Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread


No one in Croatia says “the best thing since sliced bread.” This is because they don’t have sliced bread. K says that we could make a fortune by bringing over sliced bread, fitted sheets, brooms, and peanut butter.

Tell me a swiffer wouldn't blow their minds.

It’s not that we’re bashing on Croatia, because we love this place. However, if there’s one thing traveling will do, it’s remind you of everything you miss from home.

I should start by saying that I’m suffering from some overwhelming homesickness at the moment, as I missed an important family event last weekend. Additionally, I’m taking an upcoming trip to my adventure partner’s home of origin, and the excitement of seeing our friends and family is about to kill me.

I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to travel and see the world through the lens of other cultures. There’s nothing quite as cool as experiencing the way another country navigates through life.  I can also appreciate the things that other countries have embraced that I wish America had (roundabouts, open air markets, and free healthcare, anyone?) However, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten all of things that make my home special.

With that in mind, I dedicate this post to things that I miss about America.

1. Convenience. This doesn’t just mean the convenience of being able to buy ammo, a pregnancy test, bacon, and a lawn mower at two in the morning. Convenience is an all-encompassing phenomenon in the states. I can get anything I need, at any time, and I can probably get it from a drive-thru.

The biggest convenience I miss at this point is a washer and dryer. A full-size washer and dryer, not that 2-gallon combination piece of shit that Europe has embraced. I don’t want to say that I’m tired of washing my clothes in a mop bucket and stringing them around the room, but there’s probably more artistic ways to decorate a kitchen.

2. Grocery stores. Yes, every country has grocery stores, but not in the way that we know and love. This goes along with my comments on convenience. Grocery stores are not open at a time that would be conducive to anyone with a job. Even the ones that boast “24 hours” are only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. This means that everyone is trying to cram into the dairy aisle on Saturdays, and no one is enjoying themselves. Tesco is the most hostile place I’ve ever been.

Additionally, each country organizes their store in a different way, and it never makes sense. For example, you would think that cinnamon sticks would be in the aisle with the rest of the spices, right? No. Cinnamon sticks are located next to the flour, which is near the bakery, which is on the other side of the store.

Eggs should be in the refrigerated section next to the milk and butter, but instead you’ll find them on the shelf next to the canned hot dogs, because why the hell not? As an aside, canned hot dogs are surprisingly delicious. Desperation is an ugly animal.

3. Street signs. The first step to getting where you need to go is knowing where you are right now. I’m not even trying to be cute and metaphorical there; I seriously have no idea where the hell I am most of the time. You know those green signs with clearly printed white letters that tell you what street you’re on? Yeah, no one else does that.

Roads that are wide enough to accommodate two cars simultaneously are also a bit of an oddity. It’s much easier to build one lane, label it as 60 mph, and then put up a warning sign. Problem solved!

I could probably create an entirely separate blog about roads and all things automotive related, so I’ll limit this rant to one more thing: grid patterned streets. Miss your turn? That’s cool! Take the next one.

I understand that most of the roads in England are older than my country, so it makes sense that they would follow whatever plan was laid out centuries ago. However, they continue their eclectic patterns of squiggles and loops in their new developments, presumably so that it will blend with the rest of the area.

4. Familiar foods. I can’t belittle the culinary delights of the places I’ve visited. Every country has its own amazing dishes, from sushi in Japan to fresh feta in Greece. I love food, LOVE it, and the variety of flavors has been one of the most rewarding things about living and traveling abroad.

I wouldn’t trade the delicious food experiences I’ve had for anything, but everyone has their favorite foods from home. I make a list of specific things I have to eat each time I visit the states, and none of them could be considered culinary masterpieces. Red Lobster cheesy biscuits, Dairy Queen’s chicken strip basket (God help you if doesn’t have the country gravy), eggs benedict, and that bowl thing from KFC that has their entire menu swimming in mashed potatoes. Don’t act like you don’t know which one I’m talking about! None of these things could hold a candle to the homemade ricotta and balsamic vinegar I had in Italy, but I still miss them!

I miss them because they taste like home. They taste like happy memories at familiar places, and no amount of moussaka in Crete can make up for that (although God knows I’ve tried!) Which brings me to the most important thing I miss about home…

5. Friends and family (and friends that ARE family).
It doesn’t matter how many wonderful people I meet on my travels, no one will compare to my friends and family back home. Yes, you make look around at your family and think they’re all bat shit crazy (because they probably are) but they made you who you are today. They’re irreplaceable.

One of the driving forces behind a love of travel is the fact that you can be anyone you want during your trip. No one knows who you are. They don’t know your history or the fact that you still sucked your thumb all the way through kindergarten and are hopelessly uncoordinated. For all they know, you’re whoever (and whatever) you say you are.

At home, there are people who watched you puke all over your desk in Mr. B’s freshman science class, and they love you just the same. As cool as it is to be whoever you want to be for a week, there’s nothing quite the same as knowing that there’s people out there who love you unconditionally. No matter how much I see and how far I travel, these are the people that make me want to come home.

But I seriously need a washer and dryer.

2 comments:

  1. "...buy ammo, a pregnancy test, bacon, and a lawn mower at two in the morning." Clearly you need to be my new shopping pal.

    Additionally, and maybe I spend too much time on sites that mock the twee found-arts and crafts movement, but everything you described leads me to assume Croatia is actually an Etsy-staged collective: everything is hip and a little non-progressive and it seems well and good to subscribe to its crunchy, organic vibes... until you realize it's not cute when you need toilet paper and all they have is canned hot dogs (!) and then your good vibes fluctuate to "oh eff this sh in the a" and you head off to Wales-mart.

    Then again, I'm a cranky recluse who doesn't travel outside of the state unless I'm moving out of it, so... ;)

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    1. I'm realizing that you and I clearly did not spend enough time together! :D Montenegro was more of an Esty collective than Croatia was, but that's going to be a whole different post.

      Clusterfuck does not begin to describe some of our travel days. I dissolved into a pile of tears and sweat and yelling "I'm never traveling again!" on our second to last day. I figure I've said the same thing about drinking enough times to know that I'll change my mind.

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