5 Countries. 3 Continents. 5 Weeks.
One hell of a learning curve.
I’ve travelled before, but never like this. In December of 2015, my partner and I decided the time was ripe for another international holiday, and this, our odyssey, was born. We headed to Morocco, then Portugal, Spain, and France. We visited fifteen cities and drove, flew, walked, ran, hiked, taxi-ed and trained through many more.
I have decided to share the top five things I learned while overseas. I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments!
(These will be in no particular order).
1. You will miss the most basic household appliances
I always knew I’d get into a physical fight for a cup of tea, but I’ll admit to never being so crash-hot keen on the washing machine. After spending two weeks without one, however, I would’ve happily walked kilometres for one – alright, so this is what we actually did. Nothing like traversing the glorious, historic streets of Coimbra, Portugal with a bag of dirty laundry in hand.
2. Train stations are actually just portals to Hell
Before we left, I quite liked trains. I spent many a forty minute ride into the city staring out of the window and enjoying the scenery. After catching nine different trains for a total of about 48 hours (international and domestic, but no overnighters), I am a wee bit more sour towards them. It didn’t help that I got sick towards the end of the trip and spent the train ride from Toulouse to Barcelona with a high fever that saw me in a tank top whilst everyone else wore four coats and shivered.
Moroccan train tickets – what are you doing here? Without numbers on the carriages, it would sometimes take a good twenty minutes to find your compartment. And then there was usually someone in your seat, having also gotten lost and confused.
This, scrambling up and down a train to find the right carriage, resulted in us chasing a moving train out of the Casablanca station. There is nothing so relaxing as hoisting a full suitcase aloft to sprint after a train leaving the station. Love it.
3. There is always one w@nker in your tour group who knows more than the guide.
Toledo, Spain, is one of the greatest places I’ve ever visited. Cobbled streets, sword shops on every corner, a bloody, violent history – I could’ve clambered over this hilly medieval town for days. Instead, we spent a day wandering its alleys and plazas with a walking tour group. And so, I had my first encounter with Sir Knowitall McWanker. He frequently interrupted our knowledgeable guide (who lived in Toledo) with facts about the Spanish Inquisition (despite not being Spanish), and dumb questions. He would stand next to the guide as though having a personal conversation and answer rhetorical questions.
4. Toilet paper becomes the most precious commodity, oh my god, you have no idea.
We all like toilet paper. It’s there when we need it, and we usually have a surplus. If not, the supermarket is just a short journey away. Right?
WRONG. Housekeeping hasn’t been today. You’ve been feeling a little off. You’ve been in this room for two nights already. You’re rationing. Oh GOD THERE’S ONLY TWO SHEETS ON THIS ROLE… I wonder how rough cardboard really is?
Oh precious, precious tippy. It took me less than a week to ignore the little voice in my head (which sounds a lot like my mother) telling me that it was wrong to steal, and sneak into an empty room on our floor to liberate an extra roll. I was like the Ezio Auditore of pinching loo paper.
Once I got sick and was in desperate need of constant tissues, tippy became even more valuable. I started stealing it from public toilets. I stole even more if I had to pay to use the toilet (Europe, what are you doing with this? There were a few tense moments when I couldn’t find 50c). I eventually became some kind of twisted, toilet paper connoisseur.
“Two ply, double row,” I found myself muttering in a bus station in Lisbon. “Not bad.” I then proceeded to nick at least half the remaining roll and fold it neatly into my pocket.
5. There is no place like home…
Okay, so this might not ring true for everybody. I know there are probably people out there who can’t wait to jetset off into the sunset again as soon as the wheels touch down on the tarmac and people unclip their seatbelts despite the seatbelt sign still being on. But for me, coming back to Adelaide was just… undescribable. Coming back to my little house, with my washing machine, cat and fully stocked toilet paper cabinet, and having more than one room to live in, a fridge to store cold drinks and my own bed… I didn’t realise how much I could miss the little things. We had our first home-cooked meal in five weeks on our second night back, and it was the best damned thing I’d ever eaten.
I’m glad we went overseas and saw all the things. I’m glad we got to experience a different culture and religion, and way of living. But for me, Australia is home, and right now I’ve never been happier to be here.