When you start traveling and stay for a while in areas that have little to do with the place you come from, you start realizing how everything is relative.
NOTHING should ever be taken for granted!
This is when you start learning how to value those certain little things… and cursing when you can’t find them!
Here are, in no particular order, 5 things I have stopped taking for granted ever since we started traveling:
While growing up, milk was always abundant in my house. Even the poorest kids around me had at least milk with their breakfast. I guess living in the country side and seeing cows around you makes you feel that milk would always be there.
In certain countries, milk is something you shouldn’t take for granted because, in its liquid form at least, it’s not always available or, when available, might cost as much as a reserve wine back home. Learn how to appreciate the way powder milk dissolves in your coffee or tea, and you should be fine! By the way: in a place with no fresh milk, you better also forget about other dairy products such as yogurt or cheese that might not be super processed.
2. Toilet Paper
Sheryl Crow was right: humans create way too much waste by using toilet paper every day. In fact, this is something you will not find everywhere. Many people in Asia and the Middle East still prefer to use water to wash themselves after going to the loo and the “ass showers” placed next to the toilet pots, will make it convenient for you to freshen up down there.
But toilet paper is something I can’t still live without. My mind tells me water is better, but my heart is still hooked on tissue. A matter of habit, like everything in life. If toilet paper is that important to you, I recommend you carry your own supply while traveling around certain parts of the World. Don’t expect it to be readily available in all toilets you might pay a visit to.
And talking about toilet paper shortages, it’s worth mentioning that, in several places, you might have toilet paper but might not be able to dump it in the toilet after you are done, as the flush might not have enough strength to carry it through the underworld. In this case, you would need to do what we call “poo balls”: use the paper to clean yourself, roll it up nicely in a ball with the used part to the inside, and dispose it in the paper basket!
3. (Free) Internet Connection
At home you might check your email and Facebook 20 times a day. While taking a trip, depending where you go, this might not be possible. In some countries, like Cuba for example, internet is still very limited and they still use dial-up! Welcome (back) to the 80s!!
Most websites with images will take longer to load than a turtle crossing Sheik Zayed Road in the UAE (have you seen how many lanes this road has?!). Side by side with (almost) no internet connection, is the annoyance of having to pay for internet. Hotels and hostels still charging for internet to people who actually already pay to stay in their rooms, should be shot! It’s just an easy way to extort your clients, once you won’t pay more every month if more people get connected.
4. Good feminine hygiene products
Let me rephrase that: feminine hygiene products. Period! In some places, sanitary napkins and, in particular, tampons, are still something that only the devil could use. So not necessarily you find these (or a good variety or quality ones) neither in the supermarkets or even pharmacies. If you are very particular about the brand you use, better carry some with you.
On a separate note, let me tell you about this man in India who invented a machine to produce very low-cost sanitary napkins, mainly aimed for women in rural areas, in some cases living below the poverty line. Mr. A. Muruganatham can now offer pads that cost only 1 rupee/unit (USD 0.02) to produce. This is a huge step towards intimate feminine hygiene in rural areas where buying branded pads wouldn’t be an option. Particularly because this machine, that costs around USD1500, is supposed to be used locally, in each community, and therefore make the product available to the local ladies. More info here: http://newinventions.in/
5. A decent bed (mattress & pillow)
Sometimes finding a good solid straight mattress to sleep on can really make your day… or night! In many hotels and, even more, hostels, mattresses feel like they’ve been through WWII or happened to be the nest of all ninfomaniacs of the world operating together on the same night. So getting a good mattress that will allow you to rest well is something one shouldn’t take for granted, once it’s not always there.
You might be then thinking “don’t be such cheappos and go to places with better beds!” Well, to visit some remote places the truth is that you have to adapt to whatever is available, because there isn’t always good accommodations around. In fact, in some towns in Latin America, we have come across hostels that don’t even have beds but alternatively offer hammocks for you to spend the night in. I am not one to spend USD 10 (USD 5 if you bring your own hammock and only need to rent the space where to hook it) to sleep in a fetal pose in a hammock for 8 hours! You’ll faster find me laying on the floor with the bugs!
As you read this, be grateful for the comfy chair you are sitting on, the fluffy couch you will be watching TV lying on tonight or the bed you will be able to sleep in and still wake up with the same body shape.
Realizing that you should be grateful for these and
other little things is a great learning experience as you travel!
What stuff have you stopped taking for granted on your travels?