Andrew and I with my Parents at Elephant Nature Park

The Things we Take for Granted

Unlike some travellers, I didn’t despise my life before we hit the road. I didn’t have a job I especially hated or live in a place I found dull. In fact, there were many elements of my old life that I absolutely loved; the people, my routines and living in what I still consider to be the best city in the world: London. So, although I had an almost all-consuming, obsessive desire to travel, those last few weeks before we left the UK and all the packing, organising and saying endless goodbyes were pretty difficult for me. As is well documented on this blog, closing the door firmly on my old life – in particular the part where I left London – was pretty painful.  Through that transitional period though I kept telling myself that the sadness of leaving would magically evaporate the moment we boarded that plane to New Zealand, but in many ways, I was wrong.

I write this on the day that my parents flew back to London after their two-week visit in Thailand. The goodbyes were worse today than they were when I left home six months ago because I don’t know when exactly I’ll see them next; it could be another year before I set foot in England again. After my parents sped off in a taxi to the airport I was left on my own in a hotel room in Bangkok, awaiting Andrew’s return from his trip down south with his sisters. I felt utterly miserable and sat on the bed, wondering why I was putting myself through the pain and loneliness of this nomadic lifestyle.

Andrew and I with my Parents at Elephant Nature Park

Andrew and I with my Parents at Elephant Nature Park

I know though that this sadness and these doubts will, and already are, fading to bearable proportions; reducing to a background ache which is usually eclipsed by the extraordinary every day joys and tribulations long-term travel brings. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still have times when I miss people intensely or crave London with a passion; there are times when I long to sit in a pub along the Southbank with friends or stroll through Dulwich Park; there are some days (almost every day, actually) when I’d sell my soul for a real piece of mature cheddar cheese or a night on the sofa in front of Eastenders.

Throughout these first few months of being on the road, however, I’ve learnt to accept that this missing will always be a part of what travel is for me, I can’t switch it off – but that’s ok, even if it sometimes feels like every other traveller sails effortlessly through their adventures without giving home a backward glance. It’s ok because missing home reminds me how fortunate we are to be doing this trip and it has taught both Andrew and I just how great our lives back in London were and how much we took for granted on a daily basis.

When we hit Jakarta a few months ago I started making a list of the things both Andrew and I most miss from home; some trivial, some profound, but all of which we routinely took for granted – here’s the list:

