We often get asked what it’s really like to travel the way we’re currently doing, for 5 months at a stretch. As I’m writing this, I am sitting at the kitchen table in our second-floor room in a motel that gives every impression of having been built in the early seventies. Ah, you’re thinking, there it is: the truth. This long-term travel thing is not quite as glamorous as it looks from all those carefully selected photos in the galleries! And obviously it’s true that many of the behind-the-scenes bits aren’t glamorous at all. Bus trips, fast food and motels certainly don’t make it into our galleries. Saul doesn’t write about the many hours he spends online trying to understand the crazy pricing structures and hidden insurance traps of American car rentals. And my food posts don’t usually go into the fact that I now know that I prefer Dairy Queen Mushroom Swiss burgers to the Burger King equivalent.
But what I didn’t say about the seventies motel is that all the rooms look out over a beach where the sun has just broken through after 24 hours of continuous (and rather torrential) rain. The pale yellow dune grasses are shimmering in a quite unearthly way in the delicate light and the sand is perfect – every human footprint has been erased. Saul is already gone. One look out the window had him out the door, tripod over his shoulder. In another 5 minutes, I will follow him onto the beach. I think if I only got one afternoon as perfect as this for every week of travel, it would still be worth every bus trip.
Then there’s thinking about home. The things one misses. And the ones you don’t.
Since no blog can survive without a healthy selection of top 10 lists, here are 10 things from home I don’t miss at all when I travel:
10. Wearing make-up.
9. Watching pointless TV (Parliament channel, anyone?) just because there’s a big screen in the middle of the living area.
8. Driving around the block one more time as I approach my house to make sure that the white Audi that just turned into the street behind me doesn’t contain four guys with guns who want my car.
7. Conversations where a “journey” does not mean an actual trip (probably on a bus) between point A and point B.
6. Five Roses tea. Forget about biltong and Mrs Ball’s chutney. As the faint aroma when you open my suitcase will confirm, Five Roses is the one foodstuff we WILL not travel without.
5. Being woken up at 4:47am by the hadedas who truly, madly and deeply believe that the tree right outside our bedroom window is the best overnight perch in Rondebosch. This despite potato missiles.
4. The utter futility of trying to find a parking space in Woodstock while simultaneously avoiding being flattened by a taxi making a u-turn.
3. Going to Claremont instead because you can’t stand the thought of trying to find a parking space in Woodstock and at least there’s always space somewhere in the Cavendish Square parking garage.
2. Wearing my jeans only once before they get washed (and let’s admit, not by me). Maybe this is not exactly an epiphany for anyone else, but it is now clear to me that jeans can be worn at least 10 times before you need to start thinking about washing them.
Here are 10 things I do miss though:
10. Sleeping in a king-size bed. Anyone out there over 40 remember how small a double actually is?
9. Wearing clean socks every day.
8. My knives (I only brought two with me). My gas stove. My ovens (yes, the plural is correct). Okay, you get the idea, I really miss my kitchen.
7. Cooking for friends and family in the above-mentioned kitchen. Cooking is love.
6. Sunday evenings: too many roast potatoes and sharing a bottle of sauvignon blanc with my sister. Preferably one that is actually a bit too good for a Sunday evening.
5. Friday evenings: drinking tea and playing desultory bridge with friends who don’t mind if we say we’re coming over when they’re already in their pajamas.
4. Listening to music on good speakers. Yes, I love my iPod and my little travelling speaker, but man, it’s just not the same.
3. Making a car guard’s day with a R10 tip – over here a 15% tip on a R600 bill for two hamburgers and two Diet Cokes makes the waitress (sorry, “server”) look very sad indeed.
2. Five Roses tea. Yes, the truth is it’s been two and a half months on the road already and we’re out of Five Roses. Lipton might be “America’s Favorite [sic] Tea” but it sucks.
1. And I know I will miss being with family for Christmas. Again.