Six things I miss about HOME when I’m traveling

by Beth Shepherd
( January 23rd, 2015 )

I love to travel. Even when I long for the comfort of home, I always feel a little sad when we’re about to board that plane and head back. Here are six things I miss when I’m away from home:

1. My cat*: I think about her all the time when I’m on the road. Traveling without her makes me feel like I’ve left a family member behind. Because I have.

Maggie with bird book 1

2. My bed: Even though I’ve slept in some very interesting beds—a straw bed in an Austrian B&B, and a rock hard Tibetan bed come to mind—in several really cool places, there is nothing like your own bed, your own pillow and being asleep in your own familiar bedroom.  And yes, there she is again, that cute cat.* I can’t think about my bed without thinking about my cat. She’s slept by my, and now our, side for nearly 20 years. My bed always feels a bit empty when I’m traveling and she’s not in it.

In bed with our cat

3. My shower: Occasionally I’ve enjoyed an incredible shower when traveling. I remember some of those to this day! Showering nude with Little Bird in the outdoor shower on Kauai, large dual shower heads at the Oregon B&B in a silo. However, more often than not, I’ve had showers I’d like to forget, where there was no hot water—or no water at all. I still remember some of those to this day too (like not being able to take a shower the morning we left Armenia for our 36 hour adventure bringing home Little Bird). Plus, at home we have an awesome old claw-foot tub…and the best shower assistant, aka Maggie, the cat,* a family could want. She is always on the rug whenever someone is taking a bath or a shower.

Bathing assistant

4. My garden: I’ve had the good fortune to visit some amazing gardens and sit in adorable pocket-sized city parks. But in my garden, no one tells me I can’t walk on the grass (even though we have none)—I’m talking about you parks in Paris. I don’t have to worry about being propositioned while sitting on a park bench (Athens) or seeing some guy, or two guys on the same day in two separate parks enjoying himself (Athens, again). If I need a little respite, I can sit and watch the plants grow, listen to the birds tweet (I love those birdies!), dig my fingers in the soil, or grab a bite of fresh-grown veggies if I’m hungry. Maggie* likes the garden too, lounging in the sunshine, savoring a bit of catnip.

Cat in the garden

5. Water straight from the tap and fresh vegetables: This only applies when traveling abroad in certain destinations. When we visited China and Tibet nearly a month, and on our longer trips to Armenia, I really missed drinking fresh water that didn’t come from a bottle. I missed ice cubes too. And brushing my teeth with water that flowed freely from the tap. We always try to be super careful and—knock on wood—so far have not gotten sick (at least from water or food).

Not being able to drink water straight from the tap also means not eating any fresh veggies that may have been washed with water. Not being able to eat fresh vegetables really bums me out because I love them and would like to try some of unique fresh veggies I’ve encountered in far-flung locations. But I’ve heard stories from fellow travelers who did indulge, and they weren’t pretty. I’m not sure how to tie this into my cat,* other than she also enjoys water straight from the tap. And asparagus.

Maggie likes asparagus

6. Being in one spot: Exciting as travel is, and as much as I wish I could travel quite a bit more than I currently do, being on the road and living out of a suitcase can get old. There is nothing like the security of familiar surroundings, sights and smells.

There is no place like home. With a cat.*

Cat and girl on the deck

*And this is not a post about my cat. Well, maybe just a bit.

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Five things I miss about TRAVEL when I’m home

by Beth Shepherd
( January 22nd, 2015 )

The road less traveled is the road I’d like to be on. I miss traveling and wish I could take trips more often. Remembering places we’ve been makes me happy, and dreaming about the places I’d like to go stirs my imagination. And I love hearing friends tell stories of  their journeys, envious though I might be.

Here are a few things—and there are many more—I miss about travel:

1. Adventure: Hearing monks chant in Tibet and seeing the Mt. Everest are the types of adventures I wish I could have more of. Finding myself in unfamiliar settings, being surrounded by people speaking another language, not knowing what surprises might lie around the corner—I love it all. I’ve probably been to more places than the average person, but far fewer than many travelers I know. After all, this blog is hosted on a travel website! It’s hard not to feel envious when I scan blog posts and read travel memoirs. So when people ask why we chose to adopt from Armenia well, for one,—duh—travel!

17,000 feet and Everest

2. Trying new food! Whether it’s yak lung in Tibet or Lahmajun in Armenia (oh Lahmajun, how I miss thee), enjoying unfamiliar cuisine is thrilling to me. Shave ice in Hawaii, Gouda cheese in Amsterdam, champagne in Epernay. Stinky tofu might not go down in the record books as a food I’d try again, but telling the story of Big Papa’s memorable stinky tofu encounter always makes me laugh. Or remembering our lunch with a lama—and being served hot water instead of tea. Even the Parisien waiter who stiffed us by giving us change in foreign currency from around the world, not Euros, on our first trip together to France—I’ve filed him in my travel memories under food.

Armenian pizza

3.Meeting people: I have met some really fabulous people while traveling, like Sergei, our favorite Armenian painter whose artwork is on the wall in nearly every room of our house. Or my dear friend Hripsime who lives in the city where my daughter was born. Even fleeting encounters have turned into longer correspondence, like Karla—the incredible photographer I met while whale watching in Baja. And I still think about how lucky I was to run into two female Swedish travelers while camping in Matala, Greece. They were my companions for only a few days, but I got to see and do things I otherwise might not have traveling solo on a Greek island.

Sergei the painter

4. Stepping out of my comfort zone: Shop at the same grocery store, drive familiar routes—the habits and rhythm of my days at home, while enjoyable, don’‘t deviate much. When I’m traveling, every day is a new opportunity to do something different, see something I’ve never seen before, get lost, haggle, discover something—about a new place or about myself. It’s fun to shake things up a bit, good for the brain and good for the soul. If we hadn’t turned left at that corner, we never would have found the perfect little park for having lunch. If we’d stopped before the last switch on that trail, we would have missed the mind-blowing view.

Monk shoes

5. Disconnecting: In our uber-connected first world lives, we are always in touch. Sure there’s something comforting about knowing I can see a familiar face on Facebook with one click on my keyboard, but when I travel I find it freeing to be “out of touch.” I can’t check my email at 17,00 feet in Tibet and you know what, I don’t even want to. It’s a relief to put the news aside for a few days, a few weeks, and not feel compelled, compulsive even, about checking in on social media. My senses awaken and suddenly I’m in touch with so much more—the world outside.

Beach feet

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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The scent of spring

by Beth Shepherd
( January 20th, 2015 )

What was that heady scent, I wondered, as I stepped out onto our back deck? And then I remembered: the Sarcococca confusa (also known as Sweetbox) I replanted at the base of our stairs. A gardener friend had encouraged me to plant it in a spot we’d walk by on a regular basis. She promised that just when I’d had enough of winter, I’d find my Sarcococca in bloom, and its intoxicating fragrance would whisper, “Spring is in the air.”

Sarcococca, the fist sign of spring

Most of the year, the Sarcococoa is not a noteworthy plant, except that it thrives in locations where other plants wither, namely shade. It is frequently overlooked which is many a garden’s loss, because how many plants are shade-loving, winter blooming and fragrant? I’m so glad I moved it. For the next few months, whenever I’m feeling those Seattle rainy day blues, all I have to do is open my back door and inhale! Spring is on its way.

Sarcococca confusa

Sweetly breathing , vernal air,
That with kind warmth doth repair
Winter’s ruins; from whose breast
All the gums and spice of the East
Borrow their perfumes; whose eye
Gilds the morn, and clears the sky.
  Thomas Carew,  1595 – 1645

 Take the road less traveled, Beth

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