Simple pleasures

… while backpacking

I’m not your typical backpacker. My former life – when I still had a home, a salary and a car – was pretty comfortable. I always had my choice of food in the house (and knew where to get what I wanted); I had the perfect pillows on my comfortable bed; I was surrounded with my stuff, comfortable and pleasing (to me); I had a variety of clothes (and shops) to choose from; I could choose when and if I wanted to be with people; and my friends were just a local phonecall or drive away. Like I said, my life was very comfortable… and there are days when I miss all of the above. But, I don’t think I appreciated any of it, until I no longer had it.

Its so easy to be dissatisfied with everything and forget the little things that give you pleasure. When I started backpacking, my priorities changed.

Here’s my list of simple pleasures… things I’ve came to appreciate in my much simpler (backpacking) life:

  • waking up without an alarm clock – there is nothing quite like sleeping until you wake up, naturally.
  • having a cupboard in which I can unpack – hang, fold away, each thing in its own space . You’d think that with so little stuff, that managing a backpack would be easy, but there are only so many times that you can organise and reorganise and hunt through a backpack.
  • a light backpack – carry only what you need. The belongings that I had with me were minimised to the extreme – because I had to carry that backpack for uncertain periods and distances. I aimed for 12 to 15 kgs… which means that I thought twice about that extra pair of shorts… and how many t-shirts do you really need. Its all those chargers that add the weight… for the cellphone, ipod, camera… and then the universal adaptor, the torch, the lock, the medical kit…
  • privacy takes on a new meaning when you sleep in a 28 bed dorm room. I’ve come to appreciate the ability to close my room door and retreat into my space.
  • a bathroom with a proper shower (with hot water) and a western style toilet is a luxury in Asia. An en-suite bathroom that I have all to myself – well, that would be heavenly.
  • a washing mashine – where you can do your own laundry regularly. Rinsing out your clothes in the not-so-great bathroom, and then trying to get it dry in the humidity of Asia, is quite a challenge. Having your laundry done in Asia, is however, a much better and cheaper option (but you have to make peace with the fact that your clothes might come back with strange stains or smells… do they really do laundry in the Ganges?)
  • applying body lotion and perfume instead of my morning beauty routine in Asia which consisted of sunblock and mosquito repellent
  • finding rice cakes (that is what you search for when you travel with a gluten intolerance) in Kuala Lumpur – you’d think that a rice growing country would have rice cakes, but I only found these by chance.
  • my ipod touch – listening to my choice of music anywhere in the world, having access to wifi and being able to make skype calls to my friends, watching episodes of Scrubs (on my ipod)- my new idea of comfort!

    On a crazy bus in Lombok, with my ipod! (Indonesia, 2010)

“Carefully observe the natural laws in operation in the world around you, and live by them. From following them, you will learn the morality of modesty, moderation, compassion and consideration (not just one society’s rules and regulations), the wisdom of seeing things as they are (not of merely collecting “facts” about them), and the happiness of being in harmony with the Way (which has nothing to do with self-righteous ‘spiritual’ obsessions and fanatacism). And you will live lightly, spontaneously and effortlessly.” (The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, Benjamin Hoff)

I’ve realised, that I don’t have to be on some trip or busy with some spectacular experience, to be happy. The simple pleasures are in the small moments. What are your simple pleasures? I am working on my list for a Greek island.

4 thoughts on “Simple pleasures

  1. Had to smile when I read about certain pleasures… In 2008, I missed the luxury of my own bathroom immensely (it is an absolute sanctum for me…) and soft thick towels – when traveling, you take thin ones that dry quickly, and yes… a washing machine that is not shared by a whole nation!!!

    My simplest, most incredible pleasures are: time to listen to music and dream and write, to know that a whole day strecthes before me to fill as I please and of course to read and read and read…

    Loved your quote..”and the happiness of being in harmony with the Way” – once you arrive there, it becomes the most powerful state of being. I often compare it to the emotion of being in love…it sustains all.

  2. Oohhhh…missing luxuries..? It’s weird it’s never something I’ve had or felt I needed. I think if I was rich I’d still be in a grass hut in Asia-lol!

  3. My simplest pleasure is being with others. Generally a small group of intimate friends and specifically my wife. Those would be top of the list anywhere. I’m with Santi on the reading part. I can be in the most exotic place, I will still take greater pleasure in reading in almost any place, but informative historical tours are good. Not just to learn the facts, but to figure out how people live and make sense of the world around them. To make sense of the particular set of contradictions and paradoxes that seem to characterise all societies. But one pleasure would be to be out of contact (Skype, email and cell phone).

  4. Sounds like your addapting to backpackers way of life… I felt like that after a few week so i can just iamgen what you feel like! I envy you thou for still be travelling and seeing cool new things and meeting people. xoxo Michaela

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