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Episode 108 | Things I noticed in the US after 4 years abroad

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

In this solo episode, I share my reflections on my time abroad this summer. I spent the month of August in the US, mostly disconnected from work and present with my family and friends. I hadn’t taken a meaningful trip to the US since early 2020, just before lockdowns started. And I noticed a lot of surprising things. Join me as I share my observations about environmental signals that reflect on the culture at-large.

(Of note, while my podcast is generally clean, this might not be one to listen to around young children.)

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Transcripts for Episode 108

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Welcome. Welcome. I am really excited to be here with you today for a solo episode. I really like these solo episodes. I love interviewing the guests that we have. I mean, come on, they’re phenomenal. But sometimes it’s fun to just get to sit and chat with you and give you an update and share some reflections. Usually I’m answering questions, but today I am actually going to just be providing some insights on my trip in the US. Because when I went to the US, it had been not quite four years, I want to say about three and a half years since I had been back. Now, I had taken a quick little trip late last year to see my sister, but I was just basically in her house the whole time, so I didn’t really go anywhere and do much of anything other than just be with her and her family.

So this was my first time really being out in the world experiencing the United States for a full month. I took notes all month. So I have this big bulleted list here in front of me, of all of the things that I noticed, the things that surprised me, the things that I was like, oh yeah, I forgot about this. So all kinds of really fun and exciting things that I discovered during my time there. So I’m really excited to get to share that with you. I have a bunch of things that I want to share. You might hear me clicking around a little bit because I’ve got notes, I’ve got things to read, things to update you on. So before I get into the United States reflection portion of this, because I know I’ll have lots to say there, I just want to give you a couple of updates on the last couple of months, what’s been going on both with me personally with the business.

So I’m going to get there too. But before I do, I want to share a really lovely review. I’ve actually had a few really nice, heartwarming reviews recently, and I have to tell you that these mean a lot to me. A podcast is a labor of love in a lot of ways, and I have been doing this for a long time, and I have seen some really great success with this podcast, and I have a lot of that kind of input of people that listen and I get to talk with them. But these reviews, just having them show up and hearing from you that the show is valuable, that you enjoy listening, that you love the guests that I bring on, it really means a lot to me. So for those of you who’ve left reviews, I really appreciate it and I want to read this one to you.

This one is from Kato Fidfix. I think maybe those are acronyms and it says beyond better is simply excellent. Stacey Ennis is so knowledgeable and asks such great questions. The guests are always so interesting, and I love how the conversations dig deep. Definitely recommend. So thank you so much for that review. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave that. And I’ve noticed that most of my reviews say something about the guests, which is great. I love that you love the guests that I bring on. We are very thoughtful. I say we, me and Rita, the producer of the podcast in who we bring on, and making sure that they are meeting your needs, that they are answering questions you want to know about, that they’re supporting your growth. So I’m really happy to know that’s resonating with so many of you. Okay, so the last couple of months have been a whirlwind.

It’s been a whirlwind on the team just in the business. It’s been a whirlwind personally on the business side. I had one of my team members, Catherine, who’s based in the US. Was here. Rita, who’s since relocated to another city. She was still here. And so we all got to spend this time together. We actually produced an episode, a couple of episodes back. I’ll be sure to link to that in the show. Notes about our time. We actually recorded one together, reflecting on our time together and what were able to accomplish together, and just about our overall growth as a company, as a team, as individuals. It was a lot of fun. I really loved recording that episode. And so that was great. And on top of all of having them there, which was amazing, we got back into the US only about a week before school started.

Note to future self never do that again. That was not a good idea because jet lag was horrible. It was the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced. We were in airports and on airplanes for 48 straight hours. I did not leave the airport or an airplane. The only sunlight we got was I think we did walk onto the tarmac from one plane. We slept on planes. I have a priority pass, so I get to go into the clubs. We slept on chairs in the clubs. These were at small airports, so they didn’t have like, the little sleeping cubbies that some of the international airports do. Okay, so we had the jet lag. And then my son got really sick right before we left. And his sickness kind of evolved while were traveling. So he was very low energy and just kind of not feeling well.

And then all of the rest of us got it. So when we arrived back in the US. Sleep was completely messed up. I mean, my body just kind of flip flopped and it’s like, where do I land? I don’t know when to sleep, when to wake up. I think it was not the first night. The second night were home, I kid you not literally, and I’m using this word correctly, I literally laid in bed for 6 hours just laying there, could not go to sleep. So along with that, I got really sick. Then my daughter got sick, then my husband got sick. And so, yeah, were just kind of navigating all of this and school started. I got time with the team, so just for chronology, we got back sick. I had not done any of the school supply shopping at all. I hadn’t ordered uniforms, I hadn’t done anything.

