I landed in Atlanta (south-eastern USA) international airport just to find out that the affordable hostel I found online doesn’t really exist, and the cheapest option is a private room in a lodge for $53 (140LTL or £35). And that’s after paying an unexpected $25 fee for a bag on a local flight (check-in bags are not included in the ticket on the flights within the US). “This country is blowing out my minuscule budget…” – I was thinking while checking into the lodge with dirty windows and super friendly, exclusively Afro-American staff. I was shown to the private bedroom with a triple bed, a fridge, a pile of towels and the absent remote control for the working air conditioner. As soon as the conditioner was switched off, I crushed on the bed exhausted from the night before, when I celebrated the last night in Miami until 4.30am and left the hostel an hour later to catch an early plane.
At 7 o’clock in the evening of the same day I went down to the lodge reception: “Where can I find a grocery store?”, “There is one just down the road, you go right under the bridge and turn left. It’s impossible to miss it”, “How long will it take me to walk there?”, “Are you gonna walk?… I’d say it’s about 20 minutes”, replied a surprised receptionist. Well, I don’t drive a car, and not feeling like taking a bus that is overly complicated, according to the French girl living in Atlanta that I met in Miami the night before. The next 40 minutes walk made it clear to me why “not driving a car” phenomenon just doesn’t exist in this country.
I left the hotel and followed the directions. The sun was slowly going down, warm evening air was filled with the pleasant pine smell. I was the only person walking along this 3-line avenue, passing the 5-storey hotels with their huge parking areas, private-house-like restaurants (that advertise themselves by putting a massive road sign) behind their own parking spaces, perfectly green cemetery divided into lots by driving lane, and finally countless private houses, built away from the road, with their own garage and a flawlessly cut front lawn. Buildings stood distantly one from another and there was no fence between them. It all looked like a tidy recently deserted countryside with the tall green pines all over the place and no people around (just cars passing by). Thinking of how much life in Peru happens on the street, it seemed that it is not even possible to meet your neighbours here… since they never leave their house on foot.
I passed a few empty bus stops, the bridge and the further I went the more doubts I had if that was the right way to go. Finally, a human being appeared across the road to my left. I approached a tall dark skinned young man and asked about the store. “Oh my, I don’t quite know, you know the rail lines, it’s next to them…”, – the explanation was totally useless, so I asked him about the direction: “That way!”, – he pointed to the bridge I just passed. “You’re not from here?” he wondered, “No, I’m from Europe”, “Oh, shit, oh, uh, wow, shit, you’re the first person I meet from Europe!” he got very excited about this fact, “So, you’ve never been outside the country then, huh?”, “No, never”. I headed back to the bridge hoping to meet somebody who can give me clearer directions, thinking that it’s probably impossible to find a young person back in Lithuania who had never ever left even to the neighbouring Poland, Belarus or Latvia… How sad it must be to never leave your own safe harbour…