Have you ever been away for a long time and realised that there are some of the things you have back home which you cannot find or replicate abroad? No matter how much I like traveling and discovering new places, I also have a list of things that are ultimately Catalan and which I miss dearly. Some are very basic, like good, honest food and other more intangible, like late nights living in the street and the generally loud noise in a restaurant. Strange, but we sometimes miss the oddest things. I asked a few of my fellow travelers, digital nomads and long term wanderlusters for the things these travelers miss from home and some of them are less than obvious – quite like mine I suppose.
Intangible things are often the hardest to replace and so they are the ones we miss the most. Our loved ones, our animals, even the smells and sounds. I often miss the silly jokes and slang we speak in Spain and of course, my friends. After ten years as an expat, we have grown up in very different lives, but when I come home, it almost feels like time stood still to the time when we had just graduated and were young and crazy.
Karolina, from Karolina Patryk, misses the scents. “What I miss the most from home is the smell of freshly cut grass, of my mom’s perfumes, of my grandma’s food, of the flowers blooming in our garden. Everything else may be easily substituted when I am abroad but nothing can compare to the scent of HOME.
I am not the only one. Logically, for most of us, being away from home for a long time means missing our loved ones. Juergen, from Dare2Go agrees with me. “My wife and I left Australia in March 2013 for our extended South America trip; I haven’t been back since! Whilst travel gives us amazing new experiences almost daily, I sometimes miss home. More precisely, apart from some familiar favourite food items, I miss our friends. Not only for the support they offer when I feel down or doubtful; mostly I miss deep, meaningful conversations in a relaxed atmosphere. Only people who know you well can joke about your shortcomings and give you thoughtful feedback at the same time. We love meeting new people on the road, but somehow talking with them hardly ever reaches the same depth.
Our furry animals are also sorely missed, sometimes even more than the people. Who can blame them, they are adorable, loyal and generally just awesome. Lina, from Divergent Travelers, misses her horses. “After being nomadic for over 2 years, I miss owning my own horse farm and riding horses every day. I showed and trained horses for many years before picking up travel and when I am on the road, it is the biggest void in my life. Finding reputable places to ride while traveling is difficult and it leaves me wishing for returns home more often than most.”
Others without the amazing background in horse riding miss smaller friends. “Although I never miss people back home when I’m traveling, I sorely miss my cats”, says Shara from SKJ Travel. “My husband is actually the one who pointed out that I miss them more than him when I’m traveling solo, I guess it’s that obvious! I think the difference is that I can still communicate with people from overseas through the written word; we can share experiences and feel connected to one another online. But I can’t communicate with my cats, our relationship is based completely on physical companionship, on petting and being petted, and they can’t type out their purring to me.”
Ana, from Adventure in you, is from the beautiful country of the Philippines, no wonder what she misses most if the beauty of the place. I miss it after spending 2,5 years working there and I was not born there. “Although my partner and I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world to some pretty jaw dropping places, one of the things that I thoroughly miss about home is the many STUNNING beaches, the warm weather, and the general island life feel that you get when you travel around the country. Anyone that has been to the Philippines would understand what I’m talking about. One of my favourite places in the world is an island called Palawan which is just one of a kind in my books. This photo diary we put together says a lot about it.
Carole from Berkeley and Beyond, it is a shower. “Though I don’t usually miss much from home once I am launched on a trip, I do miss my shower. I like its dependability: knowing where the head is positioned, how the various plumbing features work, and the water pressure. I also like a good tub. Recently, in Louisiana, I ran into a shower set-up that I simply could not figure out. I wound up taking a spit bath. And though I haven’t experienced it yet, I would like to take a shower during a flight on this Emirates A380 airplane.”
For Sarah from Live Dream Discover, kitchens are key. “Health and fitness are pretty important to us and, when you travel a lot, as we do, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy life balance. After years of practice and determination we have become quite good at devising ways to get our exercise, eat well and take care of our health. The one thing we can’t improvise very well is having a full kitchen. We both love to cook and create healthy and delicious meals and without a kitchen it’s pretty tough to do. Luckily we incorporate house sitting into our travels and this gives us our fix of kitchen time…if only temporarily.”
Vanessa from The Island Drum, misses her basics. “My last port of call in the United States was San Francisco, so not having a Trader Joe’s grocery outlet or an Old Navy clothing store available in Southeast Asia has often left me yearning for my old California lifestyle. Trader Joe’s with their endless assortment of fabulous foods and beverages has no similar alternative in Southeast Asia that I’m aware of. And Old Navy? Sure I’ve ordered from them online plenty of times, but after the order has gone through my US post office box and then shipped by UPS, the price of any item triples. And it’s not nearly as fun as shopping in person anyway.”
Did you ever wonder what a bidet was used for in Italy? Let Stefania from Every Steph tell you. “I know it must sound weird, but the thing I often miss when I’m abroad is… a bidet! I often get the question “what’s a bidet for?” and even if the photo might trick you no, it’s not to wash your cat or your feet. A bidet is used to wash your ummm… private parts, and in Italy you’ll find one in every bathroom. It’s part of our culture and of our daily washing routine, and not having one make us feel dirty. Now you know why Italians always go around with some intimate towelettes, it’s our little secret!”
