When I cross the border into Oklahoma on Sunday, February 21st it will have been 311 days since I’ve seen my home. My family. My friends. During that time, there is a lot about my home (and America in general) that I have missed…and some things I haven’t. With our flight to Chicago looming on the horizon, I figured now was a good time to reflect on them.
Miss – 24 Hour Convenience: Even in London, many places aren’t open twenty-four hours. Sunday is still a ‘big deal’ here and many shops close early, if they open at all. Forget places in Southeast Asia. Need/Want something after dark? Best be a patient person. Sure, this prevents you from heading to QuikTrip at midnight to get a Cadbury Creme Egg, but if I’m out of Tylenol and I have a headache coming on, it’s gonna be a long night.
Don’t Miss – Fast Food Glut: Our friend Ali (from Iran) once asked how many fast food restaurants we had at home. I went on a mental drive from our house to the AT&T store I worked at; in that seven mile journey, I counted over 35. Fast food is so easy to get at home and it’s always been difficult for me to avoid. And the portions, oh Lord, the portions. I have a feeling I’m in for a shock when I get home. The density of restaurants has varied throughout my travels but it has never come close to the amount we have back home.
Miss – Mobile Internet: Yeah, I really do. I’ve purchased a SIM card in most of the countries we’ve traveled to and used a basic little phone for any calls I’ve needed to make, but I really got attached to using my iPhone as an information hub. Most places we’ve stayed at haven’t had any kind of Internet access handy and have had to trek to an Internet café. A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but I like being able to find answers to questions quickly.
Don’t Miss – Constant Tether: This seems in conflict with the previous point. It’s not. I don’t miss having a Blackberry on my hip and a separate phone on my person that continuously remind me that I’m not truly on my own. It’s been nice to go for walks and spend time in exotic locations and not worry about some phantom responsibility or possible interruption.
Miss – Family and Friends: This is a given. But I’ve really grown to appreciate the familiarity of those closest to me and the ability to turn to them when I need counsel. It will be interesting to see how my growth as a person will affect those relationships when I am re-introduced into my natural habitat. I am eager to share my experiences first hand.
Don’t Miss – Driving Everywhere: I love the fact that walking a mile is a normal thing, not
some daunting task I would never consider. Walking has become a major part of my life, and not as a recreational hobby but as a necessity. I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car since we left Long Beach, California last April. I’ve only purchased groceries that would fit in my backpack and have learned a lot about layering my clothes in cooler weather. And lost 55 lbs.
Miss – Choices: This is a harder point to quantify. In many places we’ve been, our decision on food and shelter have been based on availability and cost. Most of the time we haven’t had a lot of choices that fit into our budget or needs. I’ve had the same three sets of clothes for the most part. If I did want to break down and get a burger or something fast, there typically was only one place nearby. Grocery stores don’t have as many food options. Trains and buses run on set schedules that I have to adhere to. If I felt a migraine coming on, I had to rest because I can’t just go out and buy more Imitrex. It’s not a complaint, per se; these restrictions have helped me grow and appreciate more. But it will be nice to have so many things I can do in a relatively small area.
Don’t Miss – Television: Boy, it’s been nice to not deal with commercials and constant advertising. Billboards and things of that nature exist everywhere, but I’ve yet to experience a place as driven by consumer marketing as the United States. It’s everywhere. Even the BBC in London has far fewer commercial interruptions and television back home. It feels less urgent abroad. Less like a hammer hitting you over the head to buy the latest thing and more like a suggestion to give it a shot, if you like.
There’s more, but I want to give Indi a chance to compile her own list. I’ll also be keeping an eye on things as I re-adjust to the homeland and plan a follow-up post in a few weeks touching back on these points and any others that I discover as things wind down. I’m so excited!!