  • People – although I think Andrew and I are better than many couples at being together constantly we still miss the company of our family and friends often, even though we saw some of them only rarely. Mostly I miss just being able to just randomly pick up the phone and call my mum or arrange to meet a friend for a beer after work at the last minute. Now we rely on skype, facebook, the blog and emails to keep in touch; we have to factor in time differences and sketchy internet connections – it’s just not the same. We are lucky that some of our family and friends are able to come and visit us while we’re on the road though which not only gives us a chance to catch up properly but also gives people a taste of what our new travelling lifestyle is really like.
  • Our bed and sofa – I know it sounds trivial but sleeping in different beds all the time can be pretty exhausting and it doesn’t help that many of them, especially in Asia, are particularly hard and uncomfortable. There are times when I literally dream of sleeping in our old bed back in London, and then I wake up on some rock-like pillow covered with extremely questionably-clean sheets wrapped around me and despair.
  • Being able to cook for ourselves – you might think eating out every day of the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner sounds appealing but it gets old, fast, especially if you’re a fussy eater like me with an embarrassingly small list of foods you can eat and enjoy. I crave being able to cook my own meals exactly the way I like them.  While we were able to cook our own food in hostels around New Zealand and Australia, since we’ve hit Asia there’s no chance of that – we eat out every meal, even if it’s just crisps from the seven-eleven. What I wouldn’t give to be able to cook a proper roast dinner, or simply grill some cheese on toast.
  • Cleanliness – since we’ve been travelling in Asia I’ve realised just how clean and well organised the UK actually is. After regularly walking past stinking piles of rubbish and almost retching from disgusting street smells I understand how amazing it is to have regular rubbish collection services, people to sweep the streets and food safety standards back home in the UK. I remember how horrified I was at spotting my first cockroach in our bathroom in Indonesia; four months of Asia-travel later and I barely flinch when I spot one – it’s a miracle that we’re not constantly suffering from food poisoning.
  • A routine – our restrictive work routines were one of the things we couldn’t wait to say goodbye to when we left the UK but strangely, a routine is what we frequently crave. Most of the time travelling is the very definition of change; you’re constantly in new places surrounded by new people which is part of the fun, wonder and addiction of travel. However, there are plenty of times, usually when we’ve been covering a lot of ground in a short space of time, when we just want to stop, put our bags down, stay in the same room for more than a few nights at a time and establish a little daily routine. I hope that our hunger for routine will be sated when we rent an apartment in Chiang Mai for a few weeks.
  • Our favourite foods – we talk about the foods we miss practically every day. While Andrew quite enjoys Asian food I can’t take rice for more than a couple of nights in a row and miss my favourite foods from home so much it makes my mouth water just to think of them. Most days I’d do anything for proper wholemeal bread instead of the white sugary Asian stuff; I crave wholemeal pasta meals, specifically macaroni cheese, which I used to eat two or three times a week as well as roast dinners, cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes with cheese – are you noticing a theme here? Yes, my most-missed food from home is definitely cheese; not the plastic processed slices you get in Asia but really strong mature blocks of cheddar. I was in heaven when we finally found a small and extremely expensive block of it in a supermarket in Malaysia. So far the only blessing is that I’ve managed to keep a good supply of marmite on me at all times – which makes the disgusting white, sugar-bread almost bearable.
  • The news – back home one of the first things I used to do every day was read the news; I’d have the Guardian up on a tab at work all day to monitor big news stories and I’d tune into the six o’clock news while making dinner in the evenings. Now, I’m lucky if I can list any of the key world news stories; I feel totally out of touch and normally have no idea what day of the week it is, let alone what’s going on in the news. I often simply don’t have time or reliable enough internet to keep up-to-date – this is something I need to change.
  • Andrew’s bike – Andrew misses his bike as much as I miss reading the news; riding his bike used to be a nearly-daily part of his routine. Although we’ve had a few goes at renting bikes on the road, nothing compares to whizzing along on Andrew’s very own steed through congested London traffic!
  • London – speaking of London, my love for this city hasn’t waned at all since we left in March; if anything, it’s grown. The only city we’ve been to so far on this trip that comes close to matching how I feel about London is Melbourne. I’ve written before about why I love London so much and it doesn’t really surprise me that this hasn’t changed. However, I am surprised that Andrew’s affection for the city has grown enormously since we left.  While he used to be fairly ambivalent towards my favourite city, being away for a few months has made Andrew appreciate just how awesome this bustling metropolis really is.
  • Creature comforts – while on the road things that seemed so basic back home that they barely registered with us have become luxuries; things such as hot water, soft pillows, drinking water straight from a tap and being able to wash and dry our own clothes.
  • Weather – I’m going to conform to British stereotype here and moan about the weather. Yes, non-stop sunshine and tropical temperatures sound nice in theory but to us pale Brits used to huddling in coats for six months of the year it can actually be pretty exhausting and difficult to handle at times. So, on days when the sun does refuse to come out we often breathe a sigh of relief. I do think we are slowly adapting to the humidity and fierce heat though – well, we’ve stopped ducking into shops every half an hour to cool ourselves down anyway. On the flip side, we’ve also experienced quite a bit of rain in Asia too – not just the dreary non-stop British drizzle either but pavement-pounding, skin-stinging downpours which may not last long but leave flooded streets and soaked travellers in their wake.
  • Language – trying to get to grips with new languages and learning to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language as you is one of the more challenging, but rewarding parts of travel. Since Andrew is a language teacher, this aspect of travel is particularly interesting and stimulating for him but there are times when we would both love to be able to communicate quickly and competently with people without having to resort to hand gestures and hand-written phrases or place names.
  • Knowing where we are – there really are days on the road when I wake up and for a moment, I can’t remember where I am or what I’m doing there. When we travel the days bleed into each other and we lose track of the date and sometimes the month entirely. After a while, feeling this disorientated gets exhausting and the only way to cure this affliction is to slow down.  

What do you find you take for granted or most miss from home when you travel?

  • Kellie
    Posted at 18:14h, 27 August Reply

    Whilst driving home from work today I was thinking about the things I’m going to miss when we set off. Apart from my friends and family my list consisted of Yorkshire Tea and cheese. I totally understand the need for a good block of mature cheddar. I’m sure it’ll taste even better when you finally get your hands on some.

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:21h, 28 August Reply

      Glad someone else understands my cheese obsession Kellie! I spotted a large Tesco on the outskirts of Chiang Mai and am planning to scour the shelves for cheese when we rent an apartment there in a few weeks’ time!

