By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 10, 2009 at 3:19 PM

I just got home from a long weekend in Mexico City, an unusual but thrilling place for a friend's destination wedding. I'll publish my complete travel article next Tuesday, but for now I'll just say this: for all of its shortcomings, Milwaukee (and America, in general) is a quiet, clean and orderly place to live.

Sometimes, though, you've gotta get away to realize it.

I've lived in cities larger than Milwaukee, so I already know that I'm in no position to complain about traffic and air cleanliness. But the smog in a metroplis like Mexico City makes Los Angeles feel like La Crosse. Its traffic makes New York feel like New Berlin. And the sound, the volume and the incessant honking makes O'Hare feel like Eau Claire.

Honestly, hats off to Mexico City for finding a way to make it all work. The metro area is home to an astounding 19 million people packed so densely that from the city's tallest skyscraper, you can see nothing but buildings for miles and miles. Within the city's center, it's a bit more manageable, but organ grinders incessantly blare out-of-tune melodies, while the mostly clean streets emit a distinctive odor as swerving taxis narrowly avoid hitting pedestrians brazenly ignoring crossing guards.

Back in Milwaukee, it feels silent. The tap water is safe to drink. The city seemingly has no smell at all.

For what we lack in zest and joie de vivre, America basks in relative tranquility, convenience and diversity. It should be mentioned that Mexico City, for its poverty, is also full of wealthy citizens. But as an overall population, I can't help but think how blessed we are to live in the most privileged first-world country in the world. And within that, Milwaukee is a pretty nice place, too.

I love traveling to Mexico each and every time, but Mexico City is one place that I was ready to leave. My brief case of food poisoning aside, its hustle and bustle overwhelmed me all too quickly. Whereas Milwaukee uses its "inside voice," Mexico City screams its success and its stumbling blocks at the top of its lungs.

I'll share many more details of this eye-opening trip next week.

Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.