Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk

02.May 2010

Travel

These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I like’s a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me

We’ve been away now for almost a year. A year without the comforts of home,  familiar culture, food and routine. We’ll be back in Canada in less than a week and as much as we’re looking back reminiscing about all the fabulous times we’ve had we’re also looking forward to some of the things we have missed.

Here are some of our cravings, in no particular order because at any time any one of these could be the thing that is missed most:

In The Kitchen, Santiago Food. We have, for the most part, lived without ‘western’ food for the entire time we’ve been away. Mainly because we have wanted to enjoy the cuisine of the countries we have been visiting, but also because non-western countries don’t do western food all that well (unless there is a sizable expat community). 

We have also missed cooking. At home we both cook and enjoy trying new things. This isn’t possible on the road (outside of the couple of times we’ve rented apartments) and it’s amazing how much we miss cooking, and eating, even the most basic of dishes. The thought of having a kitchen again, and being able to have something as simple as a cup of tea and some toast fills us with joy at this point…I know, it’s the simple things.

In a great stroke of good planning, we are visiting both of our families before we head back to Victoria and so will have the chance to enjoy each of our mothers home cooking.  J’s mom is of German heritage and there we will enjoy fabulous schnitzel and rouladin, along with some great breads and cheeses. My family hails from jolly olde England and mum makes the best roast beef and yorkshire puddings in the world (I can say that now ‘cause I’ve been ‘round the world), plus her pancakes aren’t too bad either! Do you sense some buttering up and hinting going on? ;-)

Ready For Bed, Poon Hill Trek Sleep. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for more than 2 or 3 nights in a row!  I’ve actually done better than I thought I would – I was worried I’d be plagued with insomnia caused by uncomfortable beds, or weird night smells, or (heaven-forbid) bedbugs etc. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought, although there always seems to be a barking dog  and a crowing rooster wherever we are – I  will not miss that at all. The beds haven’t been too bad although I did abandon my take-a-picture-of-every-bed project about half way through – the pictures (and most of the beds) were too bleak to even think about looking at ever again and I’m sure my family and friends looked at some of them in horror.

Carving Workshop, Bangkok-2 Furniture. I have discovered that  the concept of comfortable furniture is lost upon most of the world. Either through necessity, or culture, or climate, or availability of materials, most of the world lives close to the ground or on hard, non-cushioned, furniture. Finding an easy chair or sofa to laze upon has been impossible and my European-soft bones and Canadian comfort ideals have not adjusted to how many people around the world lounge. Although I have great plans on what to do with my time once we get home I have a feeling it will be hard to get my ass out from within the deep folds of our sofa to get anything done.

Along The Ancient Walkway Clothing. Okay, I commented a few months ago about  how freeing it was to be traveling with such a limited wardrobe and how I really didn’t mind wearing the same clothes over and over and over again, but I think it’s reaching it’s limit. Not  only am I seriously tired of the same look day after day but the clothes are beyond worn now – my pants and what-I-call-shorts are faded beyond recognizing their original color and both now have wear holes in the bum region. My one favorite blue t-shirt was faded, holy and so stretched out of shape that I had it remade (in both blue and green) while we were in Vietnam…but they still look exactly like the original and so I am already tired of them. I am looking forward to my old clothes, and some new ones too…something fashionable and stylish, or at least not grey pants and a blue t-shirt.

Street Restaurant, Hanoi Clean. Our tolerance for cleanliness has reached a new low during this year – both our personal cleanliness and that what which we will live in. For the first 2/3 of our trip most of the rooms we stayed in were dingy and uninspired (Asia’s truly cheap prices have allowed us to afford better) and, although we have not slept on any truly dirty sheets, many beds have had graying bedding and slightly smelly pillows. Many of the ‘restaurants’ we have eaten in would definitely not pass health code at home and sometimes I wonder how we have not been sick (J did get Salmonella once early on in the trip but that was because we broke our own lax rules…raw egg white in a Pisco Sour in Peru..just plain silly!).

I will not miss the garbage that piles up everywhere we have been and, although pollution has not affected our health as it does some people, I think we will bend down and kiss the clean green grass once we land in Vancouver and smell the ocean scented breeze.

Northern Turkey Bathroom. Bathroom luxury has, in recent years, been taken to new levels in North America…suffice it to say that this is not the case in the rest of the world. Squat toilets are the norm in many places, and I hate them. There is argument that they are cleaner and more hygienic than western toilets, but I don’t believe it. I am hardly ever able to ‘do my business’ while I worry about where all my clothing is, wonder if items are going to fall out of my pocket, and try not to pee on my feet. And I am unable, completely unable, to do #2 on a squat…my record is 5 days on the Inca Trail without pooing – we ate 4 times a day on that hike and not one ounce left my body…it was impossible! But, on the first day back in town? Five #2’s in one day…TMI, I know…but there it is. I will be happy at home if the toilet is not a squat and if it’s actually attached to the floor (TMI already, so I won’t explain that one) – toilet paper, doors and clean floors are all luxuries.

