This week, my husband and I made the jump from nomads to homeowners. Although we’ve been pretty much settled in South Florida for the last three years, the purchase of a house means we can’t just run off to Abu Dhabi on a whim to teach English for a year (although, we could easily rent during the winter to tourists…hmmm…)
While our travels are by no means over (I didn’t become a high school teacher because I love getting up at 6am every day…give me my SUMMER VACATION), we are certainly feeling more “settled down” and “grown-up” this week. The U.S.A, for all its faults, is the Land of Remarkable Conveniences and here are a few that I’ve reflected on during my previous years as an expat.
After six months of living in Istanbul, Turkey as an English teacher, I decided to spend three weeks traveling around the Turkish coast and countryside. There are several ancient Greek cities, 3,000-year old Lycian rock tombs, gigantic heads from an old tumulus built on top of a mountain, a holy cave where the prophet Abraham once lived, underground cities used by the early Christians and miles upon miles of gorgeous rocky coastlines along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. However after so much traveling, especially in the eastern part of the country, which is quite underdeveloped and shares a border with countries like Syria and Iran, I had forgotten many simple conveniences that I took for granted while in the USA. Here are eight amazing things I did upon my return to the “modern” world.
- Used modern toilet facilities
After using dirty, squat toilets in Eastern Anatolia which are essentially a hole in the ground, using a modern toilet that has been cleaned in the last 30 days and that has toilet paper (!) was unbelievably refreshing.
- Used free toilet facilities
If using a dirty squat toilet wasn’t bad enough, consider the fact that you must pay 50 cents to a dollar to use it. I felt like I was stealing something when I went to Connecticut’s Hammonasset Beach bathroom without paying.
- Drank water from the tap
It can be done in some parts of Turkey but usually with the price of an unsettled, gurgling stomach. Luckily, bottled water is widely available and (usually) quite cheap. But the simple act of turning on the faucet and having clear, cold water emerge is pure joy. Add a few handfuls of ice for even more bliss.
- Used a shower with water pressure and hot water
I’ve developed the habit of waiting ten minutes before showering because I expect that the water heater needs time to heat up. Forgetting, of course, that Americans leave their water heaters running 24/7.
- Ate pork
Although Turkey is quite secular, this is one religious taboo that seems to have stuck. Bacon and other pork products can be found, but are usually very expensive. I was never a big fan of bacon, but you always want something when you know you can’t have it.
- Drove a car
Trying to drive a car in Istanbul is like trying to run with Olympic-trained athletes in a race. There is simply no way to keep up. Istanbul drivers regularly drive backwards, the wrong way on a one-way street or on the sidewalk. It is a mystery to me how after six months, I never saw a single traffic accident.
- Walked on a sidewalk without fear of getting hit by a car
Another fun (?) feature of the Turkish driving experience. Nowhere is out of bounds if you’re in a car.
- Bought everything I needed at one store
Super-Walmart you are so evil but so wonderful at the same time.
This article definitely needs a sequel about all the incredible experiences you can have abroad but not in America, but that will wait for another day. I imagine it will also be a bit longer than this one.
What amenities do you miss the most while traveling or living abroad? I didn’t even mention the food products that can be so hard to find (peanut butter, mac and cheese, etc.)