We’ve been at this for well over 800 days. It would be completely normal to miss some things during my travels, especially after more than 2 years of being on the road continuously. What I tend to miss, though, are not things from “home,” but from the places that have left their mark on us.
No offense to Aussies or Kiwis, but the land down under lacks a lot of diversity in its culture. It’s a lot more noticeable after we’ve spent the last 2+ years in countries very different from our own. While I grew to really enjoy Australia after the initial culture shock wore off, one of the things that has remained with me is how much I miss my nice little foreigner bubble. In countries where I don’t speak the language, there is a sense of peace. I can’t understand the tens of conversations going on around me. I hadn’t realized how much more peaceful that was. Now my ears and brain pick up every stray conversation, and I have to work to block them.
I miss the unique smells and dress, that general feeling that you’re somewhere different and exotic.
And I miss the energy and life of so many other places. Kiwis in particular are incredibly sedate. I still marvel at the woman running along the beach park calmly yelling to fellow beach-goers “Can you please pick up your dog?” as if she was saying “Excuse me, you dropped something” right before her dog attacked a smaller one. After the second attack, they were finally able to keep their canines separated, and there was an unbelievably calm conversation between the adults. Their teenage daughter was the only one who showed any serious emotion when she discovered the trembling pet in her arms was bleeding.
Moroccans are some of the most laidback people I’ve ever met, except when they drive, and yet they would’ve showed much more excitement in this situation. The people on the nearby grass wouldn’t have stayed seated watching from afar. There would’ve been a crowd of people coming to help.
I wasn’t expecting a knock-down fight, but I certainly anticipated some emotion at least.
I also miss speaking Spanish and butchering the French language. Although my French was improving quite a bit by the time we left Morocco and France.
I miss all the lovely street food. It’s so much fun to go to a stall or restaurant and have absolutely no clue what a dish is. Usually asking someone doesn’t help demystify it since they often don’t speak enough English to really explain it. It’s rare that I can get beyond the basic knowledge that it’s chicken, fish, or pork. Southeast Asia in particular was a food heaven for me. So much diversity in the food, so many flavors, and so many surprises. It adds so much to the total experience, and finding street food is one of the things that we both love doing together.
Now, I do occasionally miss my bagels, and for some reason I also developed a major craving for Red Vines (red licorice). It’s kind of funny to hear my son say, “I could really go for a New York-style bagel. We should go back to Bangkok.”
I miss real Indian and Thai food. Not the stuff that’s made for the blander palate, but the cuisine that is made for Thai and Indian people. Things I can easily find in southeast Asia.
And it’s so darn cheap!
I think the place I’ve lived the most simply was on the oasis in Morocco. Tighmert left an indelible mark on me. I greatly miss that simple life. While it was sometimes a bit of a drag to make the trek into town to restock our pantry and refrigerator, I loved interacting with the locals. It was so wonderful to be warmly greeted by our favored vendors. Having our poulterer inquire after Tigger on the occasions he hadn’t joined me made me feel like I was part of the community. The owner of our chicken restaurant knew what we would order and which drinks we wanted. He would try out his very limited English on Steven, and he was always so incredibly patient with my attempts at speaking passable French.
I miss getting my twice weekly brief Arabic lesson from the bread vendor. I knew we had become recognizable when his competitors wouldn’t even bother trying to get us to go to their carts instead. They knew we were his.
It was something special waking up to the sounds of the neighbor’s donkey braying or the bleating of the goats as they were herded past our compound’s wall. I could hear the chickens clucking as I prepared my morning cup of coffee on the stove, the pot’s hissing and eventual spitting sounds letting me know when my brew was ready.
My travels make me feel more connected to the world, but along with it I feel like I end up leaving bits and pieces of my heart behind me as well. But it’s nice to have so many things about life to be in love with.
What do you tend to miss when you travel or return home?