Why is it that whenever I return to the US I instantly stop feeling like a traveler? While my traveler’s mindset certainly does help me view these familiar surroundings in a new light, just as Tom pointed out in the comments of my last post, in the end, something just feels different.
However, this morning, while putting on my shoes moments before stepping outside, I think I finally discovered the root of the issue. And it all has to do with juggling socks.
For some bizarre reason, and I do this religiously while traveling, within minutes of waking up each morning, I pull out three, balled-up pairs of socks from my backpack (if a pair is dirty I’ll use a ball of tissue in its place) and start juggling. I usually walk around the room while juggling, trying a few nifty behind-the-back and under-the-leg tricks before attempting my most daring trick, juggling non-stop as I switch from a standing position to a sitting one and then back to standing again. And then, all of a sudden, after I’ve had my fill of morning clown activity, I put the socks back into my backpack and, with blood flowing and muscles loosened, I get ready to begin my day.
But the strange thing is that I haven’t done this once since arriving back in Florida one week ago. I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop, I just stopped naturally as if my brain won’t let me partake in this travel habit while I’m in my home country. And missing this morning routine is one reason why I don’t feel like a traveler at the moment.
But there’s more than just juggling socks. Actually, the more I thought about this odd situation, the more I realized how many other strange travel habits I not only have, but that have disappeared as soon as I returned to US soil. In fact, the list of these habits is much longer than I would ever have imagined and after re-reading it several times over, I also can’t help but wonder…
Am I really that weird of a traveler? I guess you’ll be the judge.
Here are a few more of my strange travel habits:
- Sleeping under a blanket – Only when traveling do I need to sleep under a blanket, no matter how hot it may be in the room. I simply can’t fall asleep otherwise. Once, I visited the Indian town of Bodhgaya during the hot season, where the temperature hovered around 120 degrees, even at night. And when I asked the manager of the guesthouse for a blanket, he explained that he didn’t have anything more than an extra sheet. I didn’t sleep that night at all and had to buy a thicker, more blanket-like cloth in town the next day and I slept perfectly fine after that.
- Change of voice – Many other travelers I’ve traveled with, and even many of my friends from around the world, seem to be highly amused by the way my voice changes whenever I’m trying to speak a foreign language. Apparently (and by apparently I mean, yes, it does happen but I don’t exactly want to admit it), my normally deep voice turns into some sort of barely-audible, squeaky feminine voice that has been compared to the ‘whispering of a frightened 7-year old girl’. It’s no surprise then that I’ve never exactly fully mastered another language.
- Walking while brushing my teeth – I haven’t done it once since my return to the US a week ago, but I’ve done this every single day I’ve ever spent traveling abroad. After putting toothpaste and a few drops of water onto my toothbrush, I just turn around and go for a walk. While brushing my teeth I’ll walk around the room, around any rooms nearby, back and forth along hallways and even up and down the stairs. And it doesn’t matter if I’m in my own apartment, in a hotel room or using a shared bathroom at a hostel. If I stop walking, I stop brushing my teeth and so I must keep my feet moving at all times. (This habit did prove unbelievably useful one time in Thailand.)
- Tapping the beat to a song – Whenever I get nervous while traveling, I start to tap my thighs to the beat of an imaginary tune, all in an attempt to portray some sort of confidence and comfort that I may be lacking at the time. But usually I’m too nervous to actually think of a real tune and so I just randomly hit away at my legs. And what is perhaps even stranger is that I always use my wrists, not my fingers or palm, to beat out the rhythm, which in the end, makes me look absolutely ridiculous and not at all like a confident and casual person. Maybe one day I’ll share a video of this!
- Om Mani Padme Hum – On my first ever trip to India back in 2001, I bought a silver pendant that I’ve now worn around my neck ever since, taking it off only a handful of times over the past 9 years. On this pendant is a Tibetan prayer – Om Mani Padme Hum – which is a prayer for the compassion and happiness of all living beings. The strange part is that every time I cross a border into a new country, I find myself grabbing a hold of the pendant in my right hand and repeating the phrase Om Mani Padme Hum three times to myself. I have no idea how or when this ritual actually started but I now do it automatically every time I enter a different country.
- Packing & Re-packing – When it’s time for me to move on from one city, town or village to another city, town or village, I always pack my backpack the night before so that I will be ready to go the following day. However, almost every time, upon waking up in the morning in order to catch my bus, train, boat or plane, I’ll empty out my backpack and then immediately re-pack everything once again. And then, I’ll repeat the same process all over again one more time. I’m not too sure why I do this either, but I’ve yet to allow myself to just leave my stuff scattered around, unpacked, until the morning. I just feel the need to pack my bag at night, despite knowing that I’ll do it again, twice, before I actually leave.
So, am I a strange traveler?
Hopefully not, or at least not too strange anyway. After all, I do suspect that you may have some odd travel habits yourself and I’d love to hear about them! Perhaps I’m not the only one out there who, only when traveling, spits water at the wall during my showers while pretending that each spit is a new type of missile that at the last minute veers away from its target and as a result, never kills anyone.
On second thought, I probably am the only one who does that.
So let me hear it…what are your strange travel habits?