Folks, I’ve traveled a fair amount in my life. At age 12, I went to Canada with my band class and stayed with a host family for several days–my first trip out of the country. You wouldn’t think the language would be a barrier, but I swear to god, the host-girl and I struggled over the word ‘been’. I pronounced it like the male name, Ben. She pronounced it like the vegetable, ‘bean.’ It took us a surprisingly long time to figure out what the other was saying about “How has the weather been?”
At 16 I spent a month in France as an exchange student. At 22 I traveled with my hiking
shoes, my backpack, and my cousin from England, to Wales, to Ireland, to France, to Italy, to Germany. A few years later, I went to Costa Rica on a belated honeymoon. My husband and I made it a priority to travel, though we barely made $22K in our first year of marriage–that’s combined income, people–and we also went to Belgium, Holland, France, Spain, and Italy soon after we were married. Then, after graduating from law school, my hubby and I did a central Europe tour–Czech Republic, Slovinia, Austria, Hungary. At some point, I can’t quite remember when this was, we went to Belize and the Yucatan in Mexico. In this most recent trip to Costa Rica, we also had the chance to go to Guatemala too, which was great.
What’s my point of listing all this crazy traveling? It’s to say, that I love experiencing foreign people, culture, food, and sites. I like learning languages, even if it’s just enough words to say, “Another beer please” a.k.a. “Pivo, prosím” in Czech.
But there is another thing I like about travel–coming home. I find that spending time in someone else’s home, makes me appreciate my own in unforeseen ways. Examples: Being able to find a drinking fountain and drinking the water–I didn’t know other places didn’t really have drinking fountains, or that flavored, carbonated water is NOT thirst quenching when you’ve been hiking all over ancient castles; public toilets with toilet seats and toilet paper–very handy when you’ve been eating lots and lots of unpasteurized cheese.
Now that I am back in the states after four months in Costa Rica, the things I really feel grateful for, and appreciate in a new light, are not necessarily what I would have thought before I left. Example: self-wringing mops, or at least a bucket with a wringer on it. Do you know what it’s like trying to clean up after a Costa Rican toilet has over-flowed because it’s plugged, AND the flapper-valve hung in the open position for god knows how long without a good mop with a way to wring it? I also now notice and admire shoulders on roads. Wow! There’s room for pedestrians, or bikes, or at least it can accommodate 2 cars at the same time–I’m now really noticing the space that before I never saw. I am also so thankful for the ability to find decaf coffee at any shop/ cafe/ restaurant any time of day. The Costa Ricans would just look at me sadly and shake their heads when I asked for such a monstrosity.
None of this is meant to be a complaint of Costa Rica, or any other country I’ve visited. This is a recognition that when you go outside your norm, outside what you’ve grown used to over the countless hours of life in your own community, that if/when you come back, you can find a new gratefulness for small things that you might not have had before.
And gratitude, people, is a powerful, powerful thing.