HELLLOOOO loyal blog readers! Yep, ALLLLL 54 of you! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. And I’ll tell you why: I’ve returned to the United States for a short period of time.
Not one to be offended by the lack of social media likes I’ve not gotten in the recent month, it’s been really nice decompressing, not feeling pressured to post cool Instagrams (ok, I posted one doing a handstand on the beach because I’m basic) and generally catching up with my family and friends in good ol’ Texas.
While it’s been so great to reconnect with the people that I care about the most, it’s been especially hard to do it in this country. Like, couldn’t y’all just come visit me somewhere in Europe or something??? I invited each and every one of you to live on my couch (just how I’m doing it right now because #homeless) but NOOOOOOO. I had to take a plane from the discomfort of my nomadic lifestyle, sit on couches at coffee shops, where people speak English, eavesdrop on said people talking in English (because I have no choice because I speak fluent English), and, oh yeah, listen to all the political banter that constantly surrounds my every move because I’m in the United States and
no one here cares about the rest of the world.
Look. I get it. Our country is a big deal. Many would argue that it’s the best in the world. (I would not, but, then I wouldn’t be writing this, no?) But
how narcissistic are we to have eight news stations that constantly talk about ourselves?
We all know that one girl on Facebook who constantly posts selfies saying,
“OMG guys I look sooo ugly in this!”
That’s who the United States is to the rest of the world right now.
While our current political state is tragic to most of us that live in or are from this country, most people would get a smack in their big ‘Murican heads if they heard what people who live in other countries think about us.
And while I won’t get into specifics (especially about politics, yuck), I will say that being home after traveling has really made me appreciate both the comforts of “home” and the discomforts of not being here at all.
Traveling isn’t always easy.
Working remotely isn’t always that iconic picture of a macbook on a beach.
And you can bet it took way longer to get to the bus stop that gets you to the train station that takes you to the airport which takes you to the opposite side of the country than it would’ve taken to just hop in my car and drive to another city in Texas - but the inconveniences of traveling are the parts that you remember forever, no matter how annoying they may be at the time. And in my opinion? Way easier (and better) than dealing with living in the States right now.
After being back for about a month, these are things I never realized were convenient. I never appreciated them, I never found them to be “pros” of our eagle-clad society, but rather, simple expectations. Because I'm from here; America! Full of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and giant cups of coffee. (Bless up.)
Without further ado, here’s a list of those annoying things that all travelers experience, which you may or may not think of when you double tap my instas:
Toilets, in general: a rant.
My GOD, those sweet, sweet, porcelain thrones. Not to be confused with these holes in the ground that I used a lot of this year. Also something to note: very good at poppin’ a squat in pretty much any forest, on any trail, and/or behind any parked car now. Because 9 out of 10 times, there’s no bathroom on the trail to Machu Picchu (or wherever else you’re hiking/biking/trekking/possibly dying). Dudes have it reeeeeal easy in this genre. Minus the whole number two deal, which, we all suffer through, together.
Toilets, a Rant, Part 2: Actually being able to throw the paper that was made specifically for toilets (“toilet paper”) INTO SAID TOILET.
This is a doozie. (Heh. Doo-zie.) But many places don’t allow you to throw toilet paper into the toilet. And if you do, you risk your poo flooding the place that you’re in. No bueno. THROW TP IN TOILET AT YOUR OWN RISK, PEOPLE. And just go ahead and ignore the disgusting trashcan full of poo-clad paper. It's not there. It's just people who blew their noses. Shhhhh.
There is no such thing as easily accessible electricity.
(Unless you use a complicated world adaptor plug that you ordered off of Amazon that never ends up working anyway.) The convenience of electricity is magical. That Franklin dude knew what he was doing when he tied a key to a string and nearly killed himself. But he got some value out of it, which was cool. He also made our lives soooo much easier. Except for the whole, “the world can’t agree on one plug so let’s just invent a bunch of fun Tetris shapes instead!” thing. Insert the world of world adaptor plugs (ironic!): there are a lot. And voltage is different everywhere. And if you get one of those plugs with removable parts, god forbid you lose one. Is the voltage 110 or 220? Hope you don’t get it wrong and fry all your electronics! SCIENCE IS FUN!
