I recently went to LA for a conference. It was a medical conference and not all in all that exciting. LA, on the other hand, is pretty amazing. It is as diverse as any major city in the US, and I would argue most US cities are more diverse then the rest of the world.
My conference was in Torrance and the company recommended I stay at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel (no affiliation). So I booked a room with no consideration as to what I was getting into. And boy was it awesome.
I went on line and checked out their website. On the site they claimed to be a hotel inspired by Japanese Culture. They were going to give me the opportunity to “experience the modern elegance and hospitality of the Japanese culture. So I was hooked.
Was it possible to take a trip to Japan without leaving the US?
The short answer is yes!
I showed up to the hotel, and from the front desk I could tell that this was going to rock. A Japanese clerk bowing greeted me at the desk. Now I am not an expert on culture, but this is definitely not American custom. I check in and go to my room.
In my room I find a bidet. Not just any bidet, but a fancy bidet. One of the main ways you can tell where you are in the world is both by the toilets, and supposedly how the water spins as it flushes down the toilet. I have seen toilets in South America, in Asia, in Iran, and even in my own backyard. They are quite different all over the world.
From there, I decided to get a massage at the hotel spa. This further made me feel like I was in Japan. I had to take off my shoes before entering the spa, given a robe and slippers, and greeted with green tea and a warm bowl before my massage. Nothing crazy different, but all slightly different than the spas I have been to at other hotels here in the US. It is the small differences in the world that make us who we are after all.
So far, so good. If I had just stayed in my hotel, I could have easily been in Japan. The other aspect that made me feel like I was in Japan was that 95% or more of the guests were Japanese business travelers. Everywhere I turned, people were speaking Japanese.
By the end of my stay I felt that I had taken a trip across the Pacific Ocean and ended up in Japan. I had in essence taken a trip to Japan without leaving the US. Can this experience be recreated in other places throughout the US?
International travel on a national budget
If you want to save money or the idea of an overseas flight does not appeal to you, here are some places you can visit domestically to get an international feel.
- Miami, Florida – A Cuban journey without the government worries. Over 54% of the population of Miami is Cuban. You can stay in Little Havana, eat good food, and dance the night away.
- San Francisco, California – While Chinatown is changing, it remains the largest Chinatown outside of China. Stay there, eat some dim sum (it is quite delicious), and practice some Tai Chi.
- New York, New York or Boston, Massachussets – While both are quintessential American towns, they both have a descent-sized Little Italy. Go for the pasta and stay for the cannoli.
Those are just a few places. You can travel throughout this country and find interesting cultures. See Acadian culture in Louisiana or German culture in Leavenworth, Washington. The world is your oyster in the US, so go try it out.
So forget the credit card hacking. If you want to travel internationally, pack your car and go to a city in the US. Culture without the jetlag.