Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We're Off!

Heading off in a couple of hours to the airport for our trip to Bangkok! (Though unfortunately we added 4 hours of flight time by having to go west from Copenhagen to London before heading east to Thailand).

We're all packed and ready, or at least as ready as we can be at this point. After a little more than four weeks of staying with friends, I think we're starting to feel a little soft. We'll have to crank it back into gear again to be on the lookout for pickpockets, clean toilets and places to lay our head at night.

Though we do feel a little bit out of the travel groove, we can't overstate how wonderful and helpful this break has been for us. Many of you have asked if we have gotten homesick at all or sick of travelling. And while we are still loving the trip and looking forward to continuing it, the answer is (not surprisingly): yes, we do get burned out and tired of being "on" all the time. You want to be sure that nobody is stealing anything from you/hustling you, you want to be sure that you are making a good impression, you're concentrating to try and pick up words in languages you don't know, you're paying a lot of attention to different cultural cues, you're thinking about where your next meal will come from and if you can afford it and where you will sleep the next night, and you're out and moving almost the whole day, almost every day. That definitely wears you down. That's why having a home again has been so very nice.

We also get asked what we miss the most. Excluding the obvious answer of our friends and family, I'd say this is our top 5 list:

5) Having a job. Now before you all think I'm crazy, let me explain a little. I certainly don't miss having to be at my desk for hours staring at a computer instead of hiking in the alps. Or bringing the laptop home EVERY night and working weekends instead of lying on Thai beaches. It's just that there's a certain amount of feelings of responsibility and accomplishment and identity that come from working that I miss. (And I notice that the most when we're staying with people who are going off to work while we hang out.)
Ed. note: Brian is quite happy getting his intellectual stimuli and sense of being elsewhere for now. Not saying I don´t think about work, how it differs overseas or what I want to be doing upon our return. I just don´t have the guilt/need surrounding work that my wife does. The difference between a type A and type A+ personality I suppose...
4) Mexican/Tex-Mex food. We've eaten a wide variety of cuisines so far, and while we haven't had as much Thai, Vietnamese and Indian as I would like, I know that'll change starting tomorrow. However, we really haven't found any good Tex-Mex. While we don't eat it that often at home either, there have been a couple of days when we've REALLY been wanting a burrito. And for some reason our hostel spam quesadillas didn't quite cut it :-)
3) The concept of a couch. Another thing that's missing in most backpacker/budget accommodations is anything resembling a living room with a couch. And the majority of the cities we visited didn't have an abundance of public spaces and benches and parks to use as warm weather living rooms. (Paris and Seville being notable exceptions). Not that we had the time to do it that often back in our real life and not that this is going to get much sympathy from all of you with little kids, but we really miss just being able to occasionally crash on a couch and lounge for an afternoon reading a book or watching football, etc..
2) Being part of a group. One of the most different things about this kind of a trip is that you are pretty much a world unto yourselves in terms of significant social connections. We look to meet people and make friends at hostels or in new towns, but most of those end up being at most nice acquaintances, as you're moving on within a couple of days. It's a good thing we're such good friends and get along so well, but we really miss hanging out with other people and feeling part of a group or network. I think some of our loneliest/most homesick moments have been observing other groups of friends in different places and wanting so badly to be a part of things.
1) The concept of "coziness" (hygge in Danish). It's unbelievable what a difference having or not having that makes. Backpacker/traveller clothing is very functional (easy to wash and dry, breathable, yada yada) but it is not cozy, especially when you are a little chilled. Give me some comfy fleece any day. Likewise, backpacker/budget accommodations, while clean and safe, are generally sterile, cold, and not particularly cushy. Military-style bunk beds provide a sleeping space, but hardly a good spot to lounge. Sometimes you just crave being curled up in comfy clothing on a deep couch in front of a roaring fire, etc.......

It'll be interesting to see how this list changes after travelling in Asia. My money is on clean, western-style toilets moving to the top of my 'missing' list!

Next post from Asia!


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