Someone recently asked us if traveling was life-changing for us. My immediate response was “No,” and I defended it by saying that traveling has simply reinforced our already unique perspective on life. After all…before living and traveling abroad, we lived a seasonal life in Alaska. We moved to and from there every six months, and met people traveling from all over the world. We hadn’t led a sheltered life from foreigners, and we had many friends who traveled and shared their stories, as well.

However, my answer bugged me until I finally acknowledged that answer was entirely wrong. Of course traveling has changed us! But in what way?

I’m not going to go into “what we learned from traveling” right now (that’s for another day), but I do want to address our lifestyle changes. It’s the small and subtle ways we do things that may make a person’s eyebrow raise, and many of these subtle changes are (hopefully) here to stay.

1. We prefer to line dry all of our clothes

After seeing that the rest of the world doesn’t use dryers—I admit I feel guilty and lazy when we put one to use. We *almost* chose not to purchase one, but decided we preferred dried towels to crusty ones. There are many benefits to line drying—clothes have a much longer life, less energy is used, and there’s no static! Granted, we’ve been putting it to use during this cold and wet weather, but as soon as the sun starts heating this place back up, we’ll be back to line drying!

2. Eating cereal feels like a luxury

Again, the rest of the world simply doesn’t consume cereals like Americans. Where else can you find an entire grocery aisle to just cereals? I still feel like it’s a bit of a splurge when I buy Cheerios for my kids…because it would have cost a small fortune most other places. Perhaps I also feel a little sheepish, too. After all, some other countries have much healthier breakfast habits.

How I miss Mexican breakfasts! Huevos Divorciados are some of my favorite!

3. I have a hard time buying the non-essentials, like tinfoil, plastic wrap, and ziploc bags.

I’m so used to living in rentals for short periods of time. I’d always try to avoid buying anything besides spices and some cooking essentials. Quite frankly, the above items just aren’t necessities in my life. However, they are conveniences, so I’ve hesitantly purchased some. That being said—I rarely use them—it seems so wasteful. They are just not something I’ve come to rely on!

4. We are more social

I wouldn’t say we were unsocial before, however, traveling has definitely given us an increased desire to get to know people more. Other traveling families we met also had flexible schedules (like us), so we were able to spend some great quality time with others. Also, we’d tend to crunch friendships into a shorter period of time—so it was normal to skip the surface conversation and get right down to the meat of things. I feel like “normal life” friendships are often pretty surface unless you make a real effort to ask in-depth questions and talk about more!  One of these days, we may kill people with 100 questions!

5. We are not in a social hurry

Another skill we developed is not being in a hurry when spending time with friends. I think we became so used to the flexibility of traveling and not having a tight schedule—so we aren’t usually in a big hurry when spending time with people. It reminds me of spending time with new friends we met in Mexico. Our first lunch at their house progressed into dinner, and when we finally decided we should get home and put the kids (it was already 10pm) our friends said, “So early?!! Other friends stay until 1am!” After that, we realized how nice it is to simply enjoy each other’s company until it was clearly time to call it quits for the night. We’re not one-hour-dinner-and-run types of people. I apologize now to any of our new non-traveling friends who will wish us out the door sooner than we realize. We’re just used to taking it slow!

6. We want to own as little as possible

This is a tough battle. Our extra space has grown from a small suitcase to a whole house. We certainly have space for more things, but when considering various purchases a little voice reminds me “you don’t need that kitchen mixer…you’ve used only a fork for the past few years!”  So true. And thus, my quest to own a minimal amount instead of a convenient amount has started. This means never letting myself own multiples sets of measuring cups and pans, or owning various kitchen gadgets that take up space but don’t improve my life that much.

7. We eat out more than we ever did

We rarely ate out before we traveled. In fact, even when traveling we usually ate out just when we were sightseeing or running errands. But something about the fact that it wasn’t an unusual practice when we traveled has eased my perspective of eating out, now. We love ethnic foods, and it is such a joy to again eat some good foods we couldn’t get before (i.e. Mexican food around the world is not really Mexican food). Also, we are enjoying rediscovering some foods that we found when traveling (i.e. the Thai restaurants in our new town are awesome and authentic!).

8. My kids get excited about some weird foods

How else would our kids have learned to like some unusual foods such as cucumbers with lime juice and chili sauce?  Or greens cooked in garlic?  How about fresh coconut water and meat? Or tomatoes on toast with olive oil? Deliciousness, I tell ‘ya!

Garlic-fried morning glory is one of our favorites from SE Asia!!

9. I never want to buy a store-made salad dressing again

I loved traveling through Europe and getting little mini bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil from restaurants (yes, even McD’s), when I ordered a salad on the go. Goodbye unhealthy dressings!  Fresh is all I want!

