I love a good personal reflection. It reminds me how hindsight is awesome and how I can make something better next time. Check out some realisations I had once we came home after a year of travelling.
5 Things I missed about home (but didn’t realise until I was home)
1. Towel roughness
Yes, this sounds weird but don’t knock it. I used the same travel towel all year (and yes, I washed it regularly!). I am definitely grateful for my towel; it was full-sized but could be folded down really, really small; it never smelled bad; and it dried quickly. It even doubled as a blanket, sun shade and bum padding when sitting on the ground. But it was smooth. You could even say it was creepy smooth, like a car chamois. Long ago, a dear friend of mine told me how rough towels were her favourite; as she felt an ‘added cleanliness after a nice hot shower’; the roughness on your skin was just a comfort. Seriously, I thought she was being a weirdo until I came home and used a regular towel. It was like heaven, in the form of a cotton drying implement.
2. Having your own power point (in fact, a whole house full of them).
Something you take for granted when travelling for a year. A lot of hostels are not equipped with enough wall power points, and some guests are not as considerate to think they should share with their fellow dorm buddies. We once stayed in a 24-bed dorm with only 5 power points. I’d like to think myself as being quite considerate, so instead of creating a confrontation about low battery, I would wake up at 04.00 and plug my phone in for 2-3 hours before everyone else would wake up. Let’s face it, backpackers rarely get up for 08.00.
This could also be said about having individual lights at your bed. All backpackers know the woes of having a single light shared by dorm buddies. Something I certainly don’t miss.
3. Being able to just chuck your stuff in the car and go!
For 12 months, we used so many types of transport carrying all of our worldly possessions on our backs. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. Every single minute. From planes to trains to ships to horses and donkeys. You name it, we used it. So, when it worked out cheaper and more effective to hire a car to do some roadtripping on the east coast of Australia, we grabbed the opportunity. And boy, was it a completely different experience! Even though, I have a decent backpack harness and good shoes, I think they were grateful when I wasn’t heaving my backpack around any more.
4. Not dragging my stuff to the laundromat
In Australia, it is pretty common to have a laundry room in your house with your very own washing machine. We are very fortunate to have this luxury. Naturally, you’d think people who live without electricity or a deserted island but in fact, most people in New York City live in apartments and have to frequent their local laundromats. Some even developing their transport inventions to lug their weekly loads.
Although, a laundromat is a good source of entertainment (people watching, cable tv, etc), Sometimes, we’d have to walk more than 30 minutes with a dodgy looking sack in our arms trying to find a laundromat (if there wasn’t one in our hostel). Not to mention the cost! In Europe, we were looking €10 per load! €10 that we could have spent on food and activities but then again, at least we always looked and smelled presentable.
5. More socks
My sock choice is part of my personality and fashion identity (and we all know how fashion forward I am!) I had 4 pairs of socks on our trip. Yes, only 4. All of which were black. (3 sports ankle socks and woolly hiking pair) You’d be surprised how much space they take up in your backpack. Remember how I said it’s a bit of a ‘sport’ to save money?! Well, Rob and I making saving space a sport also! When you’re travelling long-term, you put up with the fact that you only have 4 pairs of sock, and you make do. Now that I’m home, my personality can shine through again! In saying that, the 4 pairs of socks I did have, were well-chosen. I recommend 100% cotton or 100% wool for comfort, and moisture and fragrance containment (Read: sweat and stank).
5 Things I could continue to live without
1. A large living space.
What’s that saying, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”? It’s true. We’re all guilty of this. When you’re travelling backpacker-style, you don’t have the same luxury, as it will either get thrown out or claimed by someone else if you leave things unsupervised.
Rob says I build what he calls a nest. I’m a small person (meaning I don’t take up much room) which also means I can put belongings on my single bunk bed and still sleep comfortably being surrounded it. And not kick it off in the middle of the night. When you go home, you have a whole house with lots of rooms that you can fill with stuff. What stuff? Any stuff! As humans we tend to accumulate possessions, it’s normal. I don’t know if it’s because I adapted to not having very many belongings whilst we were travelling (you didn’t bring it with you, so just ‘go without’) or maybe I came to the realisation that I don’t NEED many things in life be happy. Whoa, bit deep. In fact, I did read a lot about minimalist living. And I’m trying to incorporate it into my mainstream life… Work in progress, when you remember all your creäture comforts that you didn’t have on the road.
2. Not cleaning bathrooms
On the road, you clean up yourself – you do your laundry, have showers and do your dishes, and that’s it. It also means employment for a local person. I definitely do not miss cleaning bathrooms and toilets for obvious reasons.
