Last week, I waxed poetic about all the things I’m going to miss so dearly when I leave Thailand. It might be a temporary goodbye, but believe me guys, there will be tears. Lots of tears.
Still, in the last few weeks I have started to feel those familiar feelings of longing for home. Not quite homesickness, more just an excitement for my annual summer spent stateside.
Travel has exposed to me to so many cultures, values, and ideas that are vastly different from the ones I was raised with. Some, I’ve absorbed deeply and adopted into my own life. Some, man – they’ve made me appreciative of the place that made me. Generally though, the things I miss from home make up a pretty trivial list. (The one I wrote last week was shorter, but much deeper.) I’m crazy grateful for my international life, but these are the things that I can’t wait to get back to.
1. Diet Coke. From a Fountain.
Guys, I love Diet Coke. I adore it. I drink Diet Coke for breakfast. I drink it before bed. I’ve been known to write letters to the management of establishments that serve Pepsi products and if I had another pet, I would probably strongly consider naming it DC. When I used to doodle floorplans for my dream house, they always featured a sensible floorplan, plenty of windows, and a built-in Diet Coke fountain in the kitchen. (While I can accept that some may prefer drinking Diet Coke out of a can over a fountain, I am immediately suspicious of the judgment of any person who prefers drinking out of a bottle. I mean really.)
But anyway. What’s the problem, you ask? Coca Cola is one of the most widely distributed products in the world, so finding its zero calorie cousin must be no big deal, right? Wrong. Listen up, Taylor Swift and other Diet Coke lovers – your beverage of choice is rarely available outside US borders. This “Coke Light” or god forbid, “Coke Zero,” situation that caffeine addicts are often subjected on international adventures simply does not cut it, though levels of drinkability does vary by region. What gives? While Diet Coke follows a strict formula everywhere it is made and marketed, according to Coca Cola’s FAQ page, “the sweetener blend used for Coke/Coca-Cola light is formulated for each country based on consumer preference.”
You’ve been warned.
2. Paying with plastic
I love having every transaction automatically logged and recorded for me, I love racking up points, and I love carrying one piece of plastic rather than a wad of paper and coins. Alas, most of the world is still cash-only, including Koh Tao, where there’s not a single establishment that takes credit cards without a 3-4% fee (and that’s for the very very few hotels and dive shops that take them at all.)
3. Soft Bedding
Do you ever think, well, my bed is nice, but wouldn’t it be better to just throw a sheet over the tile floor and pop a pillowcase over a nearby rock? If so, you’re in luck – my travels have taught me that much of the world agrees with you. While I managed to wrangle a decent pillow in my current apartment, my mattress could withstand the attack of a runaway jackhammer.
I know some of you might be thinking, oh, but I prefer a firm mattress! Well that is nice for you, but the situation I am dealing with over here goes far beyond anything on the Tempur-Pedic scale. Literally the most exciting aspect of every weekend getaway I’ve had for the last six months has been the possibility that there might be a Western-style mattress waiting for me at the hotel.
Is it so much to ask to feel like I’m falling asleep in a cloud?
4. Throwing toilet paper into the toilet
And letting it flush away never to be seen (nor smelled) ever again. This, I believe, is what Oprah was referring to when she talked about “living your best life.”
5. Roaming the Aisles of Joanne Fabric
I have plenty of hobbies that travel well, including yoga, hiking, reading, and scuba diving. Unfortunately, my sticker-making machine never quite seems to fit into my backpack. But when I’m home, you can often find me in a crafting frenzy, spray painting dozens of tiny plastic sharks in the garage when I should be packing for flight, for a vague and non-specific example. Painting, crafting, baking, more crafting… what I wouldn’t do for a few hours at AC Moore.
6. Twenty Four Hour Everything
Non US Citizens, did you know in the states you can access 24-hour ATMS, gas stations, Chinese food delivery and even liquor stores? US Citizens, did you know that in other places you can’t?
The first nineteen years of my life were spent in ignorant bliss of the rest of the world’s casual attitudes towards opening hours. I have to admit that here in Southeast Asia things are pretty nocturnal and I’m rarely frustrated by a “we’re closed” sign. Europe is a different story.
Like in Iceland, when we desperately needed ibuprofen and found out that it is only sold in pharmacies, and pharmacies are closed on Sundays, and I was like HELLO HAS NO ONE IN THIS COUNTRY HAD A HANGOVER AFTER A SATURDAY NIGHT GONE RIGHT? Or in Belgium, where I spent a week trying to track down my never-recovered-from-customs shipment of festival supplies and was like, um, I appreciate the beauty of the work life balance you all have clearly achieved by being open for like 4.25 hours per week, but what does a girl have to do to speak to an on-duty postal employee around here. Or in Malta when I tried to fill up a gas tank and return a rental car on a Sunday and was met with raucous laughter at the idea that I would try to achieve such ambitious tasks on what civilized people consider a day of rest.
