Navigate / search

Out-of-the-Box Shock

I’ve been home (in my house) for approximately 2 hours.  I’ve been home (in the U.S.) for approximately 13 hours.  And I think it’s safe to say that while I’m quickly becoming readjusted (I experienced a minor bout of panic when I went to get a glass of water and couldn’t remember in which cabinet the glasses were actually located), I’ve definitely been experiencing a bit of culture shock.

But I’m hesitant to call it culture shock because it has become undeniably apparent to me that roadside America really lacks… culture.  If you define culture as “the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time,” it really is more difficult to pinpoint distinguishing characteristics than the lack of distinguishing characteristics.  We like chain hotels.  We like chain restaurants.  We like chain stores.  So is that our culture?

For example, Justin and I stayed in a roadside motel last night since my flight came in at 9:00 p.m. and we still had a 6-7 hour drive to get home.  I couldn’t tell you which motel we stayed in because really, they’re all the same.

We hit the road this morning and I may have passed out periodically from jet lag, Motel Bed Syndrome (MBS – it’s no laughing matter), and a general unwillingness to accept the fact that  I have to start facing responsibilities once again, and I was confused every time I awoke because it never seemed like we’d gotten anywhere. Same stores, same restaurants, same people.

Toto, I don’t think we’re in… wait, what town are we in again??

So the term culture shock just doesn’t seem to cut it.  It was the lack of culture that shocked me.  Maybe I should call it redundancy shock.  No, doesn’t have the same ring.  Commercialism shock?  That could really apply in many countries.  How about out-of-the-box shock?  You know, because nearly every roadside town looks like it was put together from the same ready-to-assemble boxed set.

If I need to buy a new leather belt in one of these towns, I know I can likely find a Kohl’s, Target, or JC Penny that will carry something in my price-range that will fit my needs.  Everyone can.  And everyone will have very similar belts.  In a place like Bagaces, it would’ve been a much bigger hassle to get a new belt.  I would’ve had to inquire if there was a “belt guy” somewhere in town, describe to him what I needed, and wait for him to make it.  But no one would’ve had the same belt.  It would’ve been MY belt.

Street in Bagaces.

Does that really matter?  Probably not.  But it’s interesting, nonetheless.

In all fairness, I’ve been around this country enough to know that its different metropolitan areas have unique and interesting qualities (architecture, food, dialect, etc.) that set them apart from each other, but you have to admit – if you take away any regional vegetation or notable terrain, you could spin yourself around like a top and topple over into nearly any part of rural or suburban America and seriously have no freakin’ clue where you landed.

But at least you’ll be able to buy yourself a thin burger patty and an iced latte.

Oh, and apparently it’s autumn now.  When did that happen??



Thank you for reading Domestiphobia! This post might contain affiliate links. Knowing you stopped by totally validates the time I spend here, so leave a comment. Preferably a nice one. I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes Instagram if you want to connect.



Welcome back how was the flight ? was the food ok? did they show any good movies?

I know what your saying i was in Asia for the better part of the a number of years ago and “daily life” and surrounding were very much different. You realize how cookie cutter north america can be.

Wish you success and the best days.


Actually, the flights were pretty great. If you ever fly to Central America, I would highly recommend TACA Airlines. We were each allowed 2 checked bags (for FREE!), and we had as much leg room as the first class section in a regular American airline. The snacks were warm pretzels stuffed with cheese, and the full meals weren’t too shabby, either! Four big fat thumbs-up from us.

Yeah… the cookie cutter thing is a little depressing. I realize it was starting to get to me before I left, but now it’s even more overwhelming.


Couldn’t agree more. I actually miss the 60s and 70s. Things were so different back then. We still had some chains, but mom & pop shops could make a go of it too. Greed drove inflation which drove them out of business. And technology is way out of hand when 2 people are sitting with each other, each texting someone else.


I wish I could’ve seen it then. In fact, I still maintain that I was born sometime in the mid-40’s, spent my youth free-loving and having a good time in the 60’s, died of an unfortunate drug overdose sometime in the 70’s, and reincarnated in the 80’s to find the world had gone to crap. :)

And you are right about the texting. People just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.

the other Mrs. Barstow

Glad you’re back safe and sound.?? Redundancy shock, good name for it – there are parts of this country that really are the pits, looking exactly the same with all the crap stores and landscape. But if you’re fortunate to live in a spot that has fought that image, life is pretty great. This explains my desire to move closer to family and friends on my beautiful 5 acre wooded lot but my fear of leaving Cape Cod and its uniqueness. AND why I love to visit Sweden once a year!! (Oh, and Napa Valley was pretty great, too!) But these places have their drawbacks as well, like traveling many miles just to get basic needs – like food & beverages!! So happy you were able to experience the simple life and how satisfying it can be. Welcome Home! Told you you’d need real clothes now!! haha.


Where is this lovely wooded lot located? Maybe you could do both… you know, summers at The Cape. That sort of thing. :) Oh, and I’m so jealous about Sweden! Hopefully one day I’ll be able to travel as much as you – maybe that would make the redundancy shock more palatable. :)


dude….get off the freeway!!!! PS, I wonder if Bagaces would look different with a good transportation system?


No worries – I’m off the freeway and back in the suburbs. Wait… same problem. :)

Don't be shy... tell me what you think!