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:
- 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.
- Bathtubs – what would we give to sink into a hot bubble bath? First born child and one million dollars both come to mind here.
- Whole wheat bread – real, healthy whole wheat bread, freshly baked and begging for some delicious cheese.
- 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.
- 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.
- Chocolate – not so much Snickers or M&Ms, but delicious, rich chocolate like Cadbury or Ritter Sport.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Are you currently traveling and miss things from back home? Let’s commiserate! Feel free to add to our list in the comments below.