These stories did not end well for me.
7. Spa Pedicure Chairs
I know what you’re thinking. How do I find the strength to get through the day? But I’ve been shocked to learn that in many spas throughout the world, when you get a pedicure, they literally just paint your nails without the slightest bit of attention to the rest of the foot. Not a light buff, not a hint of a scrub, not so much as a dip in one of those space-station whirly tub thrones that $20 mani-pedi salons in Brooklyn are lined wall-to-wall with.
8. Insert Food Craving Here
I certainly can’t complain about what’s on my plate here in Thailand. But it’s inevitable that no matter where I am in the world and no matter how much I love the local cuisine, I find myself occasionally craving food only available somewhere else. In this case, home.
When I had some friends from Koh Tao visit my hometown of Albany a while back, I brought them to the grocery store as an important part of my itinerary. Being picky about what I get to eat is a luxury of my life in the states. Want to know exactly what farm your free-range CSA eggs came from? Want to be choosy about what brand of organic Greek yogurt you consume? Want to special order a case of your favorite Bully Hill wine, or select a special bottle of cake-flavored vodka to go with your real Diet Coke? Want to linger at the gourmet cheese counter? Buy a dozen non-GMO avocados? Perhaps even drive through Chipotle on the way home? No problem.
On the road, I’m lucky if I’m able to read nutrition labels in my native language, let alone choose between two types of peanut butter or figure out where my meat came from. Believe me, when I leave Thailand I’ll be missing the food here too. But right now, I’m looking forward to a summer of stateside eats. Maybe even eat some guacamole tonight, in my honor. Maybe make it extra salty. I don’t know, I can’t tell you how to live your lives, but I know you’ll do the right thing.
9. American Niceness
Many of my friends from other parts of the world kind of sneer at this and think that we are being fake with our “have a nice days!” and other saccharine pleasantries but I tell you what, I just love me some American politeness. Maybe they really do want my day to be nice. I want yours to be!
10. Amazon Prime
Two. Day. Shipping. On. Everything. Need I say more? On and island where a trip to the nearest Apple Authorized retailer or seller of Alex-sized underwear is a twelve-hour journey, it seems like a distant mirage too good to be really true.
11. Megawatt Lightbulbs
This probably isn’t an issue for the majority of travelers who haven’t lived through a psychologically crippling fear of the dark, but I have yet to find another country as brightly lit as the USA. I noticed this most vividly traveling in Central America, where I heard rumors of crazy high energy costs and even in large cities I always felt like someone had hit the wrong end of a dimmer.
12. Smoking Bans
Admittedly, in general I love the lawless-ness of so many of the countries I travel to. But there’s one piece of legislation this severe-allergy sufferer is ever grateful for – strict indoor smoking bans. I wake up from pretty much every night out here with my sinuses levying a strict punishment for putting them in proximity of cigarettes. The prevalence of smoking at the bar, in transit and even at the dinner table is one of the things that really challenges me about living in Thailand.
13. Serious Hustle
I alarm citizens of other nations on a regular basis simply by walking at a clip that they deem acceptable only for a human being pursued by an apex predator. Travel has slowed me down somewhat, and I’m grateful for it, but I do love the hustle of home. I’m sure any US citizen who has sat in line at OfficeMax watching a high school student collate paper with the efficiency of a drunk sloth would argue that lethargy exists everywhere, but I do think there are few nations on earth that value speediness – and power walking – as much as Americans do.
14. Singing Along in Bars
In certain parts of the world, the music is one of the highlights of my travels – think Caribbean soca, or Central American reggaeton. Yet here Asia, crimes against music, my eardrums, and the still developing brains of impressionable youth are committed on a daily basis (love you long time though, Job2Do). One thing I really miss is listening to music other than tinny Thai love ballads, aggressive house/techno music or strange selections of American Top 40. What I wouldn’t give for a night of hip hop, classic rock, or funky Motown hits!
15. My Dog
I actually thought about making like, every third item on this list MY DOG because that would (A) it’s the kind of lame humor that really tickles me and (B) convey pretty clearly how much I miss my damn dog. Are there any people that don’t think this dog is cute that aren’t also serial killers? Don’t bother looking up the statistics, the answer is no.
Tucker, you have my heart.
16. My Nearest and Dearest
In all seriousness, the largest sacrifice I’ve made to maintain my traveling lifestyle is missing out on so much of the day-to-day lives of some of those I love the most. I do manage to cram a lot of hugs into every summer, though.
. . . .
Okay. So things might have gone a tad overboard on the S.S. Silliness up in this listicle. But the truth is the thing I miss the most about America can’t really be summed up in a pithy bullet point. It’s this sense of familiarity, the lump in your throat when an immigration officer hands you back your passport and says “welcome home” after months of wandering.
I can’t wait to hear those two little words. Avocados and employees of craft store retail chains, you’ve been warned.
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