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Since we began traveling in April 2010, every single day has meant trying something for the first time or meeting someone new. We have had so many new experiences; it has been easy to overlook any cravings for things from ‘home’.  However, seeing our friends and family on Twitter and Facebook bragging about their delicious holiday meals or cool new gadgets got us thinking recently about things we miss about Europe and the United States. So we made a list of the things we miss from home:

  1. Hot Showers – the kind that has water pressure and stays hot for as long as we need at the temperature we choose without somehow ending up standing under cold water with shampoo in our hair.
  2. Bathtubs – what would we give to sink into a hot bubble bath? First born child and one million dollars both come to mind here.
  3. Whole wheat bread – real, healthy whole wheat bread, freshly baked and begging for some delicious cheese.

    Bread selection at Borough Market in London
  4. Oh, Cheese, how we miss you – Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, Stilton, herb or veggie cream cheese, Cheddar, Swiss or Provolone, we want anything but the chalky white mystery lumps or plastic-wrapped ‘American’ cheese slices available in Central America.
  5. Tap water – We shudder to think about how many environmentally-unfriendly bottles of water we have drunk since arriving in Mexico nearly six months ago, and would love to fill up a glass with good old fashioned tap water without worrying about getting amoebas, or parasites, or Montezuma’s revenge.
  6. Chocolate – not so much Snickers or M&Ms, but delicious, rich chocolate like Cadbury or Ritter Sport.
  7. Coffee Refills – Good coffee is hard enough to come by here, but finding a place with free refills is like hunting an urban legend. We have found exactly two such places since the end of our U.S. road trip in July 2010.

    Jess and the biggest coffee ever, Las Vegas Diner
  8. Flushing toilet paper – For those readers out there who have not traveled in developing countries, we should point out that throwing toilet paper in the garbage rather than the toilet is not as disgusting as you might think, and in your own hotel bathroom, it is not stinky in the least. However, we have both seen enough of other people’s shit to last us a lifetime, thanks to public bathrooms and shared hostel toilets where far too many people feel free to throw their stained toilet paper face-up, unwrapped for all the world to see.
  9. Culture – Sure, we are immersed in foreign cultures and learning about past cultures by visiting countless Mayan ruins, but we’ve seen enough natural history and anthropology museums to hold us for months. We miss contemporary art galleries, intelligent street graffiti and theater, both plays and musicals. In countries that have spent decades fighting and surviving merciless oppression, we hoped we would see artistic expression synthesizing these events. We have not seen real contemporary art since Mexico in August, and not a decent play or musical since leaving London.
  10. Salad – Tomatoes, Peppers, Olives, and loads of green leafy stuff, salads are a no-go anywhere down here except for foreigner-friendly spots who follow through on their promise to wash the veggies in purified water. Even then you can’t be sure you’ll walk away without any new life in your stomach.
  11. Doing our own laundry – While it’s great that the ‘lavanderias’ will wash, dry and iron all your clothes for $2.50 a pop, we can’t be sure how often the clothes are washed in actual hot water, and we have a distinct feeling that the detergent is watered down quite a bit. When I’m wearing the same pair of pants 3-5 days a week, I want them practically boiled with loads of thick, all-germ-killing detergent.
  12. Silence –Mega-thin walls, ever present early morning firework explosions and booming music everywhere from bakeries and pet shops to pharmacies, means finding a few minutes of pure silence is a luxury we miss.
  13. Apfelschorle – If you know what this drink is, then you know why we miss it. If you don’t know it, click here. Our most favorite drink in Europe, this is an apple juice spritzer, or apple juice mixed with sparkling water. When we want bubbles, we are limited to a range of Coca Cola products and now that we’ve sworn off Diet Coke, Apfelschorle sure would come in handy.
  14. Multitasking on public transport – we’re so busy either holding on for dear life or holding down our food during the crazy bus rides, there is no time to read a book or newspaper as we so often did in trains and on the tube.

