When I’m at home in the U.S., there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about traveling. Thanks to my father’s career as a pilot with United Airlines, our family has been traveling the world since I was just a kid. We traveled domestically for the most part, but once I graduated high school we took our first big trip overseas. Germany, Holland, France, and a quick drive through Belgium over the course of about a week and a half. I think that was this trip that really got me hooked on traveling.
Seven years later I’ve been to more than twenty countries and my urge to travel grows stronger with each new place. Although I spend most of my time yearning to be abroad whenever I’m in the U.S., I never fail to miss my home when I finally get to leave it. And I think that is one of the most fulfilling aspects of travel. Traveling allows me to really appreciate the little things I sometimes take for granted in my day-to-day life at home. Of course I feel grateful for what I have when I am at home; friends, family, my climbing gear, my car, my experiences, and so on. But nothing really brings out my gratitude for all these things like being totally taken away from them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. That’s why I’ve decided to make a list of some of the things I miss about the good ol’ United States of America.
1. Family and Friends. I’ll start with the most important one that’s also the most challenging to go without: Friends and family. Sure I make plenty of friends traveling, but they aren’t the same as my best friends back home with whom I’ve shared many years of great experiences. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friends back home or see a Facebook photo of them together that makes me wish I could be there. A fellow traveler pointed out to me recently that your friends’ lives go on without you when you’re not there. For some reason that realization hit me really hard. I want to believe that when I go back home that things will be exactly the same as when I left, but the reality is that people change from day to day and the relationships you leave behind, even temporarily, have a chance of deteriorating. And of course there’s family. You really start to miss the unconditional love, encouragement, and support of your family whilst on the road. There’s nothing else like it.
Everything else is minor in comparison to family and friends, but there are certain things when I’m traveling that I would almost consider flying home for, like…
2. A Familiar Bathroom. Without getting into too much detail, I’ve been in some “restrooms,” especially in Southeast Asia, that make truck stop toilets in West Texas look like a Ritz-Carlton day spa. My friends and I had a rhyme when we were kids that went “when you’re sittin’ on the john and the toilet papers gone, be a man…use your hand! I guess you could say I’m a man now, several times over. Moving on.
3. Bacon. Most countries have their own version of bacon. Some foreign restaurants even advertise an American breakfast with bacon. It’s a lie. Thick, crispy, American bacon is one of the things I miss most about home.
4. Good Beer. Apart from Germany and Belgium, it’s not easy to find good beer abroad. And no one can compete with American microbrew culture. *Note to self: how hard would it be to smuggle 312 through international customs?
5. Anonymity. As a twenty-something, white male it’s pretty easy to go unnoticed in the States without even trying. Although being a minority as a white, American male is pretty exciting at first, being stared at everywhere I go has somewhat lost its charm. Somehow I even stand out in Western Europe. Maybe it’s the unchanging t-shirt/shorts/sandals combo.
6. Rock Climbing. What more can I say? The U.S. has an endless variety and quantity of high-quality rock that’s almost all easily accessible. Yosemite, Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, Smith Rock, The Red, The New, The Gunks, Indian Creek, Jackson Falls, IL (look it up)…the list goes on. In my book its the best place to climb in the world. *Note to self: What am I doing in the middle of Malaysia right now?
7. Diners. There’s few things more American and more comforting than being served a greasy breakfast and mediocre coffee by a sweet, old lady at some hole-in-the-wall diner in Small Townville, Midwest, USA.
These are just a few of the things I long for when not at home. Despite its shortcomings in some areas, and utter failures in others, I still think my home country is my favorite. Then again, my “countries visited” list is still in the teens. If I find a country with better bacon than America’s, I’ll be sure to write about it.