Born and raised in Southern California, I can say I’ve been pretty spoiled to call this beautiful state home. Always an hour from the beach, an hour from the mountains, and an hour from the desert, I had plenty of options when it came to occupying my time. Sadly, I didn’t get to take advantage of these options as much as I would have liked until later in life when I got a car. But it’s definitely one of those things I wish I had utilized even more so after leaving home to travel indefinitely.
Traveling has been an amazing eye opener, not just to other cultures, but to my own way of living that felt so normal. Of course, I never expected that the rest of the world lived like I do, but there are even a few simple things that I once took for granted that I appreciate even more now. So far, I’ve spent 3 months in Italy, 2 months in England, and one month in Ukraine, and these 10 things have been consistently true in each of them.
I Miss Things Being Open, Always
Pre-departure: Why am I craving a burger at 3 am? I have the munchies but I don’t know what I want. I’ll just go to a convenience store and see what catches my eye. We’re passing by Taco Bell on the way too, so let’s swing by there because why not.
Post-departure: It’s 8 pm. Why is everything closed? I need snackage!
This was the first thing I missed after leaving home. I didn’t think expecting things to be open at 9 or 10 pm would be unreasonable. But then I got to Italy where stores close at 7 pm, and shut down entirely on Sundays. The only place open after 8 were the bars – maybe. England was a little better. This could be because I lived in a bigger city, but there were still a lot of shops that would close at 8 or 9 on a normal basis, and only one bar/club that was open past 11.
I Miss The Weather
Pre-departure: I’m not even going to check the weather, I know it’s going to be warm today because it’s summer 90% of the year. Shorts in December!
Post-departure: If I don’t Google the weather, I’ll end up changing 3 times today.
Rancho Cucamonga averages 287 sunny days per year, but that just means the other 78 days are a bit cloudy, with rain occupying a small fraction of those. Although, that may change now that we’re out of that seemingly never-ending drought! Even so, I expect the sun will still be the main event year round. Australians aren’t the only ones who can wear shorts during Christmas!
Then, I landed in Berlin for the first few days of my trip. There was this white stuff everywhere! I had to quickly develop my snow legs. Italy was no different – at first. Then the snow cleared up, and the rain came in. It didn’t even occur to me that it might rain on my days off from my au pair duties and keep me shut inside. I felt so helpless on those days and it was such a weird feeling to have weather deter me from having a productive day.
Flash forward to England, where it’s supposed to be gloomy and dreadful, and yet had an unexpected number of sunny days where I actually wore shorts a lot. It was exciting! I can count on one hand how many times it rained while I was there over the course of two months. Everyone kept telling me how strange it was, that apparently this warm weather doesn’t even happen in the summer. Whatever the reason, I embraced it. I also quickly learned that there, I couldn’t rely on weather apps to tell me how the day would be. It was so sporadic, and half the time it was wrong.
I Miss The Currency
Pre-departure: Here is the exact change in less than 5 seconds, no receipt, thanks!
Post-departure: Hold on, how much is this? And what did I give you? Oh shoot, sorry. Man, I really hope this person isn’t trying to take advantage of me right now.
Don’t get me wrong – going to a new country and seeing their money for the first time is one of the most exciting parts for me! Until I have to use it. I usually end up feeling bad for holding up a line, and just handing the cashier my biggest bill so I don’t have to dig through my wallet. Doing that enough then just leaves me with wads of low bills and pocketfuls of change.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But there is nothing quite like being fluent in your native cash, unless you live somewhere long term. And honestly, the Euro makes the most sense to me so far! But the biggest thing I can’t get over with any currency, is the bills being different sizes. When I’m used to rifling through bills of the same size and lining them up all nicely to fit in my wallet for ease of use, anything else will always feel foreign.
I Miss The Beer
Pre-departure: I can’t decide because there are 50 local beers on this tap list! Maybe a peanut butter stout? What about a blackberry sour? Let’s sample both. And two more just so I really know my options.
Post-departure: Ale or Guinness.
Living near San Diego, one of the biggest beer capitols of the United States, I’ve been spoiled. There are also dozens of micro-breweries a mere 20 minute drive from my home. Nearly every weekend, my friends and I would either go out to a brewery, or someone would bring a growler of local beer to a hangout where we would all sample it. In addition, for almost two years I worked at a liquor store where we were encouraged to become familiar with our products so we could better assist customers. When my co-workers and I weren’t helping customers, we were talking to each other about a new release from a craft brewery or swapping taste tests that we independently held over the weekend.
This is all based on personal preference, but I have not been very impressed with much of the European beer. I tend to lean towards stouts and sours, while ales and lagers seem to dominate in Europe. Of course there are always exceptions, but you just can’t find the same variety. And maybe it’s my fault, because now that I’m on a tight budget, I can’t justify spending money on alcohol anymore so I don’t go out of my way to find it.
