About a month before I left on my trip I wrote a post listing the things I thought I would miss during my travels. Now that I’m back home, I thought it was time to review my predictions.
There’s no question that I enjoy lounging about in a bathrobe for hours on end. I’m doing it right now as I write this. But I didn’t miss it on any conscious level. Since I was never sleeping in a stable or familiar place, the idea of being especially comfortable or lazy never crossed my mind. Bathrobes aren’t just a means to comfort, they are a luxury of it.
2. Watching movies
I confess to watching a movie or two while on the road. I say confess because it seems a shame to spend time watching a movie, which will always be there, when one could be exploring a new and different place. What’s more, most of the time I was watching movies I’d already seen before. But I love the screen arts, and a person only has so much energy. Every once in a while I found myself in a place that didn’t particularly interest me, and curling up on a motel bed with a good movie seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.
3. Having a second monitor for my computer
I certainly missed this, though not for the reason I thought. I thought it would drive me bonkers to lose all that screen space and be forced into seeing only one application at a time. In fact the screen space didn’t bother me – my neck did. A laptop is so much smaller than a human. It asks the fingers and eyes to move their focus to the same point, and I often found myself closing up like a clam shell when sitting at my computer for too long. I had to keep remembering what one of my college professors once taught me: “The computer comes to you, you don’t have to go to it.”
I certainly missed having regular access to dairy products, but for the most part my limited selection of food items didn’t bother me. When staying with people I usually enjoyed either a home cooked meal or dinner out. When left by myself in a city there was usually some special diner I’d been told to try. In light of all the restaurant food, simplicity in my personal meals was welcome. The truly problematic thing wasn’t the lack of a refrigerator, but the abundance of ovens. My car turned into one on a daily basis. This meant I was not only limited to items that didn’t need to be cold, but ones that could stand extreme heat. After failing with several different foods that would have been fine in my car in colder months, I found myself eating nothing but Top Ramen and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even this might have been fine if it hadn’t been so impossible to find quality wheat bread. I’m spoiled living in Seattle. The mere presence of Whole Foods and PCC in your area means you’ll always find good bread at even the cheapest grocery stores. This isn’t the case everywhere.
5. A great range of clothing choices
I didn’t miss this, not even a little bit. It was nice to have so few options, and to know that I couldn’t make much of a bad decision considering I only had so many decisions available. I only had one pair of jeans and one pair of pants. I only had a handful of tops and a couple pairs of shorts. My shoe selection was based on utility alone. It was fantastic. It’s how I imagine life is for men.
6. Always being able to immediately wash sticky things off my hands
This was less of a problem than I anticipated. I am, in fact, quite good at not touchy sticky things to begin with.
7. Comfortable temperatures
I did not find summer in the Deep South to be especially uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because I’d spent so many years building it up as the worst thing in the world. Yes, it was hot and humid, but I expected it to be. There were a few times when things got a little sweaty, but it was nothing I hadn’t signed up for. I don’t remember ever being especially uncomfortable as a result of the temperature, save for a few times in the mountains when I got very cold.
8. Days that don’t require planning
I certainly did miss this. I suffered some serious planning fatigue over the course of my trip, especially in the second half. In the future I probably won’t plan solo ventures that last longer than two months, unless they involve a lot of sitting around on beaches or following someone else’s schedule. We take it for granted in our boring, every day lives, but there is serenity in waking up and knowing exactly what you are supposed to do.
9. Seattle rain
People thought I was mad. They asked me what I missed about home, and I told them I missed the rain. I worked so hard to make them understand, to be an ambassador for the Seattle Shower. They knew Seattle was a rainy city (it was always the first fact anyone could muster about the place), but they saw it strictly as a negative. That’s because rain in the rest of the country is awful. It’s unpredictable. It can arrive at a moment’s notice, and be gone minutes later. It’s hard and thick. You can get truly soaked in the rain after only a minute or two. In Seattle, you always know when the rain is coming, and it’s usually pretty light. It’s also refreshing. It’s interesting. It smells good. Seattle is well known for its rain, but it is a type of rain most people don’t even know exists: the good kind.
I missed the ease and routine that comes with familiarity, but I didn’t have a problem with unknown streets or unusual people. Besides, I had personal familiarity. I knew my car inside and out, where everything was and the condition all my items were in. I developed a certain amount of routine in my writing and posting. I suppose I found as much familiarity as I required.
When I first made this list, I speculated that the things I would miss the most would be things I wouldn’t even think of until I had to go without them. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss good wheat bread. I missed my bed – not for its comfort, but for the fact that I never had to find or create it. But on the whole, I didn’t miss much of anything. I worry that it sounds callous, like I have no appreciation for my home and the people and things that make it what it is. That’s not it. I suppose it’s because I knew I’d soon be back. I pushed my focus to the things that I had in the moment, and assumed everything I might wish to have would be back in my life again soon. The truly important things were waiting for me, and everything else turned out to be so much window dressing. It’s a good question to ask every once in a while:
What will you miss?