The cleanliness of my vehicle.
After romping around Asia on sketchy motorbikes, exhaust-filled tuk tuks, crammed buses, slow-chugging trains and double-prop planes, waxing my truck and conditioning its leather now seem insignificant. So does repairing small cosmetic dents and a few scratches.
Rubber sandals are pretty much all I needed in Asia, and most of the time I left them at the door when entering an establishment. There’s not much carpet to muddy up over there, either, so most of my days were spent barefoot and fancy-free. Plus, I soon built calluses which further enabled my shoeless romping over rocky paths and coral reefs. Although, after nearly a month without arch support, damn did it feel nice to put on some Nikes and go for a hike.
Now that I’m back on American soil it takes a lot more to get me to don a pair of shoes than it used to. Being barefoot can always bring me back to those simpler times when my days consisted of lounging in a hammock sipping a cold coconut after my morning surf.
Once I slid over into “Airplane Mode” for that first time, there was no turning back. In fact, I suspended my AT&T service for the entire half-year I was abroad. My LTE bars were replaced by Wi-Fi bars. But that was just once every few days. Instead of calls, texts and Pandora my iPhone took on new forms as a camera, GPS, compass, flashlight and Mp3 player. And now that I’m home, I’m that much less attached to my “device” than most other Americans…which is probably for the better.
Sharing a room with insects.
When I first arrived in the Philippines with my girlfriend Becca, mosquitoes, spiders, beetles and other forms of arthropod would have her on edge to the point where she wouldn’t enter a room if there was any sign of a creepy-crawly. But after six months of living in thatched huts, rustic hotels and the occasional tent, we both got used to a bit of extra company.
“Oh my God, did you see what he/she was wearing? I can’t believe they showed up dressed like that!” Yeah, try living in conditions where your have to walk to a well for your water, catch your dinner on a hand-spun fishing line and build a fire just to cook. Forget about new clothes, flashy cars or any of the other petty shit that folks in western countries value so highly. Sure, we’re blessed with certain expected luxuries, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss our fellow man. When someone starts to gossip, I simply tune out and mentally retreat to my hut on a tropical beach.
After taking cold showers in Nepal in December, any type of running water feels warm to me.
The Miami Dolphins.
My beloved football team was 3-and-3 when I left U.S. soil in late-October, leaving me with a small sense of optimism as I flew across the Pacific. We’ve had a long, hard go since Dan Marino and Don Shula captured me as a lifelong Dol-fan during my youth in Florida…but this was supposed to be our year! As I checked in sporadically on Wi-Fi throughout my travels abroad, I learned the Fins only won two of their next nine games. Now I’m not saying I’m going to take allegiance to another NFL team, but I don’t exactly give a shit about the Miami Dolphins right now.
Unless I wanted to scrub some clothes in the sink every few days, I just wore whatever happened to be clean at the time. I’m on a select rotation anyway when my choices are limited to what fits in a bag. And while neutral colors work best in this scenario, I slowly found my garb becoming more eclectic than before I left. And even now that I’m home and have access to my full wardrobe, my tastes lean more towards the funky and irreverent articles in my closet. And checking myself in the mirror to see if something matches isn’t even a blip on the radar any more.
I hung out the window as our taxi zipped us past a local Filipino marketplace. Instinctively, I ducked back inside just as a meat cleaver slammed down through a giant cow carcass splayed out on a table. Shrapnel flew in all directions. As I processed this mentally, I realized there was no refrigeration system in place here. The day was heating up too. It’d be in the 90s shortly. And the meat would still be just sitting there. No, thanks.
From then on, I stuck to the veggies, tempeh and seafood. And since I’ve returned to more sanitary pastures I really haven’t had much of a hankering for red meat. I’m not traumatized, I just learned to live without it and now find my protein from other sources.
Thinking I needed to always wear deodorant.
I weaned myself off commercial antiperspirant and managed to not come off as a stinking hippy. Sure there’s a week or two of somewhat-smelly transition. But as long as I’m bathing regularly, I found out I can go au natural without clearing a room.
Travel opens my mind to new cultures, customs and experiences. Staying stagnant and watching trash TV doesn’t. I’ve had to bite my tongue multiples times since returning from six months abroad, especially when I realize the person I’m talking to is just regurgitating what’s being fed to him by our society and pop culture. I’m not saying I’m judging these people. It’s just when someone goes on about the Kardashians, I tend to glaze over and mentally return to that hut of mine on the secluded beach.
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