5 Things I Love About America After 5 Years of Calling It Home

In July 2015, I travelled to America for vacation. I had just quit my full-time job as a payroll tax analyst and was taking a gap half-year off to travel and write. It’s been five years and that “gap year” seems to never have ended.

During the past five years, America has shown its ugly underbelly. Even so, America isn’t all blood and tears. If that was the case, no one would choose to move here. After all, it’s not the only developed country in the western hemisphere that prospective immigrants can call our new home.

If I am being honest, however, my journey to U.S. residency and citizenship was more by happenstance than intention. My family lived here and my boyfriend at the time gave me the ultimatum that if I left the country again for more than two weeks, it would be the end of our relationship.

I was young and naive and did not see manipulation for what it was. Nevertheless, after four years of wondering if staying had been the right decision, in my fifth year, I can say yes: yes, it is.Β 

1. It’s the Land of Opportunity

Most people move to America for better opportunities than their birth countries. People of Colour here often point out that there are far fewer opportunities for us to succeed, especially for Blacks. I don’t doubt for a second that if I was American-born, White, and half as ambitious as I currently am I would be thrice as successful. But, it doesn’t change the fact that opportunities do exist.

In the past five years, I have achieved far more than I could have on my island home. I re-started my business here from scratch, bought my first car, travelled to half a dozen countries, visited two dozen states, and co-own my home. In the past two weeks, I paid off the loan on my first car, traded it in, and bought an FJ Cruiser in cash. I’m not saying there aren’t successful Jamaicans doing well at home β€” and much better! β€” but I wasn’t one of them.

2. Credit Is Easier To Come By

Purchasing a vehicle in cash is fairly common, but there are much bigger purchases that tend to require credit for the average person. This might include starting a business or buying a home. In Jamaica, even with a full-time job, my bank refused to give me a credit card. Here, a day or two rarely goes by where I don’t have offers in the mail begging me to accept cards, business loans and personal loans.

The downside is that if you’re not careful, you could be swimming in debt in no time. However, if you can live within your means and make good financial decisions, it’s easy to have manageable debt that might even become more beneficial than having no debt at all. As of right now, I am debt free, but it was using debt to my advantage that helped me get here.

3. There Is More Cultural Diversity

Jamaican culture is powerful and all-consuming β€” and we’re extremely proud of this! Few people move to Jamaica and manage to retain the culture of their former homes, because we take it, fuse it into Jamaican culture and you begin to find a piece of home among us. Before you know it, you’re at street parties at 5 AM on a Monday morning in Negril with the rest of us. In contrast, America is no melting pot; it’s a buffet table.

White American culture has been adopted as mainstream, but the reality is much different. There are many subcultures existing in America: from African Americans to Mainland Africans to West Indians to East Asians to Hispanics. We all bring our own unique flavour to the table and, funny enough, racism and the fact that we are often excluded from White spaces, has helped those cultures to thrive beautifully on their own.

4. There’s a Wealth of Domestic Travel Spots

Jamaica is a beautiful country. In fact, I will venture to say it is more beautiful than most. There are very few places I have travelled to that even begin to compare to my island home. Mexico and the Maldives are the only two I would even put close to it. However, it’s also a small country and there is only so much exploring you can do before you’ve been to every river, every beach, every cultural site, and eaten at every restaurant.

The vastness of America is one of the things I love most about this country. I could never set foot on an aeroplane for the rest of my life and never run out of things to see here. From the tropical beaches of Florida to the deserts of the Great Southwest and the glaciers in Alaska, there is something for everyone. Is it any wonder I want a tiny home on wheels?

5. An American Passport Ranks Among the Best

Ironically enough, one of the best perks of American citizenship is the opportunity it provides to escape. As an American resident, my green card acted very much like a “budget American passport” and allowed me to visit countries I might not have otherwise had access to. However, there were several regions I wasn’t allowed to set foot in at risk of my future citizenship or extended residency. These included Russia, the Middle East and Cuba.

As a citizen, not only do I face fewer restrictions booking a flight to Dubai, but I can now take advantage of far more visa-less travel options, as some countries provide these only to citizens of First World countries. I can visit roughly 83 countries without a visa while carrying a Jamaican passport, but 184 countries with an American passport. As someone who gave up corporate life specifically to travel more and see the world, that’s a pretty big deal.

…

So, is America the perfect new home I thought it would be? Well, I never expected it to be perfect, to begin with, and it definitely had more flaws than I originally anticipated. This might rub a few Americans wrong on the country’s birthday, but the fact remains.