    Chicken buses in Guatemala
  15. Books we would actually choose to read – book exchanges on the road are a great way to keep backpacks light and backpackers entertained, but you are often stuck to other people’s tastes. We’ve sped-read through a lot of contemporary murder mystery paperbacks, a genre  neither of us particularly prefer.
  16. Veggie Sushi – it’s fresh, light, healthy and cheap, and in London we eat veggie sushi by the pound from Wasabi, London’s most popular sushi chain. At the few places we have come across on our travels, there is no vegetarian sushi option.
  17. Sidewalks – Strolling side-by-side down wide, flat sidewalks is a thing of the past. In Central America, you’re lucky to have a narrow side of the road you can safely walk on, and these obstacle courses require constant vigilance to climb up and down steps and around holes.

    Sidewalk in Santa Rosa, Honduras
  18. Breasts in Bras – Do not get the wrong idea, the women of Central America have not all burned their bras. They wear them, alright. But breastfeeding in public is so common that if you stand in the middle of a town square, close your eyes, spin around ten times and then point, odds are pretty good that when you open your eyes, you’ll be pointing at a baby attached to the nipple of a lady’s exposed breast.
  19. Buying clothes that fit – Clothes, especially jeans, are made to fit the stereotypical Selma Hayek Latin beauty – big hips, small waist, and nothing over a size medium. There’s no Old Navy or H&M with ten different cuts and long and short lengths. Here its a few sizes fit all, no matter how much belly spills out over the top.
  20. Our Own Kitchen – not just any kitchen will do. We miss our own. Most hostel kitchens are gross and full of germs, plus no one can convince me that washing dishes in cold water, regardless of with how much soap, can really get the germs off the shared plates. Even in the nicest vacation rental apartment, there are never enough pots or pans, often no oven and no microwave, and since no one travels with a full spice rack in their luggage, we are often stuck with the one or two basic spices we buy, limited to bland food you can cook on a stove top. We miss loads of utensils, Indian, Mexican and Italian spices, using four burners and having a full oven for baking cookies.

    One of the nicer hostel kitchens: La Candelaria in Valladolid, Mexico

Are you currently traveling and miss things from back home? Let’s commiserate! Feel free to add to our list in the comments below.

Tags : things we missTravel Reflectionstravel thoughts

39 Comments

  1. I could not agree more with this list. Until you said so, I didn’t realize how much I miss doing my own laundry WELL! (Luckily, I’m back to Bangkok in 2 days and I trust my laundry lady there.)

    And yes, books. I’m a big fan of contemporary memoirs. Just finished Drink and Waiter Rant, now on Kitchen Confidential. But the book selection is so random — couldn’t believe how many heavy philosophy books there were in Sihanoukville. Who wants to read those on a party beach?!

    One more to add: my mom’s Italian cooking.
    Adventurous Kate recently posted..Trouble at the Laos-Cambodia Border

    1. @Adventurous Kate Maybe everyone was ditching their heavy philosophy books and focusing on partying? 🙂 We didn’t say this specifically in the post, but Italian food – real Italian food, is definitely missed. It is amazing how ‘wrong’ people can prepare even something as simple as spaghetti in Central America. Definitely understand you on your need for your mom’s Italian cooking fix!

    1. @Ayngelina You bring good news from down south! We are both in need of some new clothes!!! Now we are really looking forward to Panama City even more. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the apfelschorle link. Pretty funny list, though I can feel the honesty in each one.

    The books one is what usually gets me weight-wise when traveling. I have tastes in books that run toward fantasy, and I read a lot. Those almost generic modern mysteries seem to crop up in every book swap I’ve ever seen. I have read one or two that are ok, but not my thing.

    Greece had some pretty nasty sidewalks in places too. Do they not have apple juice that is safe to drink? Could you make schorle or is the fizzy water missing?
    Andrew recently posted..Authentic vs Traditional

    1. @Andrew In Mexico, we were lucky enough to find ‘Lift’ which was like Apfelschorle, but without any healthy benefits, since it was basically like Fanta. Apple juice is not that common here in restaurants, though sparkling water is easy to come by. We once paid US $3 for an apple juice plus a sparkling water to make two Apfelschorle drinks, but that would be an expensive habit to do all the time. Instead, we have it sporadically and patiently yearn until we visit Europe again!

