The Comforts of Home We Miss While On the Road
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We embarked on this year of travel, knowing that many of the comforts of home we’d grown accustom to wouldn't be available on our trip. Either the sheer circumstance of not being in our own home, or the fact that our bags can only fit so much stuff, meant that we were going to need to manage without a lot of 'stuff' we were used to having for the next year or so. Of course, we knew this going into it, so it wasn't a surprise to us.
In all honesty, we believe that going without is a good thing. We’ll be uncomfortable, and therefore forced to grow, or at least adapt, in the process. We’ll not only learn to live with less stuff and conveniences, but hopefully we’ll learn to thrive with less as well. We’ll no doubt appreciate what we have more by cherishing it while we have it and hopefully, we’ll realize that some of the things we thought were must-haves, really aren’t necessary and we can live happily without them.
That being said, there are a few things that, while we've learned to live without them, we do find ourselves wistfully thinking of them from time to time.
We knew, before we left home that we’d miss our pillows. Several years ago we’d spent months testing out every type of pillow we could find. We wanted one that supported our necks well and kept us cool and comfortable while sleeping. We tried everything from a water-filled pillow to memory foam contoured pillows. What we finally settled on was the type of pillow Shannon had used since she was a teenager. She’d seen an infomercial for a buckwheat pillow and got it that year for Christmas. While she still can’t figure out why dropping a bowling ball on a buckwheat pillow placed on a sheet of glass makes it a good pillow, it was that scene in the infomercial that caused her to beg her parents to purchase it. Fortunately, it turned out to be her favorite pillow and she’s sworn by them ever since. Years later, after trying a plethora pillows on the market, low and behold, the buckwheat pillow won out and Sergio finally agreed with Shannon.
We’ve been sleeping with them for years now. We usually purchase three of them on Amazon, using the third pillow to add more filling to the other two so they’re more dense and full. These pillows have been great because they're moldable to our head and neck, but also keep their density for support throughout the night.
Our travels have taken us from home to home and hotel to hotel. We’ve slept with feather pillows, down pillows, synthetic pillows, memory foam pillows, and pillows we couldn’t venture, nor do we dare try to describe. Some have been decent, some have been miserable, but none have been our beloved buckwheat pillows! So, our necks are often sore upon waking, but we make do and we use extra pillows for support and comfort as needed. We do extra stretching, including a stretch a chiropractor recommended for the muscles on the sides of the neck, the scalenes (when done right these can be a bit painful at first, but do wonders to relieve neck pain).
We’ve actually been surprised that we’ve not yet encountered a single bidet in Europe (outside of hotels). We’d always heard that they were common in Europe, so we fully expected to see them in the homes we’ve stayed at while house sitting, however we haven’t. At home, we'd invested in a bidet that we could easily hook-up in 20 minutes to our apartment toilet without permanent modification. The original purpose was solely to save on toilet paper, both for the budget and the environment. We succeeded in cutting back our toilet paper usage by 50%! Plus, we had a welcome side effect of feeling cleaner and more hygienic and frankly, it was softer on our bums!
If you’re considering purchasing a bidet, we’d recommend a basic model for men, or a dual stream model for women. When considering the purchase of a bidet, there can be a bit of concern about the temperature of the water, so some people choose to splurge on a heated model. We opted to get the one without heating, not wanting to have to hook it up to electricity and have more parts on it that could fail. Thankfully, even in the cold of winter, with negative degree days and nights, the temperature of the water never really bothered us.
Although this is a comfort we miss, it’s certainly a luxury and one we can easily do without. We risk sounding pretentious here, so please understand that we know toilet paper itself is a luxury, as we could be stuck using leaves!
Internet Speed and Reliability
Being that we’re both consultants, reliable and fast internet connectivity is a commodity that we can’t very well do without. It allows us to stay connected and do our work, which leads to income, financial stability, and ultimately our well being. We often comment on how reliant we are on a data connection, and how different our ability to be location independent digital nomads would be just 10 years ago.
We did research before leaving the US on how we’d be able to stay connected to the internet while traveling. We have a subscription to BOINGO (free, courtesy of our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card) and have a couple of apps that assist in finding Wi-Fi spots. We also know that when staying at hotels, Airbnbs, and doing house sits, we need to make sure ahead of time that we'll have fast and reliable internet connectivity. What we’ve learned along the way, is that not all data connections are made equally. Well, we of course knew this before hand, what we should say is that ‘fast and reliable internet’ are subjective and open to interpretation from person to person. Overall, we’ve been surprised at the spotty and slow connections we’ve had. Even when we confirm in advance that the internet connection is reliable and high-speed, we’ve been left sadly disappointed. What we've realized is that what some people consider 'fast and reliable' can be inadequate or limiting to carry out our responsibilities as consultants.