The joys of customer service.
Customer service anywhere else other than the United States is nonexistent. Yes, there are nice people in the world. And yes, there are also assholes. And yes, they work jobs which involve talking to you and most of the time, ruin your entire day. If you think your server at Denny’s is being a dick, please don’t be rude. They’re probably ten times nicer than the dude who serves you in any other country. Americans work for tips, so they have reason to hope that you will tip them. Other countries? They get paid to do their job just like anyone else, and frankly, give no f**ks about whether you tip them or not. As a traveling American I tend to overtip regardless, but WOW. I never realized how nice people are in the US! It’s crazy! Think about it next time you’re being SERVED A MEAL and CLEANED UP AFTER at SOMEONE ELSE’S OFFICE. (AKA A RESTAURANT!)
Wearing the same thing over and over and over and over again until someone notices and/or it gets thrown away/left behind/you rip it to shreds with your bare hands because it’s so annoying to look at.
This is both a blessing and a curse. I love being a minimalist. Giving up “fashion” for travel is not something that’s been that difficult, but it does get weird when the falafel guy notices that I wear the same white t-shirt and leggings every time that I come by. It’s even more embarrassing when you wear that same outfit to the clerb because, like, whatever - you have nothing else! You’re a nomad, not a maxxinista. (Shout out to TJ Maxx - miss you and your sale prices on designer stuff, boo.)
Not being able to communicate.
Ron Burgundy talking to Baxter is just about how I felt every time I tried to speak Czech or Bulgarian or some other random language that doesn’t involve vowels. (Not Spanish though - I actually know that one.) After getting back to the States, I’ve never felt so literate. And I freakin’ write for a living. But it’s completely different coming back, talking to people, and being able to describe things with cool adjectives that aren’t even really words, but people somehow understand them because they relate to them. Examples: oogly googly, heeby jeebies, yadda yadda yadda. How do you translate these things? I’ve never felt more descriptive when speaking, especially after trying to speak Spanish for five months in the most basic way possible. ALL OF THE WORDS! *begins speaking in iambic pentameter just for funsies*
Feeling pressured to do everything, all the time.
Being back has been a full agenda of me sitting on my couch, drinking wine, dieting (notice, the drinking wine part comes first), working out, and generally being a lazy human with a laptop. The joy and struggle of working remotely: you can do it anywhere. Even if you never leave your couch, you’re at work. If you’re running an errand, you stop at a coffee shop. At home, you know where those things are. Being abroad? You spend half a day switching cafes to find wifi, you get super lost, you have an adventure every day! You go on hikes in the morning and work all night, you climb mountains and go on tours and you have to because you’re here and what if you don’t come back! AND IT'S A LIFESTYLE. But it’s a lot of pressure. That doesn’t exist at home. And in this sense, yes, it sometimes feels like a vacation, only you can’t put on your “out-of-office” email. You gotta do it all. And that gets exhausting.
Stepping on random pieces of the sidewalk that are broken when you don’t realize it, which causes gross water/sewage to spray your legs and body (and it is super disgusting).
This just doesn’t happen in the US. Not sure why it’s such a big deal everywhere else, but it’s awful. *shudder* If you’ve never experienced this, imagine stepping on a loose giant, flat, stone and there being liquid underneath. The pressure of your foot causes said liquid to squirt at you like a spitting camel. The sidewalk spits at you in anger. (I mean, you did step on it.) Ew. This never stops being gross.
Terrorizing my liver.
Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of feel like I have to drink all of the things while traveling. Rakia? Aguardiente? Mezcal? Set me up on an IV, doc! Coming back has been a nice break for my body. Minus the wine. That’s for heart health, damnit.
Tiny cups of coffee.
Espresso is good and all, but can I get that in an XXXL? I'm from the US, and I want a big cup of natural stimulant to make sure that I’m able to do everything that I feel pressured to accomplish while working in a new country and also trying to sightsee. Thanks.
Buying big shampoos and conditioners and leaving them in the shower.
