Life on the road is quite different from the traditional week rhythm back home. As I write this, I’ve been backpacking for almost six months in a row. Some things are much better now, but there are things that I miss from my former life.
Here’s a list of 6 things I miss from my old home – and 6 aspects of life that I find better on the road.
Six Thing I Miss from My Old Life
6. Meals with Salads
Before I left Finland, I worked and studied at a university. The food at the university restaurants was cheap, and it had one great advantage: the meals included salad. You could take as much salad and vegetables as you wanted as a side dish.
Now, I mostly eat in restaurants where the salad is not included with the main dish. Sure, I could order an extra salad with my lunch or dinner, but it’s too easy to skip the healthy additions when they costs extra.
5. Insect Free Bedrooms
I’d like to see my bedroom as a shelter where I can take a deep breath and feel completely safe. When traveling, this illusion breaks easily when I wake up in the middle of the night with itchy mosquito bites. Or when a horde of ants invades my shoulder bag to eat my cookies. Or a rat comes to my bed to chew my juggling balls.
Yeah, it would be nice to go to sleep knowing that the animal kingdom stays outside the door.
4. Good Working Ergonomics
Every time I arrive in a new destination, I wish that my new room would have a desk and a comfortable chair. Most of the time, this is not the case. Instead, I have to improvise a table from pillows, drawers or whatever is a,vailable. Back home, I knew I’d always have a good desk for my laptop. Now I just wonder what two years of bad ergonomics will do to my body.
3. Reliable and Fast Internet Connection
Back in Finland, I could always access internet on my mobile phone and the speedy internet connection at the student village worked reliably. Ironically, I’m more dependent on internet now than ever – and I’ve never had to endure so bad internet connections for such a long time before. It can be difficult to update a travel blog when it takes hours to upload a dozen small pictures to your website.
2. Knowing My Surroundings
When you live in a country or a specific location for a long time, you gather vast amounts of knowledge about the place. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much you know. The order of the shelves in the local supermarket just “feels” clear and intuitive. You don’t need to do research to know how to buy a bus ticket. There is no language barrier. Everything is easy.
On the road, I can’t be sure if the ATM’s accept my credit card and I need a map to walk around in a new city. Unless I have locals help me out or the destination has clear information for tourists, doing just about anything has become a bit harder.
Well, the top spot of the list of things I miss when I travel is obvious. Sometimes, I miss some people in particular. More often, I miss just having any people around for a longer time. People who know me, people I know. It’s nice to be involved in other people’s lives and hear about their joys and troubles. And it’s nice (x) to have someone who’s there to share and hear your own experiences, too.
I get to meet a lot of people when I’m traveling – although not as many as I’d like to, and most meetings tend to be brief. I see someone for a few days, and then both of us continue our journeys to different directions. I’ve occasionally had some amazing and deep conversations, but most of the time, I don’t feel like I’m truly a vital part of anyone’s daily life.
At least I can stay in touch with people online – unless the Wi-Fi stops working.
Six Things That Are Better Now
6. No Wake-ups
With no work or school to attend to, there’s no need to sleep too little. I enjoy sleeping (and I dismay the headache that I get if I don’t sleep enough), so it’s nice to rest longer at nights. However, I’m still not able to completely avoid early wake ups. Many flights and buses leave early, and if I don’t get up early, I may skip the breakfast at my accommodation.
5. Every Day Is a Saturday
When I still had a job, I enjoyed it. Still, there were times when I wished for the weekend to come, so I could rest and have more time off. Now, all the “Thank God It’s Friday” memes have lost their meaning to me. Not all days are completely free, but I mostly live in an “endless stream of Saturdays”. Every day, a new white canvas awaits.
4. Better Weather
No offense Finland, but I’ve never learned to love your weather. I don’t like the depressing cold and darkness of the winter, and having a summer that barely lasts two or three months isn’t much. Enjoying constant warmth and changing the latitude and hemisphere when necessary is much more fun.
3. Cheaper Prices
Europe is expensive. Finland is super expensive. For the price of a restaurant meal in Finland, I can eat 5-10 meals in Nepal (and I’m not even mentioning the prices of train tickets!). The drop of the price range has meant that I’ve been able elevate my standard of living quite easily. I eat in hotels and stay in restaurants, but I spend about the same amount of money as I did in Finland. Go figure.
2. No Chores
What benefits come with the hotel and restaurant lifestyle? Most importantly, it means that I never have to do any house chores. I don’t need to clean, wash dishes or cook. The removal of extra bothers from my daily life saves plenty of time, which I can spend doing things I enjoy more.
1. Surprises and Possibilities
Why do I travel? I don’t have one definite answer for that. I don’t even think that the question makes much sense. For me, traveling is an obsession, a hobby, a way of life. It’s just a part of me that has always been there.
If I had to point out the best things about traveling, they would be surprises and possibilities. I love to learn new things, and when I travel, there’s always something fresh appearing. In my room, I may find a bug or lizard so huge that I didn’t know such creatures even exist – and thus, the encounter has expanded my thinking.
The changing environments keep your mind alert. And while most days are quite unremarkable or even a bit boring, every new destination offers new, yet unknown possibilities.
Final thoughts: It’s All Good
To travel or not to travel? In my opinion, neither way of life is clearly better. I was probably happier during my last year in Finland than I am now, but I also had more stress and burdens. I’d love to learn start new hobbies and play different sports, but regular practice is difficult when you travel. On the other hand, I now have much more spare time and opportunities to do what I really want to do.
Traveling is often overly glamorized in stories and and advertisements, but in reality, life on the road is not all that different from staying still. Wherever you are, try to enjoy what you do. Don’t crave for a life that is out of your reach, if it means that you neglect the one you’re having right now.
Things I miss # 6:
Lucky you, you still haven’t experienced the true insect hell: bed bugs. Right now in Uganda I am trying to figure how to get rid of bed bugs that keep on following me from one place to another.
I also miss noice free sleeps. Barking dogs, screaming roosters, loud bars, banging doors, honking vechiles, preachers shouting on loudspeakers… May I have a sleep, please?
Yeah, I’ve been very lucky with bed bugs and other insects that might follow in my backpack! I almost always sleep with earplugs, so I’m usually able to get sleep even in noisier environments.
I definitely miss the lack of insects! And reliable wifi seems like a long forgotten dream now! We have been living out of a 4×4 for 18 months now as we make our way down the Pan American Highway, and sure miss a few things about our comfortable life in the west! http://www.followthehound.com/the-challenges-of-overlanding/
Oh yes! 😀 Even though I don’t have a car, I can totally relate to your list too.
I’ve been on the road for exactly 18 months today (I started on May 15th 2016), so we began our journeys around the same time!