Traveling gave us plenty of time to think about things at home. The prospect of another bathroom without toilet paper made me dream of the two ply ultra plush charmin that I’m always talking about, but there were plenty of other things we missed about home. Now that we’re home and on the other side of the coin, I can’t stop thinking about the things I miss about travel. Since this week celebrates our second RTW anniversary, here’s looking back at the things we miss, past and present.
Things We Missed about Home
In all its forms, we missed diversity. Of ideas, of cuisines and of people. Although Mexican food in Mexico is delicious, we missed the variety of cuisine on offer in Washington, D.C. Somewhere around week 3 we broke, went running for hummus and falafel when we found it. We also missed the diversity of people, idea and cultures. We were surprised how homogeneous much of the world is.
Say what you want about the traffic jams and potholes, but trust me, we have a darn good system of infrastructure here. We sat on a parked bus in Argentina all night long waiting for some road work to allow traffic to pass. The backups in China were epic and I’m fairly certain we walked faster than any tuk-tuk in Bangkok. Oh yea and remember the Marsabit to Moyale road? Enough said.
Western Junk Food
Whenever we found western junk food we hit it hard and honestly I have no idea why. We don’t really eat this stuff at home, but I guess it was a form of homesickness. I think I stopped in every Thai 7-11 I passed for a coke slurpee. I hit the oreos pretty hard on bus rides in China, especially after I discovered the half peanut butter half chocolate ones. Let’s not forget the damage we did in Kuala Lumpur. We went through a box of Cheerios, a bag of doritos, a bag of real Pennsylvania sourdough hard pretzels and a jar of peanut butter in a few hours. We felt sick and yet it was delicious.
We mostly used the Steri-Pen to purify tap water, but I missed not being able to get cold, fresh and decently tasting water from the tap. Sure it only took 90 seconds to clean, but that never removed the nasty taste or discoloration we sometimes encountered. Or the fish we caught in our water bottle while hiking in Peru.
I’m the opposite of a fashionista, but I missed my clothes. I take that back, I missed the option of having clothes. I usually carried three bottoms with me- my ubiquitous black workout pants, my zippy pants and my long black skirt. The zippy pants were pretty much inappropriate outside of Africa or on the trail, and while I had a 4 tops, almost all were in shades of blue and it never felt like I had options. Sometimes I missed having a closet. Mostly though, I missed my jeans and hoodies.
I hated having to play “angry (insert euphemism for white person here) woman” in order to get someone to do what they said they would. I hated having to ask for clarification 1000 times before we paid for a trip, tour or excursion so that we wouldn’t get screwed. Basically, I hated having to doubt people’s word.
What we now miss
Third World Convenience
I knew I would miss this right away. Although it took some getting used to, I miss the regular appearance of street food on transportation and it’s friend the cold soda. Heading up the metro escalator in DC the other day, it was pouring buckets of rain and we were without an umbrella. I told Danny we’d buy an umbrella from the vendor at the top. Unfortunately there wasn’t anyone. Had this been Latin America, there’d be three guys selling ponchos and umbrellas. I miss those guys.
These were usually annoying on the road, but now I miss them. Surprise! This bus only goes halfway to your destination. Surprise! Today is a very important national holiday that we forgot to mention. Surprise! The border is closed today. Surprise! The man sitting across from me at the medical clinic in Addis Abbaba lives in DC. Surprise! Thai food in Thailand is actually as good as you imagine. Yes, they could be annoying, but it kept things interesting and I miss those instances where there was nothing to do but to laugh and be flexible.
I miss being able to pick up and move across a country whenever we felt like it. I miss the freedom to go wherever whenever I wanted. Sure, I can still do that now, but it’s much more expensive, which brings me to my next point.
It’s hard not to feel this way in developing countries where you can buy whatever you want whenever you want despite a tight budget. It was really nice to travel when we didn’t have to worry about the budget and could order whatever we wanted off a menu. Sounds awful, but it was nice to feel rich.
What I miss most about traveling is the people. I miss their hospitality, curiosity and genuine friendship. I miss their offers to help us whether we wanted it or not, and their kindness. The world is an amazing place and we were overwhelmed by the generosity we were shown. I miss the way a train conversation would morph into a discussion spanning the entire car about our predicament or how passing peanuts to the back of a shared taxi elicited a joke that made every passenger burst into laughter. I miss meeting these incredible people.