I Miss The Food Variety
Pre-departure: I can’t decide what I want to eat so, I’ll just drive to one of the local shopping centers that has 8 different cuisines and go wherever the smell beckons me.
Post-departure: Awesome, I get to try Italian food! Okay, what do we have…pasta, pizza, expensive seafood, and more pasta.
One word: In-N-Out. Obviously, being from California, if you cut me I’ll bleed Thousand Island sauce (which can be surprisingly convenient). Aside from that, even living in a small city (by California standards) the food options are endless! Amazing sushi, authentic tacos, perfect pho, delicious Korean, and pretty much anything else you could imagine, all probably within a 5 mile radius. Not to mention, mom’s home cooking!
Luckily, the Italian family I lived with cooked amazing dinners, but when I went out on my own, the options were extremely limited. I was hard pressed to find a place that offered (good) ethnic food. Options in England were mostly just fast food or pricey restaurants. And I hate to say this, but most of the Ukrainian food I’ve had has been a bit bland.
I Miss Having Wheels
Pre-departure: I have a free weekend? Let’s go chill with the seals in San Diego!
Post-departure: This place looks cool, but the last train is too early to make it worth spending 10 euros on a ticket.
This one may seem obvious, but I’ve met a surprising amount of people who don’t drive simply because they don’t like it. Of course, most places of the world have better public transportation than SoCal, but being fully mobile is so freeing. You’re not bound by any train schedules or worrying about it not taking you where you need to go. You jump in, and drive. Even better, it can be a home on wheels! The few times I’ve been to Slab City, I drove down and slept in my truck the whole time. And honestly, sometimes it felt good being able to help other people out with rides when necessary.
I Miss Going To The Same Hairdresser
Pre-departure: “Hello! The usual cut, please.”
Post-departure: I’m never getting a haircut because this stranger does not know how to handle my fiery mane.
My hair is not that complicated. Or, maybe it is, because I couldn’t find a hairdresser that understood how to work with my side cut until about a year ago. It was stress-free being able to walk in, not have to worry about bringing in pictures or explaining what I wanted clearly. I considered getting one while in England so as not to hassle with a language barrier, but I put it off until it was too late. So for now, I’ll hide my uneven layers in a ponytail, or hope that the unconventional tattoo on my head distracts from the mess that is my growing locks.
I Miss Dyeing My Hair
Pre-departure: I need to dye my hair again. I’ll just get out my newspaper, gloves, and mixing bowl and get to work!
Post-departure: Okay. How can I take care of this without staining my hosts’ entire bathroom?
These hair bits may seem silly, but I take pride in my mane! I don’t think I’ve had my natural hair color since 2010. I’ve had almost every color except for green, but something always takes me back to the bright red. Now that I’ve finally settled on one color, which is also coincidentally a very difficult color to maintain, it’s difficult to keep it up. Typically I would just put some hair dye in my conditioner and poof! Instant dye job every shower! But the process can be messy, and red dye especially stains everything (just ask my mom). So far, I think I’ve done an okay job at not ruining anyone’s shower, but I also can’t do it as often as is necessary. Not to mention, I’m running low on dye. Can anyone send me some Pravana?
I Miss Window Screens
Pre-departure: It’s midnight and I can’t sleep because it’s so stuffy in here. I’ll open the window and let in a nice breeze (and nothing else)!
Post-departure: I forgot to close my window before the sun went down and now there are 12 mosquitoes in my room and whatever else that’s lying in hiding waiting to lay eggs in my ear after I fall asleep.
This one I do not understand. I haven’t been to a single place in Europe that has window screens. This has led to a handful of spider incidents, and if you know me, you know I absolutely cannot handle our eight legged “friends.” It’s a borderline phobia. I just don’t understand why this isn’t a thing in Europe! It consistently baffles me. Not only do people not have screens, but they often leave the windows open for long periods of time. Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants.
I Miss Dryers
Pre-departure: I need to do laundry. Luckily I have two hours to spare so I’ll throw it on in!
Post-departure: I need to do laundry, but I don’t have an extra 16 hours to wait for it to dry. I’ll just wear a lot of deodorant and hope no one notices that I stink.
Okay, this one is a total first world problem, and I kind of get it. Dryers are expensive and I’ve never had to pay for one in my life, but it is one luxury that I think about every time I do laundry. Knowing exactly how long it would take to do a load of laundry made it easy to fit into my schedule. But sometimes, when I only have a limited time in a city, I don’t want to waste it waiting for my wet clothes to dry. And maybe I’m doing it wrong, but when I hang dry my clothes, they just end up drying into stiff, uncomfortable pieces of cardboard to put on your body.
There’s no doubt any of this will make me want to stop traveling, but to be reminded of how lucky I am to have grown up with so many things to be grateful for makes it easy to long for home sometimes. The grass may always seem greener, but the next time you travel, you may be surprised at some of the little things you miss that you previously never thought twice about.
What about you? What sort of things do you miss about home when you travel? Let me know!