10. I want to own as few clothes as possible

We are now proud owners of a walk in closet. But guess what it doesn’t have a lot of? Clothes and shoes. I’m no longer limiting us to 7 changes of clothes, and 2 pairs of shoes, but I’m trying not to meaninglessly buy more clothes just for the satisfaction of owning more variety. I wonder how long it will last?  We’re even worse when it comes to shoes. As for me, my traveling and life essentials are still the one pair of sandals (appropriate for Sunday dress), and one pair of running shoes. However, it’s cold to wear sandals out in the winters in Southern Oregon!  So, now my “luxury” shoes include one black pair, one grubby pair, and one pair of hiking shoes. Wow. Even writing that makes me think that sounds like way too many shoes. Do you agree?

11. I’m constantly reminded that my kids don’t need a lot of toys

When traveling each kid had a backpack to store all of the their personal items, such as craft supplies and toys. A backpack—that’s it. Did they play any less because of it?  I think not. I pray that I will please please please have the guts to minimize their toys often, and keep things simple. The more time they can play outside in the world around them, the better!

12. I sometimes get tempted to drive on the left side of the road

6 months of driving on the left side of the road will do that to you.

13. Our TV rarely gets used compared to iPads and computers

Something about a TV seems so…oh, I don’t know…Big. Loud. Weird. I enjoy a movie as much as the next person (maybe more!), but television programming?  No thanks. You won’t find the TV on regularly in our house. Even our own kids seem to turn to personal electronic devices before they think of turning on the TV to watch the same program via Roku.

14. When we leave the house, we prepare for the long haul

When we were full-time traveling, as we left our “home base” or hotel we would always prepare for a long day out. Nowadays, we don’t often quickly run around town and return. We save our errands for one or two days out, and make a long haul of it!

15. I can spend a lot of time at a pool or beach without getting bored

Water has never been much of my thing. I grew up in Kansas, and as you can imagine it didn’t offer much in the way of beaches! I’ve also never been much of one to desire swimming time in general, even at a pool. However, after living in hot climates I finally learned the beauty of being refreshed in water. Beaches are no longer just an unnecessarily messy adventure.. After living practically on the beach for 6 weeks in Southern Thailand, I wouldn’t mind doing it some more!

16. A dry towel feels like a luxury

I still get a little giddy after each shower when I reach for a—dry towel. Who knew a dry towel could be such a special occurrence?  Since most international hotels seem to provide only 2 towels per room, sharing a bath towel was a common thing during our travels.

17. Any accommodation will do

Seriously. When I consider some of the places we have stayed in Mexico or Southeast Asia, I laugh when I read Trip Advisor reviews about American hotels. How bad could they be? What? They didn’t have a microwave? You didn’t like their shampoo?! Were they not able to get a spot out of the carpet?

Our perspective has changed. Tile floors instead of concrete can be a big bonus in some places. We also think running water is a superb hotel feature, and some decent beds are even better! While we thought Mexican and Guatemalan beds were bad, we were shocked to learn just how hard of beds are in Asia! Returning home to a family member’s bed in the US (that we previously thought was unbearably hard), we were shocked to discover it was actually very very “soft”, by our new standards!!  US beds and pillows have nothing on the rest of the world…

Beds and running water are a nice hotel feature. Hotel beds don't even have to be nice--we'll survive. One method for our survival on road trips in Mexico was to pull out camping pads when we would otherwise get jabbed by springs. In Asia? We just had to survive...

18. Getting my small children to sit at a restaurant is not an easy task

Okay, maybe this is normal for some people. But for us—there is a very good reason. Many meals we enjoyed in Latin American and Southeast Asia were enjoyed without the stress of holding or feeding children. It was completely normal to have our toddler son whisked away by the servers as they entertained him, sometimes fed him, and in general raved about his cuteness. Blondes and redheads will do that. And now some of my blondes and redheads won’t sit.

19. I stuff leftover clean napkins in my purse

I can’t bear to throw them away. Not only would that be such a waste, but what would I do if I came upon a bathroom without toilet paper?!

20. I get really excited when I meet foreigners or immigrants

I’ve always loved meeting foreigners, but I have a new found excitement when I notice someone has an accent and I get to ask them details about where they are from!  I also admire so many Thai and Latino immigrants I’ve met…I can sympathize with their challenges of learning a second language, adapting to new cultures, and I enjoy telling them how much I love their home country! Don’t worry…I like non-foreigners, too! Have you traveled? I also love to hear other people’s traveling adventures…this conversation category can’t really be overdone for me!

20. I feel guilty flushing toilet paper

You would, too, if you lived without flushing them for 2 years.

A luxurious outdoor toilet at Sammy's Cooking Class in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But don't flush the TP!!!

My name is Alisa, and I love traveling the world with my adventurous husband and rambunctious 4 small children. I am passionate about beautiful views, meeting new people, and eating vegetables. Most of all, I love making memories with my family, and I enjoy sharing our travels with others!

