The ability to travel often is a privilege I’m always thankful for, but that doesn’t mean traveling comes without its cons. Before I started traveling out of the country on a regular basis, there were quite a few things I took for granted. And I’m not talking about just the obvious things, like ubiquitous cell service and modern toilets (although I do have a strong admiration for American plumbing). I’m talking about the little things, like lettuce. Yes, that’s right – I’ve craved salad while traveling to a place where I couldn’t have one! Here are a few other things I miss about being home when I’m on the go.
1. Ice Cubes, Fruit and Salad. Depending on what country you are visiting, you have to be very careful not to consume water that hasn’t been purified. That means sacrificing cocktails made with ice, unless you’re at a restaurant specifically catering to tourists. It also means you can’t eat many fruits and vegetables, and in some cases you even have to brush your teeth with bottled water. Those of us who travel frequently have all had that dreaded moment where your stomach starts to twist and you realize that you accidentally consumed something you shouldn’t have. For me, that meant eight hours spent lying on the bathroom floor of my riad in Morocco while having hot flashes and horrible nausea.
2. Power Outlets. Is it just me, or do hotels and hostels never have enough plugs? I recently stayed at a hostel in Marrakech that had just three outlets for a twelve person dorm. When everyone is trying to charge their phone and camera overnight, it’s not ideal. I was thankful that I had my Incase Portable Power in my bag to keep my phone juiced, and for the restaurant waiter who let me charge my camera in the kitchen during lunch.
3. Mexican and Thai Food. This doesn’t apply when traveling in these respective countries, obviously, but I never fully appreciated how much of a melting pot the USA is before I began traveling frequently. While major international cities do offer a plethora of dining options, there are many places that simply don’t have a wide variety of ethnic eateries. Since I essentially live off of tacos and a spicy basil dish from my local Thai place, I have intense cravings for my favorite foods when visiting a foreign nation that doesn’t worship guacamole like we Americans seem to.
4. Stores that sell EVERYTHING. I never thought I’d long for a Rite Aid or a CVS, but after traveling to countries that don’t have them, I have to say: these stores are pretty genius. Not only are they located everywhere in urban and suburban America – seriously, just drive for a bit and you’ll find one – they also offer all the things a traveler could possibly need at all hours of the day and night. TSA-approved toiletries, tooth brushes, a pharmacy, snacks, toilet paper, magazines, batteries… you name it, they’ve got it. These mega stores tend not to exist in many foreign countries. Need to pick up some Advil? Head to the pharmacy. Need shampoo? That’s a different store. And none of them are open late at night or on Sundays. Just try looking for contact solution that you forgot to pack at 11 p.m. in Argentina. I’ll wish you luck.
5. Coffee to go. I drink about three to four coffees a day, and as lovely as it sounds, I don’t have time to leisurely sip each one in a cute cafe. Typically, I grab a coffee for $1 from a cheerful guy who operates out of a cart on the street outside of the subway station. This would probably horrify many Europeans, who don’t ever take coffee to go. You’ll be hard pressed to find a coffee shop offering to-go cups outside of Starbucks in most foreign countries.
6. Diversity. There’s nothing more jarring than being the only “different” person on the street or in a restaurant – especially when everyone is staring at you. While the US has plenty of issues with discrimination and racism, we’re also very diverse in that no one’s going to be shocked when a person of a different skin or hair color walks into the room. On a recent trip to Cuenca, Ecuador, I felt as though I stuck out like a sore thumb while walking around the non-touristy neighborhood our Airbnb accommodations were located in. And both times I went to Morocco, I was constantly harassed on the street by men yelling out the names of arbitrary blonde celebrities (Shakira? Seriously?).
While it sucks to be without certain comforts, I think for most of us the chance to travel the world makes these small sacrifices totally worth it. And short term trips mean you don’t have to go too long without your favorite things (although I do start having withdrawals after three days without avocados). Best of all, doing without for a week or two makes you appreciate home more than you ever did before.
Do you miss these things when you’re abroad? I’d love to hear what types of things other people crave when they’re away from home!
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