The hungry ones
Food is one of the things I miss most from home. Not the complicated or hard to prepare meals but the easiest simplest things. The fresh garden to table food of my childhood, when we literally went to pick up the vegetables and fruits from the orchards and gardens, the simplicity of a great cold cut selection, the cheese, the flavour of a tomato! It seems that I am not the only one and food is something most long term travelers miss!
My good friend Jen and husband Stevo, who live in Cambodia and work as English teachers while running the blog Two can Travel, miss Mexican food, even if they are not from Mexico! “It may not be sentimental, but one of the things we miss most from home is Mexican food. We both are from southern California and were spoiled growing up with delicious MexiCali and authentic Mexican cuisine. Juicy carne asada, beer battered fish tacos, savory carnitas, sizzling fajitas, crispy tortas, cheesy quesadillas, guacamole. Just talking about it is torture! We have found Mexican restaurants around Asia, and even went to Taco Bell in Delhi in a moment of desperation, but nothing beats Mexican food in southern California. At least we can find margaritas anywhere in the world!”
Surprisingly, it seems like the Brits miss their food more than we all will ever do. Just kidding.
A bit like Jen, Gemma, from Two Scotts Abroad, misses her food, the greasy awesome type. “Ceviche in Peru, poutine in Canada, rum in Cuba, I know I can’t really complain about the culinary delights I’ve sampled over the past year however, the first thing I am doing when I get home is heading to my local chippy to buy a half pizza supper and chips. I’ll hate myself after it, but I’ve been dreaming about the chippy brown sauce and grease soaked pizza! For pudding?! Cadbury’s chocolate, the British stuff, none of that imposter crap from the States!”
Claire, another Brit from Tales of a backpacker, also misses the local fare. “Apart from my friends and family of course, what I miss most from home when travelling is British food. Most people think that British food is terrible but that is just not true! From fry-ups to fish & chips, Sunday roasts and apple crumble with custard, us Brits do comfort food like no-one else – and that is what I really miss. The first thing I want to eat when I get home? A Full English Breakfast, with bacon, beans, sausages, fried egg, the works!”
For Italian Jessica from Travel to be Alive, missing food is understandable, even if you can find Italian food across the world, it does not taste as it does in Italy. “I don’t usually miss many things from home. Of course I do miss my family and my friends, but if I had to nominate an object or a thing, that would definitely be the food! While I pretty much always enjoy other cuisines around the world, I’ve missed Italian food during my 2+ months in China several times. I didn’t quite enjoy Chinese food, it was too greasy, oily and salty for me and I was tired of ordering always the same plain rice, potatoes, eggs and tomatoes. So yes, for the first time abroad, I found myself dreaming about healthy vegetables and Italian pizza!”
Lovely Brazilian couple Nat and Rob from Love and Road, miss their meat. “We do miss a couple of things from Brazil but there is one that is special. Churrasco, the Brazilian barbecue. You might think: Come on, you can get barbecue all around the world! That’s true, I can easily find barbecue, but a true “churrasco” only in Brazil. The meat, the cuts, and the seasoning are different. And it’s also about the experience, we usually gather for hours around the fire waiting for the meat to be cooked to perfection. Can be a family reunion, a birthday or a friends meeting. “Churrasco” will be an excuse to have everybody together for hours of good meat, drinks and laughs.”
And of course, the tea. Europe Backpacker Laura really misses her “Yorkshire tea bags! There’s nothing like a good old cuppa tea. Whether you’re feeling down, worn out, or just catching up with friends… Yorkshire tea is my favourite travel companion! So now rather than longing for a brew whilst out on the road, I always tuck a few cheeky tea bags into my backpack for those times of need. They barely weigh a thing :)”
For the rest of the world who cannot understand the need for a hot cup of tea, coffee is the go-to pick me up. Of course, if you are from Australia, you do get great specialty coffee shops so, for Aga from, you guessed it, food travel blog A matter of Taste, it is, “Coffee! I live in Melbourne, where coffee scene is very exciting and we’re extremely spoilt for choice. I have at least 10 great cafes within 15 minutes walk radius from my home and I’m used to having at least 2 cups a day. When I travel, it doesn’t take long for me to start craving and missing “my” coffee. Especially, when I’m served coffee that’s sweetened, burnt, too hot or tasting more like milk than coffee. I haven’t found coffee as good as in Melbourne anywhere in the world yet.”
It seems that junk food is not easily replaceable and not easily found everywhere. My colleagues always bring Tim Tam from Australia, despite the chocolates are available at the supermarket in Singapore. Nick from Spiritual Travel & Photography, has been traveling in Asia and living in Taiwan for over a decade and the one thing his parents always know to bring to the airport when he visits home in Canada is, “a bag of my favourite snack: potato chips. I generally love Taiwanese food, but their potato chips just don’t get it done for me, with flavours like prawn, seaweed, and sweet corn. I absolutely miss classic Canadian chip flavours such as ketchup, dill pickle, all dressed, and more recent innovations like maple bacon and poutine.”
Natasha, from The World Pursuit, solves her love for peanut butter bringing it with her on her travels. “Every time I go abroad the main food item I miss is Peanut Butter. I always bring a jar with me, but that goes by pretty quick when it’s in my bag. My favourite snack is peanut butter and apples, and almost everyone besides my American comrades stare strangely at me when I eat it I also love PB on a sandwich, which is a great lunch staple and is very filling. Sure, they have peanut butter in many stores abroad now, but let’s face it – it’s certainly not the same as it is in The States, and it is always double the price that I’m used to.”