The Truth About Travel

6 Weird Things You Miss While Traveling

It’s surprising what makes you homesick

Shawn Forno
Nov 5 · 6 min read
(Photo by Ashley Green on Unsplash)

Travel is full of new experiences and unexpected discoveries. That’s why we do it. But no matter how perfect each destination seems, it’s almost impossible not to miss at least a few things about your life back home. Including a few things you’d never expect.

But don’t feel bad. Even experienced road warriors can miss the simple pleasures they took for granted back home.

Here are six of the weirdest things that I miss when I travel the world for months on end.


Fast food

I rarely eat fast food back in the States. Sure, I’ll destroy some In-N-Out when I visit family in California, but we all know that a Double-Double, protein style with fries and a chocolate shake is manna from heaven.

But a weird thing happens when I travel. After just a few weeks, I find myself enticed by lukewarm Burger King. At the airport. And I’m not the only one.

My buddy has been living in Europe for years—home to some epic cuisine—and yet he asks everyone who visits from the U.S. to bring him Kraft macaroni n’ cheese boxes. The heart wants what it wants.

People who fantasize about traveling around the world often picture fresh fruit salads every morning and mountains of [insert ethnic food of choice here] every for lunch and dinner. And it’s a great fantasy.

But it’s not what happens. At least, not the way you think.

I can’t explain it, and I’m sure it doesn’t happen to everyone, but you can be surrounded by the tastiest local food in the world and still crave a greasy slice of pizza, a chocolate milkshake, or a microwave burrito.

Your body can only handle so much change. We all get fatigued with new things (even good things). At some point, you just want something familiar—even if it’s fast food. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Don’t beat yourself up if you need to take a break from delicious Thai food to have a burger and a coke—even if you never touch the stuff back home. It just means you’re a real adventurer.

Familiar toilets

(Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash)

I want to be clear about this — I am not criticizing local toilets. Not everything has to be western to be “good,” and many toilets around the world are superior to U.S. toilets.

In fact, western toilets are incredibly wasteful with water and paper and definitely need to change.

But…there’s my butt.

I grew up using American plumbing and that’s just what my toosh is used to. Sorry.

I’m never going to like wadding up poo paper and tossing it into a trash can full of other peoples’ poo paper.

I use what’s available without complaint — from squat toilets to the ones with the hose— but I’m always gonna miss a good ol’ porcelain throne with modern plumbing.

My pillow(s)

Basically, every night is a pillow fort sleepover and I’m the mayor of comfy town.

My pillow preferences being what they are means I’m rarely satisfied by even the nicest accommodation abroad. And that’s fine. I get that I’m the entitled weirdo.

Still, it’s tough to get the rest you need to tackle the day when you can’t get a good night's sleep.

Trader Joe’s

Also, Macadamias Laceys are the best cookie ever made. Come at me.

I’ve worked for years to create a mental map of the Trader Joe’s aisle layout. Every trip to the market is like my own personal Supermarket Sweep. And I always win.

I can go from seasonal pomegranates to frozen peas to coffee grounds in less than 50 steps. And that includes a stop at the free sample corner for a tiny coffee and spoonful of vegan lasagna that I’ll never buy.

I don’t actually miss being in a grocery store — especially not a New York City Trader Joe’s — but I do miss knowing that I can buy exactly what I want to eat for the week in under 15 minutes without puzzling through cryptic labels and unknown ingredients in a language I barely speak.

My [fill in the blank]

World travel requires packing light and leaving behind some of your favorite stuff. Which sucks, because there are a few (obviously bulky) things I really miss—namely, my guitar, surfboard, and a good rocking chair.

Sure, I could check my guitar and surfboard, and I could travel with a hammock or something, but eventually, the cost and hassle of schlepping all that gear around the world would outweigh their utility.

I don’t care how minimalist you are — everyone has a few items they miss when they’re away from home.

Maybe it’s your record collection or a bulky sweatshirt you like to sleep in. Maybe you wish you could pack all your art supplies or you miss noodling on the piano. Whatever it is, you can usually rent or substitute these large items, but they never quite replace what you left back home, do they?

House parties & game nights

If you travel for months at a time you’re going to miss a lot of big life events. Weddings. Birthdays. Even funerals. You can’t be everywhere all the time.

Full-time travel means making your peace with missing out on the milestone moments of people that are close to you. And while I’m bummed I’ve missed a few big days, I find that I really miss the little moments a lot more.

I miss small house parties and nerdy game nights. I miss watching Game of Thrones with a few friends and a few bottles of wine. I miss pumpkin carving parties and backyard BBQs. I miss playing poker badly and going bowling with a bunch of people who aren’t good at bowling.

I miss simple days spent with good people.

I’m not very prone to FOMO, but it’s easy to forget that life is just a collection of moments. Some are good, some bad. Some are downright monumental. However, most of the moments that make up your life are small. Mundane even.

But it’s the sum total of all those little moments—those forgettable nights and boring days with the people you love and respect—that really makes you who you are.

Stay connected with the people that matter to you because no amount of “once-in-a-lifetime experiences” can ever replace the value of lifelong friendships.

Plenty of the people that you meet are “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, too.


The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

Shawn Forno

Written by

A very left-handed travel writer

The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

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