Quebec City, Canada
“Six years? You’ve been travelling and living abroad for six years?” I get that question a lot, followed closely by, “How old are you?” and then, “How do you afford it?” Occasionally, however, I also get, “Don’t you miss home?”
Home. Where does someone who has dedicated her life to being on the road call home? I have been all over the world, and yet I’ve never met a country I liked more than Canada, never met a country that I felt more comfortable in than Canada. I’ve always been extremely patriotic, and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to hail from the true north, strong and free. And while I am almost perpetually travelling, sometimes going years without seeing Canada, I will always think of it as my home.
Be that as it may, I love to travel, and I don’t see myself permanently settling down in Canada (at least not for a while). I’m happiest when I’m travelling, and there are so many things I love about being in new countries. So now, sitting in my warm bed in Antigua, listening to a Brazilian strum a guitar in the courtyard, full off of a traditional Guatemalan stew and a cold Moza beer, what do I truly miss about Canada?
1. Water. In the past three years, with the exceptions of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and America, every single country I’ve visited has had contaminated/unsafe tap water. Nearly every single day I need to think about how I can sterilise water or buy water. Every single time I brush my teeth I think about the water I’m using. Every single time I eat a salad, or bite into a piece of fruit, I think of how it was washed. There is nothing I appreciate more than turning on a tap in Canada and getting cold, delicious, safe water, and endless amounts of it. I often think we Canadians don’t realise how lucky we are to have this most valuable of resources in such an abundant supply.
2. Efficiency. Canada really is quite an efficient country, and I rarely have to wait for anything in Canada, even at the post office, bank, or doctor’s office. Trains usually show up on time, taxis are always waiting, and food arrives swiftly. If I have a problem, someone can help me fix it almost immediately. When I travel, I really have to remind myself that not every country in the world (very few of them, actually) run as smoothly as Canada…especially when I am waiting for a bus.
3. Freedom. I constantly think about this when I travel. In Canada, I am basically free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I was born in a country that gave me opportunities to learn, to be healthy, and to choose my own path. I often compare myself to the lives of other young women around the world, and I remind myself every day how lucky I am that I was born in such a safe and supportive nation.
4. Hygiene and health. In Canada, I rarely feel dirty. I can take long showers, showers that have both hot water and lots of pressure. I can wash my hands whenever I want. If I fall down and break my leg, I can go to a hospital and they will give me amazing medical service…and it won’t cost me a thing. If I get sick, I can walk into a pharmacy and buy some pills that will most likely cure me in a few days. When I travel, I am in awe of how physically dirty I often am: dirt under my fingernails, greasy hair from lack of a good shower, and, depending on the country I’m in, actual mud caked on my body. Every single day I spent in India I was amazed at how much grime I could wash off my feet at the end of the night. I’ve also been horribly ill while on the road, and all I wanted was some good, strong, Canadian medicine and a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
5. The Language. No, I don’t miss English – I love hearing new languages and learning new languages and I believe that being surrounded by unfamiliar words is one of the best things about travelling. What I do miss, however, is being able to read whatever book I want, whenever I want to read it; the most pitiful thing you’ve ever seen is the selection of English books leftover at a hostel. I have read some abysmal books purely because they were in English (the same applies to movies). This point is one of the main reasons I decided to purchase a Kindle e-reader before this particular trip; I simply couldn’t take one more Danielle Steele or James Patterson nightmare.
6. Privacy. I absolutely loved living in my house in Canada; it was so quiet and cosy, and completely my own. I slept in my own comfortable bed, and I slept without earplugs. I didn’t have to share my space with anyone, and I didn’t have to worry about someone else using my things or seeing me naked or hearing me go to the bathroom. When I travel, I am constantly sleeping in different beds, constantly being woken up by other people, constantly packing and repacking my things, and constantly aware of the fact that my travel towel doesn’t quite cover my entire bum.
7. Cheese, Milk, Espresso, Cereal, Sandwiches, Pasta…Again, I don’t actively miss these things. I am a huge foodie and I absolutely love trying new foods when I travel. I have discovered some fantastic dishes that have now become some of my favourite foods: cao lau in Vietnam, sashimi in Japan, tagines in Morocco, and amok curry in Cambodia, to name a few. Once in a while, though, all I want is a sandwich and a cold glass of milk. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all countries (I would gladly eat in France or Italy for the rest of my life), but in my experiences in Asia over the last three years and my current experience in Central America, occasionally I crave/need/dream of the cuisine in my home country. (Cheese. I dream of cheese nightly.)
8. My Family. “Don’t you miss your family?” I am often asked. Why yes, I miss them every single day, of course I do. My parents, my brother Kitt and my sister Zalie are everything to me, and my life never feels quite right without them. But my dad lives in Winnipeg, my mum in Toronto. My sister is most likely moving back to Tel Aviv, and my brother is moving to Vancouver. We are all constantly moving, travelling, coming and going. The main reason why I spent a few months in Canada over winter is because we all (with the exception of my mum) happened to have the opportunity to be in the same place at the same time, and I couldn’t pass that up. We all love each other very much, but our lives have taken us in different directions, and so we keep in touch as best we can and cherish the brief times we have with each other. They have never once asked me not to do what I love, never once asked me not to travel, and for that I love them even more.
What do you miss most about your home country when you travel?