  • Patti
    Posted at 19:49h, 27 August Reply

    Cleanliness is a huge issue for me – it makes my skin crawl when I’m in an environment that is not clean. Yuck! I don’t think I would ever become accustomed to the bugs though – I have a horrible fear of anything that creeps, crawls, buzzes, slithers, etc. etc. but I’m glad you’re overcoming the creepiness of them! Thanks for sharing such an honest post!

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:23h, 28 August Reply

      The cleanliness is difficult to cope with Patti and as for the creepy crawlies: last night Andrew got chased by a cockroach and this morning Andrew’s sister found a small scorpion in her room! You do get (sort of) used to them though 🙂

  • Beast
    Posted at 20:46h, 27 August Reply

    It was wonderful to see you both and share some of your travelling in Thailand, but I agree that it does make the parting again much more painful. I’m so glad that we can follow you on your blog and keep in touch other ways though. Looking forward to our next Skype! Xx

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:37h, 28 August Reply

      I’m glad you had a good time Beast, it just seemed to fly by. I’m going to start research for our next adventure together to Scotland soon and hope to get a trip to England in before then – get the cheese at the ready!

  • Maddie
    Posted at 22:35h, 27 August Reply

    I can relate to so many of these things. For me I almost feel guilty if I have times where I’m feeling down, like I’m not appreciating what we have when travelling. It took a long time to realise that it’s still life, despite it being an incredible experience you will still have off days and miss creature comforts. It must be horrible to have to say goodbye to your folks after their visit but you must have had some incredible experiences with them, keep smiling 🙂 P.S I would kill to lie on my sofa from home right about now!

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:42h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Maddie, thanks for your kind words, I will keep smiling 🙂 I also feel guilty about missing home sometimes; it’s awful to be visiting a beautiful waterfall or trekking through jungle and be secretly craving home with a passion. However, (for me at least) that’s the reality of travel – sometimes I miss England, but that’s ok.

  • Andrew bonner
    Posted at 22:40h, 27 August Reply

    Just sent you an email Blyth, is the neighbours tour still the highlight of the trip? 😉 enjoying the blog, I often read it while sipping a glass of red and nibbling on some extra mature cheddar. Would happily swap cheese for you’re adventures though, keep living the dream!

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:45h, 28 August Reply

      Bonner! Good to hear from you. In actual fact I’m just compiling a list of travel highlights from our first six months; the Neighbours tour is on there but has been overtaken by many other adventures. I’ve just sent you an email from my Googlemail account as the Hotmail one doesn’t work anymore. Hope you’ll be able to join us on an adventure sometime soon. Oh, and don’t taunt me with the cheese!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 08:28h, 28 August Reply

    While Tony and I were ecstatic to leave Nashville and start our trip, I can imagine that if we’d been living in a slightly more cosmopolitan city, leaving wouldn’t have been nearly so easy!

    Travel blogs necessarily focus on moving from place to place and exploring the world, but I don’t think you’ll meet a long-term traveler who hasn’t missed things from home for at least a little part of their trip; anyone who says otherwise is a liar! I admit that I don’t have the lengthy list of things I miss that you do, but when people ask me if we get tired after a year of traveling, I say yes, because truthfully I am exhausted! I’m still having a blast, but do I sometimes wish we were back in our little apartment snuggling our dogs sitting down to a meal I had just cooked and getting ready to play some video games? Of course! Being away has definitely helped me appreciate the things that we took for granted back home and now I can recognize what things from our old life really brought me joy and comfort. While I have no burning desire to return to Nashville or settle into our old life, there will certainly be things from home that I will look forward to when we do go back. I don’t necessarily want to base myself somewhere in a house for years on end, but it will be nice to have a place to base ourselves for at least a little while—the longest we’ve stayed in any one city in our entire travels has only been 14 days! Right now what I want most is somewhere where I can nest for a bit and recharge for the next leg of our journey!

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:57h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Steph, it’s nice to hear that other travellers miss home too; I guess it must be extra hard for you guys as you have dogs too. You’re so right about recognising which things from our old lives brought us joy; we lived in London for three and a half years and Andrew only just started to appreciate how great the place is once we’d been on the road for a couple of months. Like you, we are also looking forward to basing ourselves somewhere for a while and are about to start apartment searching in Chiang Mai in a few weeks. I absolutely cannot wait to unpack properly and establish a little routine.

