we can see different colors of different culture in this world.

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