I’M GOING TO AMERICAAAAAA!!!
I’m a bit excited. My family and I are visiting the U.S. next month. I take my family to the U.S. every other summer to visit grandparents, attend a family reunion, drive…
We end up doing a lot of driving. And, now that I have kids in school, we are basically limited to the month of July. The America Trip used to be so simple, back when we had fewer kids and none of them were in school. Now, it’s gotten so complicated that I feel like I need to hire an assistant just to organize all the tasks just for this one trip. Here are some things that go into the making of The America Trip.
We have three kids, which means we have to buy five tickets to fly to the U.S. Any fluctuation in the price gets multiplied by five, so it gets pretty expensive.
It’s also funny that our friends where we live assume that we are going to America for a vacation. Flying in planes for 8 hours with 3 small human beings who think it’s funny to slap you in the face is not my idea of a vacation!
Borrow a Car
A car is a necessity in the U.S., but since we don’t live there anymore, we don’t have one. So, getting one — and sometimes, two — that we can use to go back and forth is a chore. This time, though, we were able to find a company that rents to people like us for a discount. Hopefully, this will be a solution we can use again in the future.
Certain clothing items are just not available in Eastern Europe, so we do have to use the time in the U.S. to find what we need. Whatever it is — whether it’s some special brand of socks or a good waterproof jacket — it needs to be good enough to last until the next time we visit.
Yes, that’s a picture of peanut butter. I can’t explain it, but peanut butter is one of those things that Europeans will never understand about the U.S. You can actually find it here, but it’s just not very good. So every time we come (which isn’t often enough) we try to bring back a couple of huge jars of Jif.
Hamburgers are another thing that America just does better than anyone. I’m talking about a good pub burger here — not Burger King (although Burger King has its place). While it’s definitely not something you can take back to Europe with you, the good hamburger is a thing that we miss about the U.S. very much.
This is a rare moment where I advocate something that seems like something you’d hear on Dave Ramsey: we buy cellphones in the U.S. every 2 years — full price, no-contract, factory unlocked — and take them back to Eastern Europe with us. There are several reasons for this, but I’ll start with a general financial principle: If you buy a phone in this way — even though these phones can cost $500 and up — it’s almost always a better deal over the life of the contract than getting the phone under a contract with your wireless provider.
After getting the new phone, we sell our old phone on eBay, which has an amazing program for selling your smartphone. In fact, if you have a model that’s not too terribly old, they will format the listing for you, recommend the settings for the sale, and then guarantee the price that you will get it, based upon the average price for that model of phone. If you end up having to sell it for less, they will give you eBay credit for the difference, which you spend on eBay to buy other things you need.
Last time I was in the states, I sold my 2-year-old iPhone 5 for more than the average price (about $120), in less time than eBay had told me it would take. Then I sold my wife’s phone for less than the average price, and as promised, they sent me eBay credit, which I used to buy phone chargers and headphones.
This is one of the main reasons we go to the states — to see uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins — and this is something you definitely cannot take back with you. The time is short, but the memories last a lifetime.
There is a lot of actual work that we do while in the U.S., and it requires our family to do quite a bit of traveling. Lots of people, churches, and organizations contribute to our work and we need to visit with as many of them as we can. Sharing with others about the past two years is one of the most important things we do.
There are a lot of things we do while in America, but rest isn’t one of them. We schedule a week of vacation, immediately after we return from the U.S., near our home in Mostar. This has become a special time for our family to regroup and be refreshed before the next school year comes.
I am beginning to get excited.