Friday, July 19, 2013

Things To NOT Take for Granted!

While on our recent trip, I learned that there are several things that I rely on or use daily that I take granted, but after this trip, hopefully I never will again, or at least not for awhile.

Here's some of the basic things I missed:

** driving a car

Yes, the public transportation in Europe is awesome and it got us where we needed to go, but I'll be happy if I don't see another metro/subway/tube for a long time! Those things are dirty, crowded, sweaty, hot, sticky, loud places! I missed beiing able to just get in a car and go where I needed to go. Shopping for groceries without a car is tricky! No wonder they go every single day!

** water

Water became a commodity. It's only served if you specifically ask for it, and then it's always warm. But you'll take it no matter how, because you are always dying of thirst! One thing Europeans do bigger than Americans... water bottles. They are huge! (And then they haul them around everywhere I guess.) So we bought them and filled up our littler ones to carry around.

** ice

Of course, they don't believe in ice over there. At our very last eating out in England, they brought us a pitcher of ice water and we made such a big deal about it that the waiter thought we'd lost our minds!

** drinking fountains

And furthermore, you won't see a drinking fountain anywhere! We actually did see one at the top of the Arc de Triumph, and I meant to take a picture! It was crazy! I think there is one (ONE) at the Tower of London too.

** dryers

All the places we stayed had teeny little washers, but no dyers. They believe in hang drying. Which is tricky when you don't have a lot of time, or it's raining , or muggy, or there's no breeze, or no space or you have a gazillion clothes or .... yeah. It was interesting trying to get our clothes dry. We spread them over balconies, chairs, lines, showers, racks.. anything we could think of. I really really missed my dryer!

** carpet

At all the places were stayed, it was either tile or wood (fake wood) flooring. And no area rugs at all except at the last place in England. I found that I really missed carpet on my feet and that was the first thing I noticed upon walking into my very own house... carpet!!!

** "normal" milk

To me, if milk is stored on the shelf it is not normal. And that's all that Spain and France have. It was fine for breakfast cereal (which, by the way, is another thing they don't really have there!) but for guzzling like I do? Not so yummy. Well, I guess until you get a taste for it. England had milk in the fridge, so I guess it was a little more "normal" there!

** music

I find that while on vacation I don't listen to music much. I missed it. A lot. Now and then we would hear music at some place we were at (a lot of it American which was interesting) but still, even then, not much. I've been having fun blasting music again now that I'm home!

** toilet paper

Oh, boy. One of the interesting things about staying at apartments and not hotels... the amount of TP that is provided! I thought we would instantly run out at the first place (and I searched for a stash but alas there was none!) so we bought more. And wow, tiny tiny rolls they were! But that was okay because we hauled those around with us through two more locations (those ones had enough TP for our whole family... barely...we used every last drop) until Paris. Where we used up the two rolls they provided (remember six people, six days... three girls...yeah) and then proceeded to use up all those tiny teeny rolls we had bought. And then we had one more night and morning to last! Shhhh... don't tell anyone but we used paper towels. Because for some reason, they had a HUGE roll of that! Anyway, they would DIE at the huge Costco packages of TP that we buy!

** plugs

Why do we have to have different plugs in every country? One of my big pre-trip stresses was how we were going to charge all our devices! I brought three converters, and then things we could plug in them that had at least two USB ports. It worked, but it was a pain. And it's been so nice to be home and just plug something in without worrying about blowing something up or tripping a breaker!

Anyway, those are just some of the things we missed and won't ever take for granted again! Well, at least for awhile! And some of the things you can look forward to should you plan to travel abroad!

What do you all miss when you travel?


  1. It's weird you mentioned these things because America is just so unlike the rest of the world. Only country I've seen obsessed with ice is the US. Carpet too. In China where I grew up we had wooden floors. Oh, and plugs. You'll find that rest of the world (meaning Europe and Asia countries that I've been to) all use the same plug. US is the only one that stands out. Just like how US still uses feet and inches, while the rest of the world uses the metric system.

    1. Ning: I know that the US is weird! I know it! But I think the plugs are different all over, aren't they? At least I know the contraption I have has different extensions for all the different countries. But I haven't really traveled that much to truly know anything...

  2. What I miss the most is ... wait for it ... my bed! That one aside I couldn't help but smile (or randomly laugh out loud) reading your list, because yes, so many things you mentioned are so so true.

    From my own European perspective this obviously all looks different ...

    - public transport: It's a love-hate relationship, really. On one side I hate subways and buses especially during summer, because in 99% of the cases those darn things come without AC. On the other side, they are mighty convenient and reliable despite many people complaining about delays. Oh and seeing how everything in Europe seems to be short distance the grocery shopping isn't a big deal for most. For example, I live maybe five minutes by foot from the next grocery store. By the time I get the car out of the garage and find a parking space there I am already finished shopping and lugging my purchases home.