So I’m a pretty organized person, but I did not plan well for this. I acknowledge that. Lesson learned for next time. And then the team was here. And then my son started a new school, so just getting used to the new school for him and all of the things. And then we’ve gotten sick again, so respiratory thing right now, so it’s been a little bit nuts. However, on the business side, it’s been really amazing. The business is growing. We have amazing new clients, and I’m feeling pretty energized because I had some time away, and I have all this clarity from our strategy session. So that’s been really amazing to tie the bow on this, because I want to move into my reflections on the US. This week as I record this. This will come out, I think, after my trip. But as of this recording, this weekend I am going to New York.

I am meeting up with a mentorship group that I’m a part of. I’m going to a book release party. Then I’m seeing my sister in Ohio, and then I’m going back to New York to see a client, so that’s going to be a lot. And I’ll actually be traveling on my birthday as well. Be in a plane on my birthday, which not my favorite thing, but it is what it is. And then the evening I get in for my birthday, I’m going to get to have a dinner in Soho with a bunch of friends. So that’ll be really fun. So a lot going on. I am looking into the winter, eagerly looking forward to a quieter season, a little bit less travel. However, I do have a few more trips coming up, so we’re going to Web Summit in Lisbon in November, and then I’ll go to London in December, and then I’ll just be home for the foreseeable future.

I don’t think I have another trip until March. And it’s interesting because when I was a kid and not a kid, let me correct that when I was a young adult and I was looking at the people that I admire, I thought that travel was like the epitome of success. If you’re in airplanes, if you’re going places, that is success. And I had a period of my work where I was traveling all the time, speaking engagements, this, that client there, and it was really exhausting. And so I am really mindful about these trips that I take. Each trip that I’ve agreed to has a really clear purpose, and I say no to things unless they fully align with my personal vision for my life, for my business, and that I’m getting plenty of time for my family. Because at the end of the day, what do we really have outside of our relationships?

I think they are the most important thing in life. So that’s where I’m at. Lots of greatness going on. Looking forward to a little bit of a quieter season. We have friends coming into town this winter, actually two sets of friends back to back, so that’ll be really wonderful. So that’s me. All right. I want to move into my reflections on the United States. So, as I mentioned, I was keeping notes my whole trip. I made notes about things that were interesting to me or surprising to me, and they range from really little things to pretty big things. So I want to talk about these and I did not order them as like positive, negative. I am going to go through them in the order of awareness for myself. So this was the order that I took notes as I was on my trip in August.

And just again, for context, because of COVID I had not been back to the United States in any significant way for nearly four years. I think about three and a half years. As I said earlier, I took that quick trip to Ohio. I really don’t think that counts because I was like airport sister’s house with her family and then airport home. So this was the first time I had been out in the world in the US. That I had been really doing the US thing. Overall, it was a really great trip. I mean, it was amazing. I got to spend time with my dear friends. I’ve had some friends in my hometown of Boise since I was five and others since I was 1413. That range and those lifelong friendships are so precious to me. I got to see a couple of team members, I got to see Robin and Kim who are on the team as a writer and editor respectively.

And that was great. It was so good. I got a lot of time with my parents. So all in all, it was an amazing trip. It was really interesting though, to get the space and to come back and notice things about living in the US that are different from living in Europe. So I am going to walk through my list for you. So the first thing I noticed, this is pretty silly, but is toilet seat. I got I think we landed in what US city did we landed in yeah, we landed in Seattle, I think first. And when I went into the bathroom, I saw toilet seat protectors and I was like, I have not seen these in a really long time. I don’t know if it’s just our specific area of Europe, but I mean, I’ve traveled the last year. I’ve been to London, Amsterdam, Berlin.

I mean, I’ve been all over. I’ve been to Lisbon, I’ve been to mean maybe they were there and I just didn’t notice. But for whatever reason, this really stood out to me. I was like, wow, that’s really interesting. And I don’t know what that means. It just was like interesting. And I think as a whole, one of the things about the US is we are very protective of a lot of spaces and things. So maybe that’s where that comes in. Another thing, total other side and maybe I shouldn’t have these back to back was ranch dressing. So we would go to a restaurant and they had ranch dressing available. I have not had ranch dressing offered to me at a restaurant in years, literally years. So that was really interesting. Another small thing and I’m going to get to some bigger, more important conversations soon, but I thought these were really interesting bathroom lights on the inside of the bathroom.