    1. @Frank If only we could invent the teleporter machine – what a great idea, and it’s exactly how we feel. We love our adventure, wouldn’t give it up for anything, but just a day or so back home would be such a relief sometimes. But, yeah, no pity party here, our ‘problems’ are minuscule compared to the benefits of long-term travel. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Haha! I agree with so many of these. Even though we are renting an apartment at the moment so we have a good hot shower, comfy bed with lots of pillows (we missed plump pillows!) and a kitchen, we still miss many of those things. I REALLY wanted an oven to make cookies and a roast Christmas dinner but we couldn’t find an apartment with one. Note: microwave brownies don’t work!

    And cheese and good bread! We can get a range of cheese here in Colombia but it is so expensive.

    Books are a big problem too, hopefully resolved with the Kindle we have on the way.

    That said, I wouldn’t go back to the UK for any of these things. But maybe a few months in San Francisco later in 2011!
    Erin recently posted..Christmas in Medellin

    1. We are so jealous – a nice apartment AND a Kindle on the way! We weren’t sure how we felt about reading on a screen the entire time, but now that we are traveling it makes perfect sense! We can’t wait to take a travel break in an apartment again, we are just not sure where yet… And we totally agree – there might be things that we miss, but we wouldn’t go back for any of them 🙂

    1. Noooooo, we are not jealous at all!! 😉 A salad with some blue cheese would be actually really good right now! But we’ll have yummy Honduran baleadas for dinner, so what are we complaining about 😉

  4. Nearly four years after leaving home I have finally surrendered to washing the dishes with cold water.
    With a one-year-old crashing around the kitchen, carrying hot water from the stove to the sink just isn’t an option anymore.
    Even though we are in a very civilized part of Asia, books, clothes and the right size bras are still difficult to source in Singapore. But I’ve found a supermarket that sells sugar-free museli and Promite (it’s better than Vegemite, if you’ve never heard of it). We are living in luxury indeed.
    eat-laugh-love-anon recently posted..Run Roti Run

    1. That’s not bad at all!! I think the longer you live in a place, the more of the ‘hidden gems’ you find… Every time we find some decent chocolate or whole wheat bread we get excited like little kids… having lived abroad for years, we are both used to not having any goodies from ‘back home’ but after 6 months in Central America we realize that living in Europe, we still had so many of the things we like!

  5. Can definitely agree with you… while working abroad in the US for 14 months I missed high pressure showers, tap water that tasted liked bottled water and not chlorine, cadbury chocolate and bread that didn’t taste like sugar!!!

    Great post guys!
    Lynda recently posted..Free Your International Calls

    1. Exactly – only white bread and tortillas… if white bread at all! We have been to quite a few places where they only had sweet bread, which is even worse… But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to miss some of the tortilla dishes we found here, such as Baleadas or Huevos Motulenos, or El Salvadorian pupusas 🙂

    1. From time to time we DO enjoy cheesy murder stories, but if it’s the only thing you get to read for months, then it gets a bit boring… We actually found some decent books that are NOT crime stories in Honduras, where we are at the moment, and the shower’s staying hot, too 🙂

  6. Oh, cheese!!! There is a Swiss-Kyrgyz cheese factory in Kyrgyzstan that makes two acceptable chesses (in price and taste), and supposedly those are the two types that only the Swiss side is allowed to control. Otherwise, the rare wedge of blue cheese shows up in supermarkets for about $20 (totally worth it for a one-time indulgence).

    Otherwise, I’m surprised at how much Bishkek actually has. Great whole wheat bread at the markets. My apartment has a huge tub and since heating is controlled by the state (thank you USSR), the water is scalding hot starting in November (and lasting until April, I think). And the typical “greek” salad is on every restaurant menu; lettuce, tomatoes, olives, soft cheese and sometimes peppers. I guess I can’t vouch for how clean the veggies are, but I seem to be doing okay.

    UGH! Clothes that fit! I’m 5’8″ and the average Kyrgyz girl is maybe 5’2″ and half my width, shopping is just impossible.

    Great list, I’m so nostalgic for home now!
    Kirstin recently posted..Christmas

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kirstin, it’s nice to hear that other travelers and expats feel the same way! Sometimes it’s just good to have something familiar, but we tend to crave especially the things that we cannot have, I think 😉 The cheeses in Kyrgyzstan seem to be better than the ones in Central America, and we are jealous of the whole wheat bread you get to enjoy!!

