Population: 308 million (2010 census)
Religion: Protestant (51.3%)
Capital: Washington DC
Order of Visit: First
First Visit: 27 November 1986
Last Visit: 29 August 2019
Duration: 155 Days
Must Do: Grand Canyon, Deadwood, New York Comedy Clubs, The Alamo, New Year’s Eve in New York Times Square, Amusement Parks (LA and Orlando), Jazz in New Orleans
Cities: Anchorage, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Deadwood, Denali, Flagstaff, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Redoubt Bay, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Savannah, Sausalito, Seattle, Washington DC, Whittier
History and Geography
Easily the country I have spent the most time at (outside of Australia) at 155 days starting with my visit as a 12 year old back in 1986 and my latest visit in August 2019 attending the USA Tennis Open.
The USA is also the gateway to Canada, South America and Central America when travelling from Australia. The USA is this amazing diverse place that isn’t as united as you might think fighting a civil war at one point and fighting the English, the Spanish, the French, Canada and Mexico at different times for additional territories under their Manifest Destiny principle to expand their country.
Currently the United States of America covers 9.834 million square kilometres. The core continental States have Canada to the North and Mexico to the South. Alaska, which was purchased from Russia, is located above Canada meaning to drive from Seattle to Alaska you need to leave USA and enter Canada. Hawaii is a unique state located in the Pacific Ocean to the southwest of the continental U.S., southeast of Japan and northeast of Australia.
The United States of America has five permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the North Pacific Ocean, and American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean.
The United States of America is currently the most dominate nation on the planet both economically, culturally and military and become a world superpower with the end of World War 2 with Soviet Union and sole superpower with the collapse of Soviet Union in 1989. The USA dollar is effectively the reserve currency of the world and can be used in many countries or easily exchanged.
The first Europeans to arrive in the territory of the modern United States were Spanish conquistadors arriving in Florida in 1513. The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico such as Saint Augustine and Santa Fe. The French established settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607.
With the establishment of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were administered by the British as overseas dependencies. The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independence against a European power. The Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776.
American expansion westward prompted a long series of American Indian Wars establishing the principle of ‘Manifest Destiny’. The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost doubled the nation’s area. A series of military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819.
The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a period of expansionist Manifest destiny. The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest. Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest.
With the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, thirteen slave states ultimately declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the “South”), while the federal government (the “Union”) maintained that secession was illegal. The Union won the war in April 1865, each of the states in the defeated South was required to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery.
The last State to join the USA was Wyoming in July 1890 being the number to 50 States and a federal district (Washington, D.C., the capital), five major territories (listed above) and some minor islands.
The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1917, when it joined the war as an “associated power”, alongside the formal Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers.
At first neutral during World War II while Germany conquered much of continental Europe, the United States began supplying materiel to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On 7 December 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers. The USA used atomic weapons against Japan to finish World War II, the only time such weapons have been used against civilian populations.
American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–53. A proxy war in Southeast Asia eventually evolved into full American participation, as the Vietnam War which finished in 1975 and is the only major USA military failure.
In 1920, the women’s rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women’s suffrage. USA astronaut Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
Capital punishment is sanctioned in the United States for certain federal and military crimes, and also at the state level in 30 states (out of 50 states). In 2017, there were 17,264 murders and the murder rate was 5.3 per 100,000 placing the USA 89 out of 230 countries by murder rate. For comparison Australia rate is 0.80 per 100,000 placing us at 194 (as at 2018).
This is the land of Hollywood, a place that dominates the entertainment media of my country. It is also the country with the most powerful military. The military is held in very high regard, there are many days to celebrate the military and military personnel in uniform get discounts at a host of venues. This is the land of guns, the right to bear arms is in their constitution and in 2013 they had 33,636 gun related deaths. The War of Independence from the English ingrained the notion that the population needed to be armed to control their Government or protect themselves from it.
This is also the land with the greatest riches, some of the best universities, the biggest (and richest) sporting competitions and athletics. It also has very poor people, a very low minimum wage for a Western Country and the most expensive health system in the world. It is a paradox that some of the nicest people in the world are mixed with the most unpleasant and racist people I have ever met.
What I experienced
I loved my time in Deadwood, New York City, and Las Vegas for every different reasons. The Grand Canyon is a must visit place to marvel at nature. As is Washington DC for the Smithsonian Museums, the Air and Space Museum is a must, and for the grand Government buildings. I was lucky enough to tour the White House before they limited visitors mostly to USA citizens who get a recommendation from their Government representative. Mt Rushmore is impressive and the Alamo another must visit location. The jazz in New Orleans must be experienced to believe just how good this format of music can be. I’d also add adding major sporting leagues; baseball, football and basketball.
I’ve also really enjoyed the various theme parks over the years. I could write a book about New York City, being in Times Square for the Millennium I will never forget. You have to experience Broadway, and off Broadway, and don’t forget the comedy clubs! And don’t forget a visit to Alaska which is almost an entire different country, much more isolated and therefore with different attitudes (don’t get me started on the oil industry control of Alaska however).
It’s a country worth visiting regardless of what you think of their world policies of how their system is geared to the richest of their population, the USA just has to be experienced.