We’re back home: what a ride, what an experience. Four days after coming home, we feel an unexpected kind of relief. Life at home is easy and effortless, compared to the life we lived on the road: every day searching for food, shelter and a way to take care of personal hygiene under sometimes challenging circumstances.
But that seems silly to mention; we choose to go on this trip, we valued those new experiences and challenges and most times we could opt for more luxury: not putting the tent but finding a homestay, not cooking but going out for dinner. We always had room for maneuvering. Most people we met didn’t.
Thinking about it, there are at least five things we became more conscious about and have felt more grateful for, ever since we’re back. They also turned us into realists. Or in other words: there’s nothing romantic about the following five challenges. It’s simply great when such things are easily and comfortably solved, which is the case in the Netherlands:
Poo and pee management
It’s nice to be able to get rid of bodily fluids without needing to walk to a wooden house with a hole. We got better and better at kneeling down to do our thing, but still, often I’d feel some pee on my shoes. We would be careful not to forget a headlamp and were always hoping there would be some water to wash our hands when finished. The smell and the flies were the least of our concerns, but it sure feels good our toilet at home has none!
Sometimes there was a bit of hot water to wash your face, sometimes a warm room to sit with a big bucket of hot water to splash on your body. There were also times that we’d encounter an electric shower. In the most optimal situation the shower would even be in the house, but the day that happened in Kyrgyzstan we were highly surprised. Of course we also encountered the opposite: highly luxurious showers with massage functionality and a radio function in an expat apartment in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Being able to wash yourselves without needing to heat up the cow-shit is of enormous value.
Not being dependent on your own food production saves endless time. We grow some vegetables on our roof terrace; but this trip has made painfully clear that such kind of gardening is pure luxury. It makes us feel good and it’s fun, but it can’t be compared to the efforts of those who depend on their small piece of land to provide their family with food in summer and wintertime. If you want to feed your family: owning a piece of land is a full-time activity. We will never know what it feels like to depend on our own efforts for food, not in the least place because there will always be shops where we can buy food if things would go wrong. Many people we met do not have that luxury.
Staying warm and dry or cooling down
Staying warm and dry was a nice challenge in the Pamirs, Tajikistan; we needed all the clothes we brought and were really happy with our isolating inflatable mattresses, down sleeping bags and lightweight down jackets. In Iran and Uzbekistan the challenge was to stay cool, which is difficult when you have to wear a lot of clothes to live up to local dress codes. In Yazd we stayed in a traditional house with cool rooms, but since we wanted to keep going, that only served us for about 10 minutes. Being able to wear what we want, open the windows and be allowed to cool down by jumping in the Amstel river, makes life a lot easier when you’re overheated.
The people that we met in any of the countries where we travelled often had excellent, yet very heavy blanks but not the warmest clothes, nor any of the stuff we carried that gave us so much freedom while travelling. The nomads of the Pamirs depend on a good yurt with a stove to stay warm. Many people we met lived in badly isolated houses, in countries with cold winters and a high degree of electricity blackouts. Imagine trying to stay warm in winter under such circumstances. We’re grateful that the Netherlands has almost 99% grid reliability and that our house is so well isolated we hardly need any gas to stay warm in winter.
Reading a book at night or charging your phone
In Murgab (Tajikistan) our homestay did not have any electricity for 90% of the time. We used head torches to arrange our bags in the evening or find our toothbrush. Charging the GPS, camera batteries or laptop were not an option. We needed to go to the only hotel in town that generated electricity through a generator. In a yurt in Tajikistan we learned that one light bulb on solar energy is nice, but individual light is also important. How else will children be able to read a book or do their homework with attention? The fact we have endless options at home to plug our phones, laptop and chargers and can simply switch on the night lamp in bed for some bedtime reading; that’s seriously quite a comfortable feeling!