You’ve never thought about this, have you? I have. Every month, when moving, I leave behind the small to medium size shampoo/conditioner that I bought for that month and shed a small, single tear. Goodbye, knockoff Dove from Colombia. Hello, knockoff Pantene from Argentina. May we meet again when your bottle doesn’t still have just enough left in it that I feel guilty leaving it behind, but not enough to actually take you with me. I don’t have room for you. But you were good to me. *dramatic prancing from the bathroom*
Having to figure out how to wash the three outfits you own.
Not having a lot of clothes is both great and horrible. Great because, oh look, I can wear this every day and even though you notice (as mentioned above) I don’t care because I can just say I travel! However, everything gets dirrrrrty (Christina Aguilera style) and worn so much quicker. Thus begins the google search on how to either 1) work the washing machine in your apartment that resembles a time machine or 2) find out where you can drop off a bag of your dirty garments for someone else to deal with. Both suck in their own way. The washing machine may never turn on. The washing machine may turn on and stop mid-wash and lock your clothes up in the washer dungeon until a repair man who doesn’t speak English comes over and glares at you when he pushes a button on the back left corner and acts as if you were supposed to know this magical button was there the whole time. (This totally didn’t happen to me…) OR, a little old lady ruins all your clothes and gives no f**ks because you already paid her the five dollars and now it’s your fault that everything has red lipstick on it that wasn’t yours, but someone else’s, which she admits that she saw in said washer before she washed your clothes. Le sigh.
Having to wait until 10 PM to eat dinner, 2 AM to start drinking, at 5 AM to even go to the damn bar.
I have never loved last call more than when I returned from Argentina and Colombia. You may be thinking, "OH POOR YOU! GOING OUT ALL THE TIME! SOOOO DIFFICULT TO GO GET DRUNK!" Yeah, actually. It is. Though it was super fun when with the group of people I was with, going out at 5 in the morning is not something I could ever sustain. And no one ever should. Unless you’re foreign and you grow up as a baby like this. (Seriously, babies are with their families eating dinner at 11:30 PM and that is perfectly fine - that baby's body will be way more prepared than mine ever is.) If you didn’t grow up sucking a bottle until 3 AM and then calling it a night at 4:30 AM, prepare your weak, American body.
Using Google Translate and Google Maps as if your life depended on iet (because most of the time, it does).
I’m not so good with directions. Even in my hometown, I couldn’t tell you how I get to the places that I’ve been going to since I was first driving at the ripe age of 15. And yet, here I am, in 17 countries, like a lost puppy on the leash of Google. We’re so privileged with this shit that I can’t even imagine how people traveled 20 years ago - and I’ll definitely own up to that. #millennials
I’ve already touched on it, but I’ll say it again: it’s inescapable. CAN’T I JUST EAT MY MAC N’ CHEESE AT THE BAR IN PEACE INSTEAD OF HAVING YOU ASK ME WHAT I THINK ABOUT STATUES? I just wanna eat the mac in peace, man. Let's talk about travel. (duh) Let's talk about your new nose. Didn't you just have three babies? Can we talk about something else? Anything. Please.
It never gets easier. The people you meet while traveling are amazing - and yet, you may never see them again. Luckily, I have a family thanks to Remote Year that is super well-connected; but even traveling by myself throughout the year, I met the coolest people that, I’ll be honest, I haven’t spoken to since. You can make great connections with some great humans - but you have to be sure that you sustain them. And that’s hard, especially when you’re constantly on the road. Saying goodbye to family when you leave them again? Even harder. As much of a “dream” that it seems to be, a home base begins to feel less and less like home and more like a disappointment to the people that love you the most. Even though you know they’re soooooo proud of you and happy for you and yadda yadda yadda, you know you’ll miss them. And they probably miss you more. And that never feels great.
This lifestyle is a dream. It’s hard. It’s life-changing. It’s mesmerizing and mind-boggling and widdly niddly! (Ok, I just threw that last one in because I could.) But the reality of it? It’s amazing. It’s life-changing in the best way possible. And still, with all the hardships, the ridiculous things we complain about, and even when the bad outweighs the good, it’s still a hell of a lot better than being in the United States right now. (Which is why I'm leaving again. BAIIIIIII AMERICA! More on my travels in the upcoming posts.)
Freelance writer, designer, and do-it-aller. Traveling the world with Remote Year 6, living in a different country every month. Currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and probably drinking craft beer.