The 5 months I spent in Asia were completely amazing and filled with adventure and beauty. But every once in awhile, I’d have a moment where I missed my home country. That’s allowed, right?
In fact, I think it’s a good thing. I spend a significant amount of time hating on America for its various shortcomings: awful healthcare policies, lack of vacation time offered, student loans. But being away for so long made me appreciate some of the great things about the US. It’s not a bad place to be from, not at all.
In no particular order…
Things I Missed From America:
1. American coffee
Alright, so maybe the first thing on this list IS in fact the #1 thing I missed. I didn’t expect to find good coffee in Asia, so I was somewhat prepared to go without for awhile. I sampled a plethora of takes on coffee, many of which were awful, a few of which had me wondering if I had unknowingly been teleported to Portland or Brooklyn.
But no matter the quality, I was never able to get a massive cup of brewed coffee. In America, my usual is a large cup of black coffee: no milk, no sugar, not even an americano – just plain ol’ brewed coffee made from the best beans.
Tip: Vietnam is the only country I visited in Asia with consistently good, strong coffee (albeit in tiny portions). Thailand also had cafes in every place I visited that served pretty good americanos, but I had to do my research to find them.
Nothing feels healthier to me than a massive salad full of greens. I’m still not convinced this actually exists in Asia. The few salads I saw on offer were not particularly green and – obviously, given point #3 below – could never be considered massive. Since returning to NYC, I’ve been binging on kale and spinach salads – that’s gotta be the best possible binge, right?
3. Big-ass anything
Everything is so SMALL in Asia – the people, the seats on the bus, the portion sizes. Being from the land of supersize-me, this was a semi-painful adjustment I had to make. The seats on the local buses in Nepal were so tight that I couldn’t even sit straight; I had to angle my knees to the side in order to fit.
The beds on the sleeper buses in Vietnam weren’t much better; I could just barely fit myself on the bed while laying down. Anyone taller than me would have to bend their knees quite a bit in order to lay down. The poor Dutch guy in the bed next to mine literally could not fit in his – I’m pretty sure he slept with his legs entirely off of the bed.
And gosh, you know how sometimes you have a craving for something and all you want is a big-ass bowl/plate/cup of it? America understands and supports this: you can get your foot-long sub, double whopper, or bucket-sized soft drink on a whim. In Asia, this is unheard of. If you want a massive portion of anything, you order multiple servings of it and feel like a fat ass.
4. Freedom of dress
Now, I’m not saying I wanted to walk around town in a short skirt or cleavage-baring top – but damn, Asia is HOT. Covering as much skin as possible in that heat just didn’t sound like a fun time to me. But that’s what most of the locals do, and in many cultures it’s considered disrespectful to show too much skin. And in certain countries, it’s just not a good idea to draw that kind of attention to yourself (just look at how men treated me in India – can you imagine if I had been showing more skin?!).
I’d like to think I struck a nice balance between dressing respectfully and not covering myself so much that I would suffer from heat stroke. Maxi dresses and knee-length skirts proved invaluable on the road. A few times I was asked to wear a shawl to cover my bare shoulders at temples, but no one seemed to have any issues with my outfits.
One of the most endearing things about NYC is its style. At any given moment, there will be someone nearby dressed more ridiculously and more provocatively than you. And on that note, I’m back to wearing v-necks and shorter dresses!
5. Cooking for myself
At home, I cook a majority of my meals, only eating out once or twice a week. In Asia, none of the guesthouses or hostels had a communal kitchen available, so I had no choice but to eat out for every.single.meal. For 5 months straight. At $1-2 per meal, eating out was probably cheaper than cooking for myself, but sometimes you just don’t feel like going out to eat, you know? Sometimes I just wanted to hang around the hostel in my PJs and not have to worry about where I was going to eat dinner.
Immediately after Asia, I spent 2.5 weeks in London; I only ate out for 3 MEALS the entire time. It was so nice to get back into preparing my own dishes, as simple as they might have been. Now that I’m home in NYC, I’m allowing myself only one meal out per week – it’s time to get reacquainted with my kitchen!
6. Having an iPhone data plan
The second I turned on my phone after landing in NYC, my eyes lit up at the first sight of those 4 service bars in nearly 6 months. I could text again! And access the internet 24/7 no matter where I was! No more relying on shoddy wifi while on the go. But Lindsay, why not just pop in a new SIM card while in a foreign country? Well I WOULD have, but I have an iPhone 4 from Verizon which doesn’t take SIM cards. My only option would have been to upgrade to an international phone plan, which was prohibitively expensive. Not worth it. I hear that the iPhone 5 from Verizon DOES take SIM cards though – if that’s true, then an upgrade may be in order before my next trip!
7. My cat
I mean look at her. How could you not miss this face?!
I admit it, I did cheat on her a bit while I was away. I went chasing after any kitties I encountered in Asia, but none of them stole my heart like this one.
8. Fixed prices
I hate haggling. I’m the worst at it. Not because I don’t know how to or because I’m a wuss, but more because it seems like a waste of time and energy to me. When the starting price of something is already way lower than what you’d pay for it back home, it just doesn’t make sense engaging in what can only be described as a game at this point. So I’d just do it to humor the vendor, and for formality’s sake, and quickly agree on whatever price they came down to. Though most everything was ridiculously affordable in Asia, I missed the mindless pricing system in America.
9. Having a fitness routine
I don’t have a conventional workout regimen at home, but before my trip I was always sure to get a certain amount of biking and climbing time in each week which kept me feeling fit and healthy. While traveling, fitness opportunities were unpredictable: I walked an insane amount, rented bicycles in most countries I visited, and even worked out without shoes in a park. I made do with what I had, though I missed being able to do my favorite activities whenever I pleased.
10. Drinkable Water
I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but NYC has some of the best tap water in America. You’d never guess this, since it’s somewhat of a ‘dirty’ city – but it’s true. And it’s delicious. But in Asia, you can’t drink the water unless it’s bottled. Buying bottled water every day was somewhat of a hassle. The nice thing, though, is that it was so cheap: I usually paid $.50 for a 1.5L bottle. You can even save a bit of money if you buy a big jug of water and spread it out over a few days by just refilling your water bottle. Still, I missed the convenience of being able to drink any water on tap.