  • Charlie
    Posted at 14:59h, 28 August Reply

    Ha, totally with you on the cheese! I missed good mature cheese so much when I was in Asia, though fortunately I adore Asian food so could just about survive. It’s really hard saying goodbyes all over again. I love it when my family and friends come and visit or I get to visit the UK, but seriously there’s a little part of me that hates it just because it’s so painful when it comes to saying goodbye. Honestly, that doesn’t get any easier. Of course, some parts of travel aren’t always fun, but I guess those moments remind us to appreciate what we have at home 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:35h, 29 August Reply

      Hi Charlie, being away definitely reminds us to appreciate what we have/had back in England. I get what you mean about a part of you hating visits; it is painful to say goodbye over and over again, especially when you have no idea when you’ll meet again. Despite all this, I wouldn’t give up travel for anything right now.

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Posted at 09:49h, 31 August Reply

    Amy, I know exactly where you are coming from. This is our third time moving abroad and every time we go through the really miss stages. It is much harder on Alan than it is for me, as he is a selective eater. We didn’t live near any family in the US, so it is similar for us on that front, but the routine, friends, food are all still on the list. Over time is does fade a bit and when someone visits and brings you food, it is great for a bit and then you miss it more. Even a little piece of candy becomes something missed. I know it is tough and it is good to share “talk” about it. That is what I really miss, the chit chat with friends. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy
      Posted at 08:19h, 01 September Reply

      Hi Heidi, wow, it must be pretty hard for Alan being a selective eater, have you published a post about that before? It would make interesting reading to hear how he copes with food on the road. Chit chat is also one of the things I miss most, although there are plenty of new people to chat to on the road it’s nice sometimes to just have a chat with someone other than your partner who knows you really well.

  • Emiel
    Posted at 10:46h, 31 August Reply

    Wow, some kind of list Amy Blyth But I fully understand all these things you miss about home and I really appreciate your honesty in this post. Can imagine that when you hit cities like Jakarta or New Delhi (where we were last year), you get overwhelmed (‘feast’ to the senses they say) and although it’s all impressive and fun, there will always be a longing for home, because that’s where it feels safe all the time…. great post

    • Amy
      Posted at 08:16h, 01 September Reply

      Thanks Emiel. We were definitely overwhelmed in Jakarta and it made us miss home even more as we were so far out of our comfort zone. Most of the time though we do find travel more than makes up for all the things we miss and when it comes down to it we wouldn’t trade this trip for all the cheese in England!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 09:14h, 01 September Reply

    Amy, re:cheese. They have decent cheese in Laos, cheddar type stuff. I’ve not seen it in the shops but we’ve been eating cheese roti and mushroom pizzas a lot! They use Laughing Cow in the baguettes, that’ll do in an emergency! I don’t really miss any foods from home, I love Asian, but I’m with you on rice, blegh! I used to miss cheese in Australia, it’s just not the same, I’m hitting up Cheddar Gorge when we get to the UK!

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:23h, 01 September Reply

      Good news about the cheese in Laos Alyson, we’ll probably be there in December so we’ll make our Christmas dinner a cheesy affair! I expect you’ll be eating all kinds of delicious Christmas food when you get back to the UK, be sure to take some pics for us to drool over!

      • Alyson
        Posted at 10:45h, 01 September Reply

        Would I be that cruel? Our first cold Christmas in 6 years, our first home cooked one with turkey, our first with Dad at home, not working. Too right we’ll be taking pictures!!

        • Amy
          Posted at 16:52h, 01 September Reply

          You’re making me jealous already! From what you’ve written about Laos so far though I think we’re going to have a great time there too.

  • Claire
    Posted at 17:28h, 07 September Reply

    hey so it’s not just me who has to drop into a seven eleven for some air-con as its too hot!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 04:49h, 08 September Reply

      That’s right Claire, that’s the best thing about 7-eleven, such a good blast of cool air!

  • Catherine
    Posted at 11:10h, 22 September Reply

    Hey Amy, so great to see how far you’ve come and whilst lying on my sofa and trying to recover from work and dreaming of breaking out of the routine I think you’ve done everything right. Live in the moment and even though it can be exhausting and tough at times you’ll be back soon enough and crave the travelling life style. We tend to idealise things we miss and believe me, rainy cold London right now is not the place you want to be;)
    Enjoy!!! xxx

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:19h, 22 September Reply

      Hi Catherine, great to hear from you; I hope you’re well and still enjoying your high-powered job (even if it is exhausting!). Thanks for your kind comments, you’re right, we do tend to idealise things and I’m sure I’d miss the intensity of travel if I came back to London now. I am looking forward to heading back to the UK for a visit in June though, I hope we can catch up when I visit London x

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