We’re well past the halfway mark on our RTW trip, and as we work out our three weeks on an Italian farm, I’ve had time to ponder some of the best and worst parts about it so far.
Things I will miss
Solar, solar everywhere!
It warms my heart to see fields of solar panels all through Europe as we whiz by on the train – or, as above, glimmering off tracts of houses. Maybe there is hope for the future after all.
Quiet streets (Germany-specific, mainly)
Germany was eerily quiet. There was no music playing in the first supermarket we visited and people were basically whispering to each other. People are quiet on the streets, in parks … even the kids in playgrounds. And you know what? I could get used to that – considerate citizens who don’t feel the need to broadcast their personal conversations or music playlists to every bystander in the area.
Best of all? The vehicles are all virtually silent. I LOVE THAT. I effing hate loud cars and loud bikes, the kind that disturb the peace constantly back home. If there’s any way to make Kiwi car culture sound as pathetic as it truly is, it’s attempting to explain it to a German. But why do people do that to their cars? Oh, errr, having your car go doof doof every other second makes you, I dunno, cool. Or something.
Free cash withdrawals
At home, you can only withdraw cash for free at your own bank’s ATMs. That said, I never use cash at home anyway – adjusting to using cash while travelling was a toughie. New Zealand was the first country to introduce eftpos cards, so electronic transactions are very much the norm.
Decent public transport
Subway systems! Actual rail networks, with huge stations and shops inside! Oh, it’s wondrous. I must blog about how much I prefer trains to planes…
Things I definitely won’t miss
Found mainly in Germany (though I believe we encountered our first one in Amsterdam). Bizarre, unhygienic, and kinda creepy. I can only concur with the following statement: The only conceivable explanation is that Germans love to inspect their stool, so the German toilet of necessity features a built-in stool inspection shelf..
We thought Asia was bad. Oh, how wrong we were. Spotting an indoor smoking booth at Athens airport was, in a word, tragic. No, we will not miss the ubiquitous smokers one bit.
I will never get used to this. I get twitchy whenever I see a cop out in public with a gun holster.
Taxes. Service charges. Cover charges. And so on. In New Zealand, the price tag is always final – you know what you’ll have to pay, and that’s that.
Paying for water
Again, we’re spoiled at home with our tap water for the most part. But Rome, for example, has perfectly serviceable water in my view – so being forced to pay for bottled water at restaurants rubbed me the wrong way. (Rome’s random outdoor spigots, though, are unbelieveably great. The ancient taps might look a tad rank, but the cold, clear water – which apparently comes from underground springs – is fantastic, and FREE. They run constantly and are a godsend when you’ve drained your bottle or just need to splash some water on your perspiring face.)
Paying for toilets
‘Nuff said. At least this generally corresponds with clean facilities, though. I think I’ve actually managed to avoid paying for any toilets since Asia; I usually manage to time it with a visit to a food outlet. Even so, I recall one McDonald’s that charged separately for the toilet. You could use that as a rebate towards your food purchase, but you’d need to visit the toilet before ordering in order to realise this – and I can’t imagine many people would make their way upstairs to use the restroom before ordering.
One thing you don’t get in New Zealand is people who are always trying to sell you stuff. Outside tourist attractions. On the street. At the beach, even. I have a real problem saying no, and thus I hate being anywhere near these guys (they’re almost always guys) selling hats, drinks, sunglasses, massages, or whatever. I know they’re just trying to earn a honest buck, but it makes me really uncomfortable. (I gotta harden up.)
Digging for gold (TMI warning)
Aka picking your nose (euphemism courtesy of an old teacher of mine from primary school). I cannot remember the last time I had to deal with solid nasal buildup at home. I have hayfever and a runny nose year around. Overseas, I have the opposite problem – hard bastards that build up in my nostrils like moss on a rock (sometimes restricting my airways) and require careful extraction at inconvenient times.
I used to LOVE travel planning. It was half the fun for me! But when you’re constantly plotting out your next move, it gets incredibly exhausting. The beauty of flexibility is you can change your plans on a whim, like staying an extra day in Switzerland so T could go canyoning (oh Eurail pass, how easy you make things), but it also creates a lot more work while you’re on the road. Personally, I find balancing flexibility with planning is difficult. I booked our Italy-Greece flights before leaving home, which I now think was probably too early and may have cost me money overall. On the other hand, I left booking our Greek ferry tickets to Santorini too late, because I didn’t want to spend the cash so far in advance … and ended up paying dearly when the cheap ferry sold out.