So in Europe, and certainly in our house, and almost all, it seems like all the spaces that we stay in, for whatever reason, the bathroom light is on the outside of the bathroom instead of on the inside of the bathroom. So I think it kind of makes sense. Like if you’re going to go into a room, you would want to turn on the light before you go into the room. But it took me a really long time to get used to this when we moved here and it took me a really long time to get used to this when were in the States, because every time I’d go into a bathroom, or actually any room, I would look for the light on the outside of the space. And then I’m like, oh yeah, it’s inside. So that was really interesting, just placement of lights. Okay.

Another thing whoa, this was mind blowing, was the trucks. Now, trucks, as in big, giant trucks everywhere. SUVs and trucks. So we live in Europe. We live in southern Portugal. Europe has small spaces, little roads. Sure there are trucks here, but they’re generally only for people that need them for work, right? It’s really rare for somebody to buy a truck just to buy a truck. And part of that is parking spaces don’t really fit them very well. We have a lot of single lane roads here that you have to go through, and often there’s a building on either side of your car. So getting through that, there’s space, but it’s a really tight squeeze. And so why would you want a car that’s going to be difficult to maneuver around? Certainly people do have SUVs here, but they’re more like compact SUVs typically. They’re not the big suburban cars that you see in the United States.

And that was interestingly, quite difficult for me to get used to. I just felt that there was just a lot of volume around me all the time. The other thing with the trucks, and I am going to skip in my list here, but I had this awareness later, was just the number of parking lots and cars everywhere. Where we are now in our region, just to be clear, there is not very good public transit here. You can get around by bus, but nobody really does, at least the people that I know, everybody drives, and it’s pretty far between things. So if you live in the western algarve, for example, most of the things that like good shopping malls, good doctors, things like that, they’re on the eastern side of the Algarve, so you end up driving a lot. Side to side is probably like an hour, 15, probably an hour to an hour 15, depending on which roads you’re taking.

So you end up driving. For us, we end up going like, if we want to go to the mall. It’s like 20 minutes by car, so we do a lot of driving. It’s different than Lisbon or Porto, where they have a lot of public transit, but even in our area, even here, you don’t see sprawling parking lots around. It’s just very rare. So went to Target, for example, and I was just like, oh, my gosh, there are so many cars, and they’re so big. And I know I grew up with this, but it was very strange being away with these little cars, limited parking lots. I mean, I walk into town a lot because I find parking kind of annoying, especially when there are tourists here and it’s really busy. So wow, that was really interesting to get used to. Okay, the other thing that I noticed so I’m moving away from objects, except for there are a couple of objects coming up in my list was this conversation that I had at an airport that I felt like was really reflective of a lot of conversations I had.

So we met this couple at the airport, really lovely couple. We had a really nice time talking with them. And they were going on a bike trip. So they had taken their bicycles and they had gone, I think somewhere in Europe, I think, from Seattle. And what I thought was interesting about this conversation is that they had just traveled back from Europe, and the next day they were planning to go back to work. They had taken a week and a half off. So they had flown there, they’d done their bike trip, they’d flown back, and they were going back to work the next day. And I just found that very interesting because I think I have developed a very different mindset now, having been here for a long time, and I think just generally we’ve lived in the Dominican Republic, we’ve lived in Vietnam, Thailand, and here.

And because we’re foreigners and because things are just a little different with the life that we’ve created, I don’t know, I feel like I just think about things in a little bit of a different way than I did when I was just living in the United States. I very much remember this mentality of like, vacation starts tomorrow. I need to get into my vacation, relax, and then I’m going to come back and go right back to work. Whereas I can’t even imagine taking a trip like that and then going back to work the next morning. That seems totally bonkers to me, and I just thought that was a really interesting conversation. Now, in transparency, now, I did not book any work for the day after we got back, but I did book some coaching calls for the afternoon the following day. In hindsight, I think they were great.

Obviously love my clients calls were great, but getting used to jet lag and everything, it was a little difficult for me. So in hindsight, I think I’m going to give myself maybe three days of transition time when we get back, at least, and then like a weekend. So maybe I take like five days in total of just resting and getting back. So anyway, that was interesting to me because I think also just being here, there’s a very different mentality around work and rest. And people generally take really long stretches, like a month or a month and a half or two months. It’s less common for somebody to take a week or a week and a half or even two weeks off for vacation. And to me, I think there’s a real argument for taking longer vacation. Because now I know I’m type A. I know I am who I am.

