I love traveling. I enjoy every flight, every bus or train ride, however uncomfortable, because I can’t wait to see the next place. No place is ever the way you imagined it. Every town has its unique flavor, all nationalities their characteristics and each corner of the world its distinct rhythm. However, when you’re on the road for months at the time, some things do get tiring. Sometimes you do miss the ease of your home, where everything works the way you’re used to (not necessarily better) and where you know exactly what to expect.
Now that we are on our way home, I would like to share a list of the things I like the least about traveling, as a deterrent for the next time I start dreaming about going away on a long trip.
Any country in the third world has them. Basically it’s hole in the floor, and you have to point your butt in the correct position to be able to aim right into the sewer. Not only is in an uncomfortable way to go to the loo, it’s almost impossible not to get pee on your shoes and pants.
Chinese public bathrooms
The Chinese have by far the most disgusting public toilets in the world. Nowhere in Africa, South America or other Asian countries are they quite as bad as here.
a) In one place, the ladies’ room consisted of a cement floor with three holes next to each other. To go to the bathroom, you had drop your pants, squat down and pee, while looking at two other women’s naked behinds while they were doing their own business.
b) Another Chinese toilet had a gutter running the length of the men’s and women’s bathrooms, where everyone’s “private” space was divided only by a low wall. You had to aim for the gutter, while looking at everyone else’s poop and pee flow past beneath you.
Shower over the toilet
Budget hotel rooms usually have some quirks, wherever you are in the world. Often, the bathroom is the strangest place. In the Middle East, Africa and Asia, many bathrooms are so small that the shower head is placed directly over the toilet, so that you can save time by taking a shower while pooping. Clever!
Menus in Strange Scripts
For an omnivore it shouldn’t matter – just point and hope for the best (no pig’s snout, no chicken feet, no live turtle). For a vegetarian, however, it’s a bit more complicated, especially in places where no one speaks English. The first thing you have to learn is how to say “I don’t eat meat,” and look quizzically at the waiter while pointing at the menu. And if you’re lucky, the waiter understands that “meat” includes chicken, ham and hot dogs, not just beef.
If you only travel to one or two countries, currencies are fun. But when you reach your eleventh country in five months, you start getting confused. How much does something really cost? In Nepal, a dollar gets you 96 rupees. In India, 60. In Sri Lanka, 130. Everything seems to cost millions in Indonesia, where 100,000 is $10 USD. In Singapore USD 1 equals SGD 1.3, in Thailand 31 Baht.
In Cambodia, it’s easy because the prices are in USD, except for the small change in Riel: If USD 1 is worth 4,000 Riel, how many Riel should you get in change if something costs $3.65?
It is fun to bargain, especially when you feel you are getting a great deal. But sometimes you just want to buy something without having to guess the price. When arriving in a new country, it’s almost impossible to figure out the cost of a taxi ride to your hotel. You always end up paying a lot more than you should, especially during the first few days.
No matter how well you try to eat and how many times you ask the waiter to use oil sparingly, almost all the food you are served is swimming in grease. Even in the places that label themselves “healthy”.
Again, if you’re travelling to a couple of countries, planning is fun. But reading up on another town, again, trying to figure out where to go, which area to stay in, how much a taxi should cost and where you can get decent vegetarian food ‒ it gets tiring after a while. And often, you find the coolest areas of town just before you’re about to leave.
But who am I kidding? In the end, I know none of these things will stop me from travelling in the future. When you have the travel bug, nothing will stop you from wanting to look around the next corner. Even if you have to pee in a stinking hole.