23 Responses to “21 Reflections on How Traveling Changed Us”

  1. Ha! I always save napkins too just in case I come across a squatter with no tp:) I once read a trip advisor review for a hoetl in Hawaii that complained that no one came out to turn their chaises so they were perfectly facing the sun!! Oh man, my perspective has changed so much in 7 years!

    • Hahaa…I’m not the only one!
      Oh, and the Trip Advisor review is AWESOME. Jared and I got a hoot out of reading some cruise reviews this Fall. One lady gave the cruise a terrible rating, but her only real complaint was that the room stewards didn’t make towel animals! It had us rolling!!

  2. Too funny. We can definitely relate to some of your comments!

  3. OMG! I could’ve have written this post. Well, maybe not as eloquently as you but I was laughing and nodding the whole time I read it. Well said! :)

  4. Love it! Last time I walked through the cereal aisle at Target I was mortified! What is all that?!? So true, even in Europe…And I had forgotten about stirfried morning glory. YUM! I miss that…And definitely agree about the dryer and the toys. Such good lessons out there! :)

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one that balks at the cereal isle!! I feel bad letting my kids eat Cheerios, as it is! I did discover some AMAAAZING granola in Europe, and found it in Phuket while we lived there (and I paid an arm and a leg for it–but it was SOOOO worth it)!!

  5. I LOVE this post! It’s funny how spoiled Americans are and, unfortunately, many will never even realize it. You are definitely not alone in being torn between whether you should use the modern convenience or stick to your simplistic principles. Our American family and friends are always throwing the “you are soooo weird” at us because I am always stuffing the leftover napkins and condiments in my purse or they come over and I have laundry drying all over the house. Thanks for making me chuckle this morning!

    • ditto to condiments (although I didn’t post it–I thought people would think I’m WEIRD…hahaa)!! It just seems so wasteful to toss them, when I could put them to use. Sometimes I remember to tell a drive thru NOT to give me condiments, so I can work through those…!! And yes, most Americans have no idea how spoiled they are–not in the slightest!

  6. I can relate to all of these. The trouble is I find myself slipping back into the “more” trap. We did a three week housesit in December and we literally brought a truck FULL of stuff. Granted it is winter and we needed our snow gear and skating gear, but when it was time to pack up and leave I was shocked at how much we had brought that we could have done without! Must be time to pack up the back packs again for us for another lesson in minimalism!

  7. I think I can whole heartedly agree with every single point! Although I’ve never owned a drier, just not something I’ve ever needed, even living in the UK in winter. I’d also add that things matter less, material things. I’m less attached. I’ve got no problem with buying something, a jumper, a book or a game for the kids, say. Knowing that we’ll be ditching it in a few weeks when we no longer need it, have read it or had lots of fun out of it. That feels good, too. I don’t have to hoard things in cupboards any more. I’m writing this from a “fancy” hotel in the UK. Just 10 pounds per night each including breakfast. It feels like the best, most luxurious hotel in the world!

    • Wow–no dryers, even in the UK?! See–exactly why the US can be so “weird” sometimes. We just LOVE conveniences and using energy! Haha!
      I completely agree that material things matter less. I keep thinking, “Oh, too bad I sold or gave away _____,” and then I shrug and think, “Oh well–I can buy a new one if it’s really that big of a deal. And most of the time? It’s not–who cares? When traveling we bought kid’s toys that we used briefly and then left behind for some other traveling child. It was nice to not feel as attached to those things!

  8. Great post. You made me smile about the dryer. I grew up drying our clothes in clothes line under the sun. If it rains for days, tough luck.

    I started using dryer only two years back because of limited space in my house

  9. Agree. I have one pair of winter books, one hiking/cycling shoes, and one pair of sandals. Still feels like too much because I only wear the boots when it’s snowing or if I need more dressy shoes in the winter. I still stick to the one weeks pair of clothes, though.

    Funny comment about your kids not wanting to sit still. I love that about other countries!

    • Three pairs–that’s awesome!!! I keep thinking how nice it would be to own a pair of Sunday shoes…but for now my sandals fit the bill. Which means I wear them in the winter (even when it snows). ::sigh:: Oh, well. I just don’t want to be crowded by stuff anymore!! I think that’s fantastic you stick to one week’s pair of clothes! Now, I have winter clothes in addition to summer clothes. I suppose I would be closer to that goal, still, if I haven’t had a baby. When your body size changes drastically, suddenly you find yourself shopping for more clothes that fit!!

  10. Hi Alisa

    I totally get where you’re coming from with this although I think it’s fair to say this is not for everyone. I look at life as an adventure filled with opportunities but that is partly my personality. Other personality types are more interested in stability.

    Bottom line, your insights are fascinating and they encourage me to do with less stuff, especially travelling – I’ve never been much of a ‘stuff’ guy anyway.

    cheers

    Angus

  11. Love this post! I always get confused on which side to drive in. I thank God someone is in front of me cause I dont know which side to go lol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>