We take advantage of fast and reliable connections when we can, making sure to screen out and choose lodging accommodations in advance as much as possible. We can usually screen out lodging accommodations that don’t have enough internet bandwidth, but we can’t really account for entry level routers that don’t have the resiliency to handle dozens of concurrent connections and open ports. For increased efficiency, it’s not uncommon that our workflow includes networking our computers, connecting to remote desktops, VOIP calling, streaming video, and often times simultaneously.
When things are less than ideal, we’ve adapted, have workarounds, and always make do. When somethings has to get done, we work on staying positive and find a way!
Brands We Know
We’re particular about the types of products we use. Not because we’re concerned about our image, but because we want to have the most value out of a product. If we’re going to pay for it, use it, or consume it, we want to be sure it’s doing (and not doing) everything we expect it to.
For example, we wear Altra shoes because they’re ‘zero drop’ (a 0 mm differential from heel to toe), are made to fit the foot, and have good padding throughout the shoe. Since we walk so much, we’ve worn through our shoes unusually quickly. After just three months we found ourselves needing to purchase new shoes! Since Altras are only sold in the US, we were left to wander the aisles of local shoe stores. We each found low profile shoes that have a 0 mm differential, but the overall fit and comfort is lacking compared to the Altras we’ve owned.
Another good example is toothpaste and mouthwash. A few of the brands in the US are sold in Europe as well, however we haven’t been able to find the identical items we used in the US. We followed a specific dental hygiene routine, which included Crest Cavity toothpaste, Act Fluoride Rinse and Closys. Even if we wanted to find the equivalent of those products in Europe, we have little to no familiarity with brands and their subsequent ingredients. Store employees must wonder why we spend so much time looking at labels and looking up products on our phones, but we just want to know what we’re using! Sometimes we end up settling for something that's close, just to get the job done, but we do miss our go to, tried and true products from home.
Family and Friends
This goes without saying, but in case they’re reading this we’re dedicating a whole section to it. Hi mom! Hi dad!
We’re lucky that we’re traveling in a time that technology has evolved to a point that we can call, text, and email our family and friends at any time without a huge inconvenience or cost. However, there’s nothing like seeing someone in person. When we get homesick, it’s not typically for our stuff, it’s usually for that precious time with our family. There’s nothing that can replace a good hug from a parent or a close friend. Thankfully, we have each other!
One Thing We Thought We’d Miss but Don’t
We sold our car before leaving the US. It’s the first time in our lives that we haven't had a car, so we thought we’d miss it. We also thought we’d often be renting cars while abroad. We knew we'd be traveling long distances by taking a train or a budget airline flight, however when exploring a city, we didn't expect that we'd rarely rent a car. It turns out, we much prefer walking or taking public transportation.
When selling our car, we assumed that when we returned to the US we’d purchase a new (to us) car. Previously, when at home we didn't drive much anyway, as we had only one car and put less than 3,500 miles on it per year. The key for us was living close to work and creating a life that was centered around our home (here's other tips and thoughts on consuming less). Even then, having a car seemed like a vital part of our lives. We used our car to go to the store for large purchases and grocery shopping, and it was a quick means to get from place A to place B. Although, truth be told, getting rid of our car was something we’d considered multiple times. The allure of not paying car insurance or for maintenance and repairs, and also not having a giant depreciating hunk of metal was always a nice thought. But in the end, it seemed like a bridge too far to cross to be without a car.
Although, now that we’re traveling without a car, we’ve adapted to not having one. We keep ourselves in a two to three mile radius of basic necessities, like grocery stores. When we want to go somewhere further away, we just pull out Google Maps, use the public transit option and make our way on the bus or the metro. We try to plan ahead and group our errands and sightseeing together, so we’re not spending money on multiple day passes if it isn’t needed. When it comes to personal items and grocery shopping, we do a little bit every day or two so our load isn't too heavy. We have re-usable grocery bags (a must in Europe since they charge for plastic bags) and backpacks that we load up with food and other items we purchase. Plus, we enjoy the walk and fresh air, and when we’re feeling a bit sluggish, it forces us to get out and move. We’ve been able to adjust our routines around not having a car so well, that we’re not sure we’ll purchase one when we get home!