Many Americans mistake patriotism for blind love for one’s country. I disagree. Patriotism is unconditional love and that’s a lesson I learned easily from Jamaica. That kind of patriotism requires acknowledging that the “conditions” still exist, proclaiming them loudly and effecting positive change.

In fact, America has a lot to fix and more to aspire to. So, I hope that in November, we can all band together and choose a leader who is actually up to the task of making those aspirations a reality.

Happy Independence Day! May we have more to celebrate in 2021.

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35 thoughts on “5 Things I Love About America After 5 Years of Calling It Home

  1. Our Covid response has been pretty good to me and while we are a crazy red state I think you’d like Columbus. Very multicultural here as we have the big university (OSU) that attracts students across the globe and we do have some good food here.

  2. Loved reading this. You’re right, American has shown an ugly underbelly recently and a lot needs to change. But it’s nice to hear your perspective on some of the good things!

    1. Thanks Rosie! Too many people believe pointing out the bad stuff means there’s no good and that the good stuff they find is reason enough to avoid change.

  3. I miss our beaches and food every day, too! Glad to read your thoughts on this country. The crazies have always been here, but usually under rocks until social media gave them more visibility. I have been working towards racial justice my whole life and know that the work is nothing new but always important.

    1. Thank you! Working toward a better future is always important. People who think patriotism means accepting a country’s status quo are delusional. 🀦🏽

      1. Absolutely. In my day it was “my country right or wrong” and “love it or leave it.” Hasn’t changed much for some.

      2. Nope! I’ve heard that even from millennial men right here in Georgia.

    1. Thank Cynthia! Fingers crossed that our hope manifests into better political decisions in the years ahead!

  4. I need to get my passport renewed but that might not happen for awhile with all that’s going on…..but not going anywhere to need one anyway for awhile. This country has all kinds of flaws and have had some of the same ones for too damn long but I’m quite content I was born here. Just wish we’d vote out some of those “flaws”!!!!!

    1. I’m glad I was born and raised overseas. I find that West Indians have a different relationship with Whites because we don’t see them as our “current oppressors” in the way African Americans are forced to, and I prefer our mindset when it comes to that. AAs often get bad at us for that, but we didn’t invent “One love” to top billboards. We do try to live it while happily still calling everyone out on their BS — including ourselves. πŸ˜‚

      I am glad I moved here though. It’s a good place to live if you can avoid some of the people who make a career out of making people’s lives hell for no reason but spite and hatred. That’s why I love out west. The culture out there is generally a lot more accepting.

      Here’s to a good outcome in the upcoming elections!

      1. Out West is generally more accepting than the Southeast. From Washington to California all along that coastline are blue states with common sense laws. Even in small towns in California, Utah and Colorado, with populations ranging from 7k to 100k, I felt safer there than I do in ATL. There is racism out West for sure, but state laws help to keep it in check and the general culture isn’t as enabling of loud and proud Confederate ideology as the Midwest and the Southeast.

      2. It’s the red states out west that concern me but as you’ve stated, I was in a tiny town in Utah and felt totally fine! I can tell you stories about life in Missouri!

      3. Yup, it’s a lot different out there. I have avoided Arizona like the plague though. πŸ˜‚ I haven’t been to any of the M states so far. I’ve only ever heard bad things about them!

      4. Hahahahaha! Come to Missouri… I’ll give you a map of Ferguson – JK. (I should be ashamed of myself for saying that but I used to live near Ferguson so….. ) But there are many nice places in Missouri.

      5. I am biased because I was born and raised there but the state has some nice things to see like the Arch on the riverfront, the Lake of the Ozarks and the Katy Trail for bicycling is a big one! Every state and country in the world has it’s good and bad spots.

      6. I’ve been seeing “Ozarks” everywhere on my feed for the past few weeks! I have no idea what it is though. What makes the lake so spectacular?

      7. Ohio is one of those crazy red states I’m avoiding for the present. They were right behind ATL with that anti-abortion law and I haven’t looked at them the same since. πŸ˜‚ How has the response to COVID been up there?

    1. Thanks Ruth! All countries have flaws. Some Americans just seem to love those flaws a little too much. πŸ˜‚

      1. Some also call it their beloved “heritage”. As you said, there is hope. There are also sensible people who know better and that’s always a good start. The trouble is convincing the voluntary idiots. 🀦🏽

  5. Alexis, I only made one brief trip to Jamaica and found it beautiful and intriguing. I hope to return sometime. Keep on exploring and writing about the explorations.

    1. Thank you! I hope you make it back soon. I miss the beaches and the food every day!

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