I think it is widely accepted that international travel, especially for an extended period of time, has the tendency to change people, even if in only small ways. Obviously, one of the reasons for this is that you witness the way other people live and have the opportunity to compare many differences in lifestyle to your own. Intrinsic to this comparison, is a greater appreciation for many of the comforts of home. While I have undoubtedly gained a deeper understanding, appreciation and respect for the Chinese culture, travelling for an extended period of time in this Asian society has made me miss and appreciate some things from home more than others.
Apart from the obvious things like missing my dogs (and I could go on and on about the specific things I miss about each one of them, but i will spare you this whining and instead discuss at length with Raj), and chatting with my mom and dad without worrying about the connection, and working out with Amber, and being able to call my grandparents without worrying about the time difference, and my bed and pillows… you know – all the things anyone misses, here are some of the specific things that I’ve been thinking about:
- I miss Western etiquette. This one is tricky to discuss because I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like diversity or appreciate different cultures, but certain things must be stated: when a plane lands, it won’t kill you to let people file out of the plane according to where they sit- pushing your way to the front will really not save you that much time, especially when nearly everyone else is doing the same thing. Also, and this one is the worst, Chinese people tend to clear the phlegm from their throats and spit it out anywhere and everywhere and it is simply disgusting.
- I miss and appreciate non-smoking restaurants and hotel rooms. Our favorite moment illustrating this was our first hotel in China where we had booked a non-smoking room. When we entered the room, it smelled a bit funny – not really smoky but more like how it would smell if they were covering it up. Then we noticed there were two ashtrays in the room, so we called the front desk and said we had requested a nonsmoking room and the response was that we did have a nonsmoking room We replied that there were ashtrays in the room and there was a bit of a language barrier but their response was that if we wanted ashtrays (in our nonsmoking room) all we had to do was call housekeeping. (sigh)
- I miss shopping and cooking for myself. I miss salads and hummus and veggie burgers. I miss Trader Joe’s and Costco.
- I miss Sunday brunch with the Ramga’s after a Saturday night shaking our booties.
- I appreciate Western toilets and their being toilet paper in stalls. Although I’ve gotten rather good at squatting and quickly learned to always carry my own toilet paper, I must say that after a week in Tibet, I will even appreciate dirty gas station bathrooms in the future.
- I miss being able to dress up – at this point I always feel grubby in my travel clothes – really looking forward to shopping in London – like as soon as we get off the plane!
- I miss and appreciate having my own washing machine! It’s bad enough having to wear the same clothes over and over again, but either washing them in hotel sinks or finding a laundry mat that seems to always get the stink out but also adds stains is getting really old. Other than my bathing suit and sundress, I don’t expect to keep one article of clothing that I brought with me.
- I miss driving and understanding the rules of the road.
- I miss being able to listen to music and sing along – always using headphones with iPod sort of prevents this.
- I appreciate free press – the news and information in general is censored in China and it’s very frustrating when you know its happening.
Despite these things, with only 3 weeks left of our trip, I feel a renewed sense of adventure and excitement over our trip. I don’t feel as homesick as I had been feeling for a few weeks and am finding it easier to live in the moment. ironically, Raj seems to being feeling homesick for the first time, which actually just makes me happy because I finally know that we feel the same way and are in it together. We are heading to a beach in Vietnam which makes it feel more like a relaxing vacation and I am super excited to veg-out, read my book and get a tan! A couple days of down time will be great to make sure we are re-charged for Cambodia, Thailand, London and of course, for coming home!