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.
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!
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…
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.