Let’s take some time to appreciate some of the small things about traveling:
1) The traveler’s smell check – At least once a night, you will see someone in the hostel pull clothes out of their bag, bring the soiled garment to their nose, and do the standard traveler smell check. Is it clean? Will I smell like warm trash on tomorrow’s bus ride? It’s a common procedure, but often one of futility. My friend Amy put it best (I’m paraphrasing a bit):
“It’s not like a backpack is some magical washing machine. If it was dirty when you put it in, it’s dirty when you take it out. Hell, it’s probably dirtier”
After a little thought, I realized a traveler is not actually performing a smell check, but instead a standards check. Sure, the clothes haven’t changed, but perhaps personal standards have. Maybe those formerly blue but now brown shorts don’t seem so bad anymore.
2) The ¾ seat concept – When traveling by minivan in Asia, which is often the case when going to smaller towns or areas within a couple hours of each other, you are never sold a full seat. That would be way too comfortable. With the introduction of the ¾ seat concept, it’s a sardine can on wheels. 16 people in a 12 person van, not including bags, which hang perilously from the open back gate. Get to know your neighbor, because you will be thigh to sweaty thigh with them for the foreseeable future.
3) Book exchanges – These things are a godsend. Done with a book? No problem, drop it off and pick up another. Who needs to buy a Vietnam Lonely Planet when you can grab it out of the exchange. The selections vary pretty wildly, from books on economics to the latest airport trash novels. Sadly, the selection of Calvin and Hobbes is in short, short supply. A 32 year old solo traveler reading Calvin & Hobbes? Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
4) Pineapple Shakes – I’m still addicted. No explanations necessary. Drink it up. Daniel Day-Lewis would.
5) Being American (Except in Vietnam, where I might pretend to be Canadian) – Sadly, the rumors are true. Most people believe Americans are uneducated or rude. It’s fun to talk to fellow travelers in an attempt to disprove the stereotypes. On the flipside, embracing those stereotypes is an amazingly efficient way to be left alone. Pro tip: A couple of comments about guns and creationism will guarantee you a bus ride of silence. Also, try to use the phrase “personal freedom” as much as possible.
6) Rice – Embrace it. It’s everywhere, and it’s spectacular.
7) Tuk Tuk Confessions – Not as seedy as the HBO taxicab confessions tv show, but far more interesting. Most tuk tuk drivers are eager to talk, and many have fascinating stories. It can break your heart though, so be wary
8) Rediscovering music – I don’t listen to enough music at home to blow through my playlists very fast. But on the road, I need to keep it varied. I’ve rediscovered old favorites and even found gems I never gave the light of day. So thank you, Javier Dunn (album: Winnetka), Clams Casino (Song: I’m God) and Kid Cudi (who on a scale of 1 to 10, I give an 8.5). However, I still can’t explain the full Justin Beiber album on my Itunes.