Lovers of Leaving: Traveling Styles

Over the course of nearly four months, we have traveled in thirteen different countries, and we have traveled by plane, bus, train, rental car, underground train, overhead tramway, and of course, our own feet.  One aspect of all this traveling is the physical act of getting up and leaving the place where we currently have our stuff, and getting ourselves and our belongings transported to another place.  And by now we have it down to a routine — more or less. The night before, depending on how early we have to check out, I perform a few preliminary steps:

  • Open closets and pull any clothes off their hangers;
  • Consolidate the many bottles of shampoo and shower gel, and place them in the shaving kit;
  • Put away all miscellaneous electronics, including adapters, USB cords, and power cables, and have them ready to pack up the next day, when phones are disconnected from the charger;
  • Fold and pack any clothes that were taken out for the present hotel room / Airbnb / whatever space we have occupied, and carefully layer them into our respective bags;
  • Decide which food items we will bring.  I like to pack a bag of granola or muesli that can be eaten for breakfast, plus a few fruits.  Weight is a consideration when it comes to items placed in the bags that will be checked, but we can carry quite a bit in a backpack for the purpose.

On the morning of check-out:

  • Find a place to deposit miscellaneous small change, especially if we are traveling to a country where a different currency is used.  I generally pour these into a spare pocket of the shaving kit;
  • Jam shaving kit into the bag;
  • Place Patrice’s toiletries bag into my bag, trying not to crush it (notice I am more careful with her stuff);
  • Close up our respective bags;
  • On second thought, remove some of the smaller change from the shaving kit, and place in the room someplace (the bags often get overweight due to this stuff);
  • Close the bag;
  • Remember that I have not yet packed the miscellaneous electronics, and swiftly reopen and re-close my bag;
  • Hope that the zipper holds up when I close my suitcase — every time;
  • Roll out the door.  Wait! Take one more peek under the bed, in the bathroom, or wherever there are likely to be belongings hidden away.

(Side-note:  Patrice claims that she can pack in ten minutes.  That is her super power.)

While the routine is much the same, the space we occupy adds a special challenge.  I am what I would describe as a “geographic” type of organizer:  I need to have my shaving kit, Kindle, smartphone, etc.,  kept in the “same” place, so I don’t lose them.  See the challenge here?  Every rental space is layed out a little differently, and it takes about a week for me to get used to where things are — just in time to move again…

Every city is different and has its own climate, and every temporary living quarters, whether an Airbnb, a freebie from friends (rare, but welcome), or a fancy hotel (equally rare, and usually in reaction to issues where we lived previously), has its own personality. One recent place, in Singapore, was fairly small, with a very minimalist kitchen, and an enormous bed that took up fully a third of the entire place. But on the other hand, affordable food places were readily available, and the condo complex that it was part of had three gyms (one women-only, one men-only, one coed), plus a huge outdoor swimming pool.  There were inviting outdoor spots where you could enjoy the cooler air in the evening and watch kids having a swimming lesson.   We stayed over Halloween, and were entertained by a little costume party for little kids, as they excitedly flitted this way and that in their costumes.  The concept seems to be that people tolerate a small footprint in terms of personal living space, but the common space is generous and very actively used by the membership. It made me think about the big, wasteful homes I have lived in for the past few years.

With rare exceptions, we have found something to like about each of the spaces we’ve traveled to.  Amsterdam had a great, roomy kitchen, and the hosts had left us a number of yummy snacks to tide us over while we got used to the neighborhood. Florence had a nice, long table that could double as work area and dining place.  Singapore, besides the wonderful pool, had a bathroom scale, which we used to weigh our bags.  Most airlines were allowing no more than 20 kg per bag, or for two people traveling together, a total of 40 kg.  Sydney had, among other things, an actual overstuffed couch that was so comfortable we would sometimes stay there for hours.  That was a rare treat after many hard sitting surfaces in other spots.

One characteristic of all the places we have stayed is that they are temporary; as “lovers of leaving” we somehow look forward to the next place, the next experience.  Truth be told, some of us like the leaving more than others.  😉

The last phase of this trip will be to pick out a place (or several places) in which we plan to stay for at least six months, before we decide where to settle “forever.”  I confess I am looking forward to that, so at least I’ll know where my Kindle is.

What Now???

So last night I was eating some baklava for dessert when c-r-u-n-c-h .. a tooth popped out.  Ack! This is a side of my mouth where another tooth has vacated in recent years, and a bit of a surprise.  And it happens to be the right side of my mouth.  If you were paying attention, you will remember that it is my right ear that has been giving me trouble.  I mean, is it a coincidence that this is the same side of my head that currently hears about 10% of what it once did?  Or is the right side of my body taking off on a vacation? Stay tuned.

This is my way of dealing with this latest example of things falling apart on this old frame.  What is one to make of it?

In a way, losing teeth is just a matter of parts wearing out.  Teeth are the closest to a purely mechanical part that we have on our bodies.  But like tummy aches and fevers, that affect our appetite, bad teeth affect our ability to eat.  This little setback makes me realize how much I enjoy eating.  Virginia Woolf summed up my feelings on the subject when she said “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, unless one has dined well.”  I mean, this is serious!

My favorite food quote is from the sci-fi writer Douglas Adams:  “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?’”

Today we ate at a wonderful, hidden watering hole in Edinburgh:  the Tea Room at Edinburgh Castle.  The Castle is a vast, slanty stone structure which offers visitors far too much surface to clamber over, in my opinion.  But there is a little door on the site of the castle that one can walk through and suddenly find oneself comfortable and level, and more important, find oneself a lovely meal.

We entered, gave our names to a receptionist, who then thanked us and told us to return in 15 minutes, which we did.  We were seated, and then told by a server that unfortunately, none of the food items could be ordered, due to a delay in the kitchen.  We were, however, free to order any drinks or desserts, so we ordered a pear-ginger-apple cake and elderberry-lemon tea for Patrice, and Edinburgh Castle Ale and and a double chocolate cake for Richard.

So here’s where the tooth problem comes in:  I had to very carefully confine my chewing to the left side of my mouth.  This is a little like taking a nice walk but having to do it as part of a sack race, with your right leg tied to some stranger walking alongside you.  “It’s a nice day for a walk, … er, say, would you mind keeping up?” With the current state of my dental situation as of right now, biting down on that side gives me the equivalent of a jolt of electricity, combined with the sensation of a Vice Grips around my jaw.  Ouch!   But, you see, I like to eat and there is all this delicious stuff to eat.

It turns out the  ban on ordering entrees was temporary, for the server then told us to go ahead and order, which we did.  Ordinarily, when we dine, Patrice and I share a dessert, ordering it with two spoons, and I just have a coffee.  The temporary ban caused us to order more food than usual, and I broke with my usual practice of not ordering alcohol before 6:00 p.m. It was all so much food.  But we survived.  The irony was the limited equipment I had to enjoy it.

After lunch, we crawled home to our flat, and I headed to a dentist appointment a few minutes away. Tomorrow I will have some work done on the tooth, so I can at least attempt to eat without pain.