    - water: Frankly, I usually skip the free water served in restaurants in the US? Why? Because it usually tastes like chlorine. In most European countries tap water is so delicious that this really shocked me when I visited the US the first time round. And when I was staying with a friend in PA some years ago, she told me not to drink from the tap, because the water "might disagree" with me. Didn't test it to find out if it's true and stuck to bottled water which also didn't taste as good as the tap water I'm used to.
    Side note: I'm sure there must be places in the US where the water is as wonderful as here in Austria, but so far I haven't discovered it on my travels.

    - drinking fountains: To be fair, in tourist regions there are a few here and there, but you're right, generally you won't find many.

    - dryers: True story. Though in recent years they seem to become more and more popular. I don't own one myself and do the good ol' hang drying.

    - carpet: This is something I never really thought about, but now that I do I think you might be right. Personally I prefer tile and wooden floors though as it makes for easier cleaning and with a few rugs thrown in you still get a cozy look.

    - normal milk: This one puzzled me a bit. I'm not a milk drinker, but usually people around here buy milk that needs to go into the fridge. There are certain types of milk that don't need to be stored in a cool place, so called long-life milk which my Mom usually buys before going on vacation so she'll have some for her coffee when shops are closed on weekends.

    Which reminds me that you didn't mention shop opening hours which are pretty different to those in the US. Granted in the UK shops will be open on Sundays too, but I don't think they have 24 hour shops? In Austria shops will be closed on Sundays (except for bigger train stations, but that's only been the case in recent years) and many will close at noon on Saturday too.

    - toilet paper: Funny, I usually need to ration TP when staying in a hotel in the US, but I'd like to blame it on the fact that "yours" is usually of such thin quality that I need to use twice as much as I'd do back home. And yes, that's where Kleenex do come in handy!

    - plugs: I believe there are four different kinds of plugs in use worldwide and in Europe alone there are, depending on the country, two versions available. With one of those converter thingies that you plug in before you plug in the device you need to load/use it's usually simple enough. You need to be careful about different current intensities (it's higher in Europe) so not to kill off your favorite hair dryer. I still remember on my first trip to the US I stayed in NY and little did I know back then that hotel rooms always came with hair dryers anyway, but there I was with my own trying to use it and all it made was a faint breeze before dying.

    Well, look at that ... this turned out to be rather long! :-)

    1. Brigit: Wow! Loved your take on all this! I do agree the public transportation is TONS better than what we have here in the US. And as for water goes, I think it's all a matter of what you get used (or what your body is used to as far is little micro organisms are concerned!) We were nervous to drink the tap water... just in case it freaked out our body.

      Oh, and yes, the shop hours! England was especially strange with that one. Things weren't open when we wanted to eat!

      Thanks for such a nice long comment!

    2. You're welcome! :-)

      I realized I totally skipped my take on the whole ICE thing ... I usually joke around that US visitors must feel as if being in a horror movie when they only find one single ice-cube in their drinks (and that's when you're lucky, haha). Of course I always order drinks without ice when in the US; once I did that with iced tea and the waiter's face was priceless! :-D

      And another thing just comes to mind - here you never get free refills of your soda in restaurants!

  3. Ha! I was really surprised by some of these!! I never knew!! (Then again, I have never been out of North America!) I cannot drink water unless it is ice cold, so that would be something hard for me!! When I do get to travel abroad someday, I will definitely be keeping these in mind!

    1. Tif: It is interesting the things you just expect are the same everywhere. Pretty much, if you travel, expect things to be very different from what you are used to.

  4. I appreciate this post because I am soon to be traveling overseas for the first time in my life, and it lets me know a little bit what to expect! I don't think I'll mind lack of carpets or ice (I actually prefer my water without ice). I hang clothes to dry when I can anyway, so that won't seem too odd and I already know to expect the annoyance of trying to plug stuff in- my boyfriend has a collection of adapters he carries everywhere when travels. But toilet paper? That will be frustrating to run out so quick! I'll remember to carry some extra along (I hate the thin stuff, too)!

    1. Jeane: I think our main issue with the TP is that we were a big family. Most people there I don't think understand how much a family uses (or drinks, or eats, or how many clothes they get dirty and then have to hang to dry!) Know what I mean? Have fun on your trip! It's going to be a blast!

  5. I don't now if I could handle missing toilet paper. I just rely on it too much :)

  6. Do they not use toilet paper as much as we do? That is weird. Maybe they poop cleaner than Americans.

  7. I was shocked by how hard it was to get water too! That's usually all I drink so I missed it a lot.

  8. I find it rather surprising you had problems finding water - we don't have drinking fountains in most places but every store or food stand sells bottled water. In most restaurants you can order a bottle of water to share with your table. But I don't know which countries you visited, I'm only experienced with France, Italy, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.



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