Being far away from home also means being far away from the comforts the familiar place offers us. I suppose this is especially evident as we started our trip from Nepal, and continued then to India. Both of these countries are really far away from the normal life we are used to. The cultures are totally different, and the living conditions and wealth of the local people seem to be from a completely different planet than in Finland. And sure we haven't even seen the worst of it. Guest houses and hotels tell something about the way of living, but it still is somewhat hard to imagine the standards that the people here are used to.
At home, I really love to take long and hot showers. During this 'round the world trip I might be able to get rid of this bad habit. So far we have always had a private bathroom in our hostels. The first "cold shower" came the first night in Kathmandu. The water was at first really cold but we had been told to wait for it to get warmer. However, once the water started to warm up, it turned into some brown liquid stuff. Probably iron of something from the plumbing system… After a while the water was a little more transparent and I stepped in. After the shower the whole bathroom floor was stained brown. Luckily the next day the water was already much less colored. The best shower in Nepal was in Pokhara, and I was able to take pretty long showers, even though I had to wait for some time before getting in to let the water warm up. Then in Lumbini things were a little different again. The day we arrived was sunny and the shower in the evening quite nice and warm. The next day, however, it was cloudy and it was just bearable to stay under the shower for long enough to get the soap rinsed. No way could I wash my hair there! We assumed that they heat the water there with sun, as there was a large tank that is attached to some solar panels on the roof. So no hot showers on cloudy days! The little pleasure of life for me in Lumbini was washing my hair. I managed to do it in the sink by filling it with cold water and using a cup to get all of my hair wet. The feeling was nearly heavenly afterwards as my hair was finally clean! In India the showers have been quite agreeable, except for the one in Jaipur that didn't have any hot water the second day. In Khajuraho we had our own bathroom but it didn't have hot shower. However, the common bathroom had a real nicely working shower with lovely hot water. J Now in Varanasi our cheap guesthouse has a surprisingly well working shower as long as you remember to turn the hot water on from the switch outside the room!
Another pleasure of life that became familiar in Nepal was feeling warm. Sure on most of the days it was a comfortable 17-20 degrees of Celsius, but in the evening and at nighttime the temperatures dropped way below + 10. And only one restaurant had some sort of indoor heating. All hotels were advertising their fans and air conditions, but none of those places had the much hoped for heating! Even with proper clothing I was cold at some point almost every day. When the temperature indoors is constantly around 14 degrees, it gets cold. In the evening it went pretty good sitting on the bed wearing two long sleeved shirts, a light down jacket, long underwear, pants, thick socks and wool socks. Luckily we packed the warm clothes with us too! In India the evenings have been warmer than in Nepal but I still have been regularly using my down jacket, maybe just out of habit. Now we are constantly going towards warmer temperatures so it will probably soon be the time to say my farewells to the down jacket and try to find some homeless street hobo to donate it to.
Another basic pleasure is the feeling of having your stomach full. During this trip we have had almost every meal in some restaurant because it really seems to be the only sensible option. We have tried to shop in some bigger food stores but it seems to be quite hard to buy something you could prepare yourself in the hotel room. In Europe we have easily made salads, sandwiches etc. in our hotel rooms but both in Nepal and India they only seem to sell cookies, potato chips and nuts in their stores. Try to make a salad out of that… Of course most of the shops we have visited have been very small, but we haven't found any bigger ones either. In Kathmandu we came across this area with some bigger malls and western fast food places and clothing stores. There we went to a grocery store but even that one seemed to have mostly just cookies and chips. Surprisingly many small kiosks sell western products like Digestive-cookies and Pringles-chips but those are a lot more expensive than local products, and also those are the damned cookies and chips... Eating in restaurants is sure pretty inexpensive here but one problem is that it is hard to know how big each meal will be. And we haven't wanted to eat in restaurants five times a day so a couple of times I have had the feeling that at home I would have eaten more. Mostly though I have been quite satisfied with what I have got.
One great delight for me has been the large amount of fruits they are selling everywhere. At home I am quite a fruit "junkie" so before this trip I was pretty concerned about how I could get my daily dose of fruits. To my utter relief there seems to be a dozen fruit kiosks in every little village, and the apples, mandarins and bananas have been really tasty! In India I have often also bought papayas that are fairly cheap and good too. We have also tried guavas, pomegranates, some potato-looking fruits that were not lychees, etc. We have always washed our fruits with bottled water and peeled them before eating.
Another basic thing that made me really happy was to get a whole bunch of clean clothes after travelling for a week. We took the clothes to a local kiosk that had a sign "Laundry service" outside. The woman there did not speak very good English but her little boy of about 9 years of age translated for her a little. We got a deal for 90 rupees/kg of laundry, so that it would be machine washed and tumble dried. I was a little worried, though, about how our sports material clothes would survive from the dryer. In the end it went real well and it was so great to have a load of fresh and dry clothes at hand! Another time we took our clothes to be washed in Kathmandu and the result was not quite as satisfying since apparently the laundry service store also had their tap water rather brownish, and hence some of the lighter colored clothes came out stained and all of them smelled faintly of iron… The stains came off mostly by soaking the clothes when washing them by hand the next time. In India the days have been quite warm and sunny so it has been real easy to get hand washed laundry to dry on the rooftop of the guesthouse.
These aforementioned things are of course very small and something you really don't spend much time and energy to think of at home. And sure these are not the most important things on this trip. We will see and experience some really great and unforgettable stuff. But I also think that paying attention to these small details and finding happiness in them is one important part of this journey. While we see all the great stuff in the world we might also learn to appreciate the little everyday things a bit more than before. When the basic things are going as they ought to it is easy to just sit in the lotus position and smile to the world. ;)