But when I go into vacation, it takes me, like, a solid week to untangle my brain from all of the things I love my business. I love my clients, I love my team. And so there is a pull for me to check in, to go back, to check my email. I really resist that. I really push myself to be present with my family, but it’s not easy. So for me, I really need at least a week of decompression time before I’m even on vacation. This is my experience, and I wish that our American culture was more supportive of rest and of people really being able to lean into time off. So interesting reflection there. Okay, another piece a little bit lighter was ads in my podcast. There were ads in my podcast. This was crazy to me because they’re geospecific, apparently. So all these podcasts that I listen to specifically, I think I remember this from The New York Times, maybe from Hidden Brain.

I love that podcast. If you haven’t heard it, there were a couple other ones that I was like, what is this? There are no ads in this podcast. And then sure enough, as soon as I got back, the ads were no more. So I will keep my European geolocation, thank you very much. So that was great. Okay, I’m going to go on to a little bit more, a little negative okay. On some negative things that I noticed. The rest of them, I have four more points I want to talk through. I’m actually going to shift my awareness and I’ll end on a positive note because why not? I want to feel good when I get done recording this. The number of adult tantrums that I witnessed while I was in Idaho was shocking. I cannot believe the number of people that I saw on the street screaming at nobody.

Now those are different. Mental health problems were a big issue there. I was surprised, shocked at that. But then on the other side, I will put the adult tantrums because those are obviously mental health is a totally separate thing. But the number of grown ups, grown adults that I saw yelling, losing their temper. There was a specific situation when I was at the park with my child, my two children, my husband, and were just playing. It was this cool park. On a side note, I did not know this, but the parks man, I really wish we had good parks here in Portugal. The parks were incredible. Like, so great with this amazing park. It had this really cool zipline kind of swing thing. It was so fun. So were all doing it, and I was waiting for my child to come on the zip line to me.

And I looked out across the park, just kind of surveying the area, and I saw these two kids by the fence with bicycles. And I saw this man yelling, and he was like, jumping on his he’s like, you stay there. Jumped on his bike, fast pedaled toward them, yelling the whole time. And then when he got over to the children now I’m watching, like, making sure that this child is safe. He throws his bike to the ground, yanks one of the kids off of their bike and just starts spanking him, but in a very abusive way, very hard hand up in the air, as high as he could go, and really hitting this child on the backside. And I was really far away, very far, at least a football field away, probably more, probably about that long. And so I just screamed across the parking lot for him to stop, and he retorted back, like, whatever.

And he’s still yelling at this kid. And I had to tell him I was going to call the police if he didn’t stop. And then unfortunately, they rode away. Like I said, I was so far away, there wasn’t anything I could do from my current spot. But I did yell after the kid and just tell him, like, yelling across the park, hey, you don’t deserve that, and it’s not okay for people to treat you that way. The fact that man felt comfortable enough to scream at his child in public, hit his child in public, and then yell back at me like I was the problem was shocking to me. I cannot imagine that experience here. Now, I will say Portugal is a very punitive in the school system, at least, and I think in the home, too. It’s a punitive culture in not everybody, but more of the old school way.

I know kids in school. I’ve heard stories in the public system where teachers will slap desks with rulers really hard to get kids attention. And I know that spanking and that sort of thing is acceptable in some households here. I am very against that. I will not hold back on that. Absolutely. That is not okay to hit your kid in any fashion. I don’t care if it’s on the butt, but like, screaming at a kid. So that was really hard for me. And that was not the only time I didn’t see anybody else do that, but I did witness a few other instances where people were screaming or really angry, and it was like explosive. It was like I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but I did feel this bubbling energy in certain spaces that was very negative, and it did not feel good.

And I think, to be fair, I’m in this chill beach town. Maybe the vibe here is just so lovely that I don’t know that maybe that stands out to me more. But certainly I have not seen so many people yell it was in a month then. I just haven’t even seen that I want to say in the four years we’ve been here. Probably that’s not accurate, but certainly nothing like I saw in the US. The other thing that I noticed in Idaho were gun shirts. Gun shirts? Why are wearing guns on our shirts? And went to the fair one evening, and there were like gun booze and a lot of shirts with guns on them. I don’t understand that personally. I don’t think that it creates a sense of common peace in an environment. And then the last negative thing, and then I’m going to switch to my favorite thing.

Not my favorite, but one of my favorites. I have talked in previous episodes about the US. Health system, the challenges that we had in the US. Health system, and how the health system here in Portugal has served us. I did a Portugal update a few months back. A couple months. We’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes. I’m pretty sure I did a thoughtful conversation on the Portuguese health system and some of our experiences there, and I actually didn’t have this in my notes. But that brings me to another point that was really interesting to me. Interesting is not the right word. Terrifying. We had to sort out our health insurance before we came back to the US. We just got catastrophic coverage. We didn’t worry about being able to see a general doctor for, well, child visits, stuff like that. But I knew that if we didn’t have health insurance, one bad thing could bankrupt us.