Our desire to shower is mitigated by at least three factors…how badly do we smell, how clean is the shower, and what are the towels like. This doesn’t take into consideration whether there is any hot water or whether we have any reasonably clean clothes to put on afterwards. A room with a great shower is worth any price and will find us showering 2 or 3 times in a day just for the sheer joy of it.

Routine. I know it seems weird but I miss the routine of my every day life. Traveling has its own routine but I always feel just a little out-of-sorts. I’m looking forward to having my own home again, working in the garden, going to bootcamp, shopping at the plaza, riding my bike and yes…even going to work. I’m sure it won’t last long and soon the wanderlust will return but right now I’m looking over that fence and seeing the green, green grass of home.

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17 Responses to “Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk”

  1. Keith Says:

    It has been great following you guys for the last 7 months. Since you are about 3-4 months ahead of Amy and I, we get a sneak peak at what a RTW trip is like. I agree with your clothing section. While I have been on a quest for the pefect travel pants for this trip (and I may have found them with pair number 5 – Columbia brand from Hong Kong) I am really looking forward to not just differant clothes, but a washer and dryer so I don’t have to smell my clothes to judge wheter they are Ok to wear another day. Safe travels home and keep up the posting about your return and what it is like getting back into the swing of a normal routine.

  2. Anil Says:

    Can’t believe Canada is a week away!

  3. Jeremy Says:

    I’ve already got my return planned and I haven’t left home yet.

    1) My girlfriend – I’m going to miss her a lot, but she’s coming to visit a few times.
    2) Chipotle – My food addiction. I get it the moment I get back into the country every time.
    3) Shower for an hour – I’m not leaving it.
    4) A real bed – Sleeping for 3 days straight.

    Yup! Great list and funny commenting!

  4. Asa Says:

    Great post! I always look forward to seeing what you have to say. Good summary of the mixed feelings of going home. (Well, actually it sounds like you’re rather looking forward to going back). We’re already feeling the pull of home and we have over five weeks left so can’t imagine what it will be like with just one week left.

  5. michelle Says:

    this is one of the posts where I have actually laughed out loud. holy crap (?!) that was funny. landing in vancouver is probably second only to landing in hawai’i, the moist ocean air is so amazing and fresh smelling. (maui tops it, with the smell of plumeria wafting through that same freshness).

    we can’t wait to see you. we’ll make a special trip to the island to visit. or if you’re in vancouver and want to stay for a bit, you’re welcome to stay at our house and drive our minivan around to see the vestiges of the olympics – higher taxes and a new in-the-air subway.

    bet you can’t wait…

  6. Mom and Dad Duffy Says:

    Will there be an order of Rice Pudding with the Roast Beef and Yorkshires. Mom xxx

    • Gillian Says:

      @Mom: well I’ve eaten a lot of rice in the last year…but rice pudding…oh all right!! Can’t wait!

  7. Paula Says:

    Wow you make me laugh out loud!!! Can wait to see you. Enjoy your journey home!

  8. Anon Says:

    So funny – I didn’t poo on the Inca Trail either!!!! Went twice in that bathroom just outside the entrance to MP by the cafe. That part of your post made me laugh :-)

  9. paul Says:

    This is a wonderful summary of what a lot of us are going through. Christine and I have been traveling for over nine months now, with five more to go, and you have touched on many points that we think about daily.

    I’ve been following your site since before you left BC – we’re from Seattle – and I’m looking forward to learning how you re-adapt to civilization.

    Take care

    Paul of BertandPatty

  10. Akila Says:

    Wow, I can’t believe your trip is almost over. Crazy! Hope you guys settle back in nicely —- next, you’ll have to do a post on things you miss about the road.

  11. christine Says:

    Love this post…I can identify with each and every point….paul and i just hit our 9 month mark and i think we are getting our second wind….it seems like the next 5 months are going to wiz by…..well, i have to say, where you are going (victoria) is a lovely place so i bet you won’t have too much trouble getting back into the swing of things….hope you write more about your transition back home.

  12. Amy Says:

    We are only one month in and I already identify with all of your points! Enjoy going home!

  13. Eva & Jeremy Rees Says:

    Clothing and Bathrooms were high on our “miss-list,” along with a place or space that’s just familiar — a place where you walk in and instantly feel comfortable. It was great being on the road, but we both really missed those special “me” spaces.

  14. Ann Marie Says:

    If you guys are in Belleville give me a call maybe we can link up

  15. Jodi Says:

    Nice post. We felt the same. Just be forwarned, as wonderful as it is to be back – there is some major reverse culture shock in your future. You’ve undoubtedly changed and meshing that with your past and who you want to be while figuring out what you want to do next is a little overwhelming! We wish you all the best, and I look fwd to continued reading.

  16. Joel Tillman Says:

    Oh god, I know what the bathroom “movable” toilets are like. We had them in South Korea and without giving away too much “TMI” lets just say that they do not stay put well on slippery floors.

    Did you ever see the bins for the “recycling” toilet paper?