  7. The breastfeeding comment kinda bothered me. I know you’re likely not used to it, but really the “modern world” is the only one with issues regarding this. Babies gotta eat too!

    1. Hi Rawiya, you’re right, babies do gotta eat :-), and I am sure we are more sensitive to it since we are both from places where public breastfeeding isn’t the cultural norm. We didn’t mean to offend, it has just felt like recently, especially in the less ‘travelled’ areas we have been in, there has been an overwhelming number of women breastfeeding everywhere -in public places, on buses, in markets. For whatever reason, it’s a cultural difference that takes a long time to get used to. Thanks for pointing that out, and thanks also for stopping by!

    1. Hi Aaron – okay, admittedly, we love getting laundry back washed, dried, and ironed down nice and flat for less than a fiver. Lately we’re just wondering how much detergent has been used. Hilarious what you say about open sewer ducts too. I am still traumatized because Dani once came less than an inch from falling in to an open sewer duct in Mexico that looked deeper than Alice’s Rabbit hole, and visions of this flashed before my eyes before I called out for her to be careful. We look down a LOT more since this happened. Still wouldn’t trade it for life in a cubicle 🙂

  8. Great list and I totally relate to it, having also traveled through various sections of Latin America. As cool as it is there, the lack of good bread and bathtubs, the toilet paper thing and not being able to have salad can wear on you over time.

    The chicken buses are crazy and so are the mini buses. Sometimes they cram people in them like sardines. Once, I rode in a jam-packed van in which a newborn baby’s head was hitting the roof repeatedly. It was beyond loco! 🙂
    Lisa E @chickybus recently posted..2010- A Wild Ride on a Flowing River

  9. I agree with so many of these… but the biggest for me is food! I love the Thai food, but really craving good old English food 0 like Cornish Pastys, Sausage rolls, pork pies! (ok maybe I’m just craving pastry!)

  10. Haha, it’s funny because I’m an expat in Korea and most of the things I missed when I first moved here I’ve gotten used to being without, but now that I read your list, I remember them. Oh, hot showers and luxurious baths! Toilets that flush properly! Good coffee, bread, and cheese! And last but not least, having clothes come in more than one size! That one was the funniest, to me — because I’d seriously forgotten that clothing comes in more than one size.
    Odysseus recently posted..Our Wall Is Greater Than Yours

    1. Hi Rebecca – exactly right with the books. The thing is, we’ve read books we wouldn’t otherwise have read, which has been an eye-opener as well (we’ll get a list up someday soon of the books we’ve read on the road) but actually picking out books we definitely want to read will be great when we get back to either the U.S. or Europe. Thanks for stopping by – love your site’s name – 88 miles per hour! 🙂

    1. We’re off to Asia next week and I guess I should eat as much cheese as possible before we go, because I don’t think the cheese in Asia will do much for us 😉

  11. I see this is a bit old, but I think I could share a few tidbits in case anyone new spends time reading comments. I’m nicaraguan and I’ve taken cold showers my whole life, admitedly there are times when warm water would be welcome, I must say I hate scorching showers, I nearly burn myself while in Norway, while I was there I always ended turning the temp almost to a refreshing one, I guess it has to do with the way one grows-up.

    About the books I would definitely recommend a kindle, I love mine and it has proven its awesomeness while on the go, cause whenever I get tired of a book or genre, I swtich to a different book and that’s it!

    There are some decent bakeries in Managua, and a wiiiide selection of cheeses and fancy european/american stuff, although I must say they’re pricey, but you can give yourself the luxury of camembert, pecorino,fetta et al.

    As for the coffee, certainly there’s good coffee here (after all we’re exporters) but it’s hard to come by it, unless you’re willing to pay for each cup at expensive places such as “casa del cafe” or “el coche cafe” in Managua (can’t speak for other cities) I would recommend going to the supermarket and buying the actual coffee, you can get awesome gourmet coffee (grounded or not) for 10-15 dollars, then all you need is a coffee maker.

    Hope this is useful for anyone coming to Nicaragua!

    1. Wow Xochiti, thank you so much for all of these useful tips! Since writing this post we have both gotten Kindles and could not agree more with how amazing they are to have!

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