And so we made sure that we had that health insurance, and we made sure we had health insurance that gave us virtual visits with doctors so that we wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket the crazy fees. So overall, I think just that lack of ease with the medical system and just like, please don’t let us get hurt, or please let us not get hurt. Please let us not get sick. Please let us not have to use this medical system. While the medical system, I think, is really good when you need it an acute situation. And I would be comfortable going to a US. Hospital for sure. I just really didn’t want to have to deal with the expense. I should have checked this. But I think our family deductible was, like, $15,000 or something like that. So it was, like, really catastrophic. If something crazy happened, then we would have that coverage.

Okay, so with all that said, I feel like I’ve gone very negative, and I want to end on a positive, because this is something I really miss about the US. And that is ease, man. It is so easy to get things you want in the United States. If I want something, I order it on Amazon. It’s literally there the next day. If you live in an Amazon hub, you can get it delivered the same day. Americans. Do you have any idea how awesome that is? Because I sure didn’t when I was there. I did not appreciate the ease. So we buy this certain omega three supplement for our kids. It’s very clean. We did a lot of research to make sure we had the best that we could find. I walked into the co op, and it was on the shelf. It was on the shelf.

To be able to just buy things at the store, to walk into a store to get organic milk when we want it to get organic milk here is so difficult. We have to order it right every week. Sometimes there’s a problem. We might not get it or whatever things happen. We could just go to the co op or go to Whole Foods or go to Trader Joe’s, and it’s organic whole milk right there. What we need supplements that we need, the food that we need even, like, healthy convenience food, which some of it I think is a little bit it’s not as healthy as you think it is, but just for my husband and me to just be able to go to Trader Joe’s and get quick meals that we could eat on the go or not have to prep while we’re traveling. That was nice.

I really missed got. I cannot emphasize this enough. You all have it really easy in the US. I really miss that. I would not trade the things that I have here, certainly, but just the ease of everything, it’s all so easy. Also, customer service is great. Yeah. That piece of it. As a country, we really have that down, and I really appreciated that a lot while were there. Overall, in spite of a lot of the things that I observed that were disconcerting or negative, know, didn’t feel great or were scary, I still had such a great time. I loved being home. I love my city, Boise. It’s actually gotten even cooler since we left. There’s new restaurants, lots of public art. Generally, the city itself is very friendly. I had to get used to people holding the door for me and making eye contact. I was like, what is this?

People saying hello? I know people do say bomdia here, but they’re not meeting your eyes and saying hello or good morning. My husband and I went on a number of hikes. I went running on the trails. If you’re on the trails, people are like, Good morning. They’re just so kind and cheery and warm. And in spite of the adult tantrums that I witnessed, in spite of some of the just things that I saw that were really unsettling culturally, it’s such a great place and it felt good. It felt like there was a warmth in spite of some of now, I just want to clarify. Earlier I mentioned that I felt bad in certain contexts, but that was not broadly felt throughout the city. There were just certain places and situations that I witnessed these things. And I would say out, going out to eat because my parents took the kids for a couple of weekends.

My husband and I actually got to spend time together. Novel concept there, right? And we had so much fun. We ate good food, went to a couple movies, which we have not done in forever. We saw Barbie. It was so good. We just had a great time. We hiked. We just had so much fun. So overall, it was an amazing trip. I can’t wait to go home again, to go back. Certainly there are things that were disappointing and sad to see, but I would say NetNet, it was a really positive trip. So those are my reflections. Those are the things that I captured. Certainly there’s so much more to that trip that I could share, but I wanted to give you the highlights and I wanted it to be real time reflection, the things that I noticed while I was home. I really appreciate you joining me.

I appreciate you listening to my updates, hearing my stories and sharing in my reflections. I haven’t gotten to digest this with anybody yet, only with you. So this is my first time really talking through every point and really thinking about it out loud. So thank you for joining me. I really appreciate you being here. I appreciate you coming back week after week. If this was interesting to you, please share the podcast with a friend. You sharing makes all the difference for me. It really is a huge support in helping grow the podcast, which is one of my top goals this year and actually over the next twelve to 18 months is really focusing on the podcast. So thank you for your time and energy. Thank you for being on this fun podcast. Journey with me, and I will be back with you before you know it.

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