When we first started our round-the-world trip, our equipment was new(ish), our bags were over-packed and we were nicely groomed. My how things have changed! Tara continues to wear thin-as-cardboard flip-flops that have a penny-sized hole in the right heel. And Mike’s shaggy mane hasn’t seen scissors since the beginning of 2012. Instead being off-put by these things, we’ve made jokes out of what we refer to as our “lowest lows.” Such as: When will Tara’s shoes just fall apart? How long will Mike’s hair grow by the end of our trip?
We started to make a list of the not-so-normal things that long-term travel has done to us – the things we usually keep to ourselves. It is such a humorous list that we thought, “Ok, maybe we can share this with our readers.” So in honor of our 13-month travelversary, here are nine confessions that we have kept to ourselves until now. We hope this gives you a chuckle and a little insight into life on the international road:
We hoard nice toilet paper and plastic bags.
Does 3-ply toilet paper exist? If it does, we haven’t seen it in a year. What we use on a daily basis is more akin to party streamers than soft-as-clouds TP. When we come across soft 2-ply paper, we stash some in our day bag.
Plastic bags are as common in SE Asia as motorbikes, but a good heavy-duty bag is worthy of folding up and keeping. It could protect our electronics from the rain or keep shoe odor from seeping into our packs. (Sometimes you have to make up reasons for why you do weird things.)
Sometimes we never see a city’s biggest attraction.
Vientiane’s victory monument? Haven’t seen it. Wat Pho in Bangkok? Skipped it. Our travel style has changed. Earlier on in our trip, we would have rushed around the city to see everything. Now we narrow our interests and choose to enjoy the vibe of the city instead of running around to see and photograph every monument and statue ever constructed.
We have taken enough doxycycline in the past nine months to kill all bacteria in our bodies.
Yes, we’ve been on the antimalarial (and antibiotic) pill since November 2012. Luckily side effects have been limited to one episode of nausea and one feeling of over-heated skin (both happened to Tara). We don’t know how this will affect us in the long run, but we’ve been eating as much yogurt as possible to replace our bodies’ good bacteria.
We eat shrimp (prawn) shells, including heads and tails.
This is unheard of in the States. We never grew up eating anything but their soft pink (and deveined!) meat. In fact, we didn’t even know these outer parts of shrimp were edible until we hit SE Asia. Restaurants never peel off their shells, so unless we want to spend extra time playing with our food, we chomp down like it’s normal. Believe it or not, we have actually come to enjoy them.
When we find a dish or restaurant we like, we become quick patrons.
Ask Mike about his Indian pakora obsession, or Tara about Laotian tofu larp. We have three meals a day to be adventurous eaters, but when we find a local dish we enjoy we fill up as much as possible. Similarly, we have come across some stellar and inexpensive restaurants. When everyone else is asking double the price, why not taste everything on the menu at your favorite place?
Mike takes better care of his newly long hair than Tara.
Three months into our trip, Tara chopped off her locks. She quickly became accustomed to skipping conditioner and not having to brush her hair all the time. Meanwhile, Mike has been growing out his hair for the first time in 10 years. He’s become fond of caring for his hair and seeks out conditioner in stores while Tara takes a pass. For better or worse, conditioner has come to be more of a luxury item for both of us.
Complimentary toothbrushes are never used for brushing our teeth.
We’ve been surprised at how many guesthouses offer complimentary toothbrushes. We keep them, but not to brush our teeth with. They do a great job of getting dirt out of our socks and other clothes! Hand washing our clothes has become a bit easier with these little scrub brushes.
Our clothes and shoes have more holes than we’d like to admit.
You already know about Tara’s flip-flops, but our clothes are also quite the sight (C’mon, give us a break, we’re sink washing here!). We would never walk around in beat-up clothes like these at home, but you can get away with a lot while backpacking. We each have shirts with ::gasp:: armpit stains, unraveling thread and holes in the front and back. But whatever. When we get to Hoi An, Vietnam, we are treating ourselves to a whole new wardrobe!!!