3. Having lots of clothing
My original clothing consisted of 4 tops, 1 hiking pants, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 1 set of thermal top and bottom, underwear, bathers, 1 fleece jumper and 1 duck-down puffer jacket. Oh and gloves, beanie, scarf, hat and headband. Is that a lot or little? (More than Rob anyway but I’ll write a detailed post soon!) To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually need more than this. Asides, perhaps, wearing something a bit more ‘professional’, like a dress or collared shirt for work. I survived. For two weeks or so after our return, I continued to wear my travel clothes. I have access to lots of clothes and too much choice (Yes, I actually uttered the words ‘I don’t have anything to wear!’ and yes, I am rolling my eyes at myself). Like I said, minimalism… still a work in progress…
4. Not paying for mobile (cell) phone costs
Mobile (cell) phones are a part of every day, mainstream life. Communication, education and entertainment are important to the human experience, and like most people, my mobile phone is the vessel to maintain this connectedness with the outside world. I bought prepaid phone credit (recharge) 3x in 12 months travelling. 99% of the time relying on wifi. That’s it. Paying for phone credit or a phone plan means money not being spent on travel.
Check out our post about money-saving ideas here.
5. My paper trail
PDFs are your best friend. I’m all about the environment for obvious reasons, so I truly dislike excessive water, paper and electricity use. Slowly but surely, I am on my way to minimising how much paper I use. So, when we did our tax returns on the road, I was stressing out about how we were going to get access to printing and signing the necessary documents. Depending on the town, sometimes internet cafes are far and few between. Thanks to my lovely accountant for introducing me to Hello Sign – an app for fast, secure and legally binding e-signatures. A total lifesaver that doesn’t cost money or the Earth. Check it out here! Highly recommend it. Downloadable from their site or whichever app store you use.
5 Things I will never take for granted (ever again)
1. Fresh air
As an Australian, we are blessed with clean fresh air. Yes, all countries create pollution but we can breathe clearly and deeply without too many respiratory issues. Imagine the inability to breathe without inhaling excessive dust, dirt and smoke. Imagine clearing out black snot and coughing all the time. Enough said. In China, we bought face masks to protect us from pollution, the freezing temperatures and to blend in.
2. Hot water
There were weeks at a time that we went without hot showers. Sure, in tropical climates a cold shower is welcomed. And maybe because I am a Westerner, you feel ‘cleaner’ having a hot shower. It’s funny, I’m currently residing in a town where the average temperature is 40ºc (104ºF), where the water never comes out cold!
We spent a year not being behind a desk, not being in front of a computer. So, you can imagine my eyes’ distress going back to work, starting a blog and catching up on tv and movie marathons. We rely so heavily on our sight (like right now!) to do so many activities of daily living. My eyes were so distressed that I spent half of past week with the lights off with my eyes closed. Hence, a delay in posts. Since I can’t quit my day job (yet), I had to find other ways of amusing myself.
- Audiobooks – I’ve recently discovered Audible; an Amazon company that allows you to download your first audiobook free! Get the app here for your phone, tablet or computer. All you need is your Amazon log on details and away you go! Don’t have an Amazon account? It’s easy, just sign up 🙂
- Listening to music (without the multitasking of running 10 000 programs on my computer at the same time)
- Meditation – sounds a bit new age and hippy-ish but truly helpful, even for the most practical sorts out there. You don’t have to chant or have dreads. You don’t even need a lot of time. Check out the Mindfulness, Smiling Mind or Headspace apps (or even YouTube) for guided meditations.
4. Waste management
One of the most interesting things about travelling are the smells. Delicious, disastrous and the downright weird. In fact, some of my favourite travel stories are about smells. Which brings me back to waste management, Australia is a clean and sanitized country. Every place you visit is silently and spotlessly clean (Thanks to brave cleaning crews). Just imagine rubbish that isn’t removed regularly (or at all), bathrooms that smell like death and cleaning equipment that do not actually clean. Some of the best and worst waste management practices I’ve seen exist in the same country (I’m looking at you, China and you too, Canada!)
5. The opportunity and ability to have choice
Without becoming too politic about freedom and equality, I have opportunities and the ability to choose what I do with my life. Should I use these opportunities endlessly or should I contain them because I know there are people around the world are not so fortunate? The ability to travel is a luxury and a blessing, and a way to understand and experience ways that other people live. This is will always be up for discussion, but I will always be grateful that I can choose.
What did you discover about yourself and your surroundings after you travelled? What did you miss and what could you live without? We’d love to know. Hit us up in the comment section or on our contact page here.
Bag Most Travelled 🙂