Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada
Whenever I'm away from Canada for a long time, there are things that I inevitably miss. My family and friends, of course, and an assortment of other things that make this country so great. I've written about this before - these are the things that I actively miss while I'm actually on the road. There are a handful of things, however, that I don't realise I'm missing until I actually encounter them again whenever I return to my home country. They're little things, but they're things I love coming home to. I'll only have them for the next two months, but I'll appreciate them every single moment that I can.
1. Central Heating: When I lived in Japan, I had a small clock that also read the temperature. My flat there consisted of two rooms, and the heater/AC unit was in the larger of the two, not in the bedroom. I can't tell you how many times I ran into my bedroom to go straight under the covers, clothed fully in wool and fleece, shivering as I tried to warm my hands and feet. The temperature often read only a few degrees above zero. Not to be outdone, Kerri and I once spent a night in Ipiales, Colombia, that was so cold that we could see our breath in our hotel room. And Canada? The coldest country I've ever been in? I am always warm when I'm inside. Always. The temperature has dropped to almost -40 with the windchill here, and, by sitting at my dining room table or watching a movie on the couch, I could never tell. Central heating and properly insulated houses are a comfort I always forget about until I'm freezing cold in a hotel, cursing my thin socks and lack of long johns.
2. Baths: As I wrote about before, Canadians are incredibly fortunate to have such a huge supply of water, whenever we need it and whenever we want it. I love taking baths, and every time I take one I try to appreciate just how special it is to have all of that hot, clean water on tap (sorry, the pun was necessary). When travelling, I almost never even see bathtubs, let alone ones that look clean enough to actually bathe in. In hostels I was very, very lucky to get a hot shower. Now that I'm back in Canada, I relish in the opportunity to take long hot baths.
3. The Radio: I often end up listening to the radio in the car, for music and local news. While I get annoyed at the ads and I rarely listen to anything but the oldies station, I get a strange sense of patriotism and comfort when I listen to the radio jockeys. There's something about the jokes concerning the local hockey team, the slang used, the slightly banal chatter about snow tires and impeding blizzards, the quizzes that listeners can phone in to answer. It just makes me smile, just makes me think of being a kid and listening to the radio with my parents, driving around the city, waiting for my favourite song to come on.
4. Driving: Speaking of, I truly love being in the car. I think it started when I was a little girl, as previously mentioned, driving around and dreaming of greater adventures to come. I got my license at 16 and I've loved driving ever since. While there have been opportunities to drive overseas, I'm never as comfortable behind the wheel as when I am in Canada, as I'm confident of all the road signs and it feels natural to me to be on the right hand side of the road. There's often no need for me to drive when I'm abroad - the few road trips I've done excluded - as I take buses or trains or other public transportation. I really do miss driving when I'm travelling, then, of being in control of every direction I take.
5. The Ease: I find everything just so easy in Canada. This is, of course, because I was born here; things are always easiest in your home country. I just love how convenient it all is, how, if I need something, I can go to the store and know exactly how to find what I am looking for, know exactly what it is called, know that I can ask someone for help and that he or she will understand me. There have been so many times in my travels that I've had to stutter through a foreign language or mime what I need to a hapless employee (including but not limited to stomach medicine, tampons, and condoms, though thankfully not all on the same day). One of the most exhausting (and yet exciting) parts of travelling is that you have to constantly plan how you'll get what you need, whether it's food or medicine or a bus ticket.
6. Wifi: There is perhaps nothing more annoying to a travel blogger than shaky or non-existent wifi. While in South America, I remember thinking that it was an absolute success if I was able to upload five photos to Blogger in less than ten minutes, or if I was able to watch a video on YouTube. I would often get so frustrated that I really let my internet time slide, having to devote hours to things that would have taken perhaps 30 minutes with fast wifi. I was also working on a small notebook computer, which was, although light and inexpensive, a pain to deal with. Now, in Canada, with my MacBook and incredibly fast wifi, all I want to do is go online. I'm catching up on my favourite blogs, finally answering emails, and streaming movies just for the hell of it.
7. Feeling Healthy: My diet in Central and South America consisted almost solely of white bread, white rice, refried beans, potatoes, chicken, red meat, beer, and wine; those things were easiest to find and were often cheapest. Don't get me wrong - I love eating those foods. I just don't love eating them all the time, and I don't love not having a lot of other options. I like to eat healthy foods and to feel like I'm making the right choices for my body, not to feel weighed down by all those starchy foods. Now that I'm back in Canada, I'm eating tons of fruit and vegetables, and preparing food the healthiest way I can. While I'm still indulging in the beer and wine, I'm trying to detox a little bit from all of that indulgence of the past eight months.
8. My Own Bed: I counted - I slept in over 70 different beds while travelling through Central and South America, including all hostels, hammocks, and boats. That doesn't even include all of the nights I spent sleeping on buses. So, it goes without saying that I'm pretty darn happy sleeping in the same comfortable bed every night here in Canada. Not only that, I'm not sharing a room with any rustlers, talkers, creepers, or snorers (who all know who these people are).
9. Movies: I am a huge fan of movies, and love to watch a few movies a week (I'm watching one right now as I write this). When I travel, I find it so difficult to stay on top of new films, or to find ones that I never got around to watching but would like to see. Usually my only way to watch movies I haven't seen before is to trade hard drives with another traveller so that we can swap a few. I also go to theatres to try to catch the new releases, but very often that can be a difficult endeavour and I don't do it as often as I'd like. With fast internet, cable TV, and a ton of movie theatres around, I have no limit to the films I can see when I'm in my home country.
10. The Politeness: I've encountered incredibly polite people all over the world in my travels. There's just something about the courtesy and kindness from my fellow citizens, however, that makes me feel especially happy, especially proud. The cheerful interactions with staff at the supermarket. The way the mail carrier smiles and says hello. The small talk between two strangers in an elevator. I just love that, and I miss it when I travel, mostly because I can't speak many of the languages of the countries I've been to. It's in our blood, the hellos and the sorrys and the thank yous, and I wouldn't want Canada to be any other way.
These are just a few little things I didn't realise I missed about Canada, the only real "home" I have for the time being. They're the things that, since flying from Rio a few weeks ago, have really made me sigh, really made me think, "Wow. I forgot how nice this was." And so now I sit in my warm house, with a movie on TV, my fast wifi, my snack of yogurt and fresh berries that I was able to easily purchase, about to take a hot bath and get into my comfortable bed - and I feel so thankful, and so blessed. For those of us fortunate enough to have enough money to not only stay clean, healthy, and happy, but to then travel - I feel so grateful, I feel so lucky. I will never take these things for granted.
What about you? Are there any things you've encountered upon returning home that you were surprised to have missed so much?