Travel is great, but there is no place like home. I’ve spent the last week in London at a conference hosted by the Legatum Institute and organized by a group of think tanks based in South Africa, India and Brazil. There was enough time for some long and leisurely walks through London, down along the Thames almost to the City and across Hyde Park in the other direction out to Kensington Palace. We had plenty of time to enjoy the British food — much improved from the days of my youth when every family kept a cauldron of Brussels sprouts on the boil from October through May, and served them up every day with hearty helpings of traditionally prepared delicacies like blood pudding and toad in the hole.As David Cameron prepares for his trip to Washington this month, I suggest that British journalists and politicians bone up on the ‘special relationship’ with Richard Aldous’ Reagan and Thatcher. The official pub date is March 19, but Amazon seems to be jumping the gun. There’s a lot there for both Brits and Yanks to think about; even at its best this is, as Aldous notes, often a difficult relationship.Coming back to JFK I was reminded of the complaints that so many people make about the comparatively junky and faded infrastructure in America compared to, say, China. It’s certainly true that disembarking in Shanghai or Beijing is more impressive; the tunnels and alleyways through which arriving passengers travel to the arrival hall in JFK are seedy and grim, and the Van Wyck Expressway is hardly a triumph of 21st century engineering. The potholes of New York are happy to welcome you back.But America in general and New York in particular have never been that eager to impress travelers. The first time I returned from the UK to New York was back in 1964; we disembarked from the Queen Elizabeth at the docks in midtown Manhattan; the traffic thundering overhead on the West Side Highway and the gloomy underpass with its assortment of winos and bums that lay just beyond the customs point weren’t any more impressive than today’s ramshackle JFK.One of my teachers back at Pundit U used to tell the story of his visit to those docks to welcome a distinguished Swiss theologian visiting the seminar where my professor studied for the ministry before, as he told us, he saw the darkness and went into history. The distinguished Swiss thinker emerged from the customs and immigration zone and my professor, then in his early twenties, went up to greet him. He was taking him to a taxi stand when the theologian saw a wino passed out, lying against one of the metal supports of the elevated highway.Shocked, the European intellectual rushed forward, bent over the wino, and, like a good Protestant theologian ready to be a Good Samaritan, started asking in Swiss-accented English, “My good man, what is wrong? How can I help you?”My professor, horrified, pulled the theologian back from the dirty, vomit and urine soaked wino and blurted out the first words that came to his mind: “Herr Doctor,” he said, “We don’t do that in this country.”He said he had never seen such a look of disgust and dismay on the face of another human being; the drive to the seminary was silent and long.The only point here is that cheap infrastructure and a lack of desire to impress foreigners with shiny arrival zones isn’t some sudden manifestation of American decline. It’s the way we’ve done things for some time; from the time of Charles Dickens and Frances Trollope, Americans have specialized in crowded, confusing and cheap ports of entry. What that says about us, I’m not sure; but as always, much as I love traveling the world and meeting new people, it always feels good to come home.