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Robert Schrader

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7 Things I Miss When I'm Abroad

Posted: 05/05/2012 7:30 am

By the time you read this, I'll be on a plane bound for Colombia. During my three-week trip, I plan to explore not only Bogotá and other large cities, but also coastal Taryona National Park, the Colombian coffee belt and of course Cartagena, where all the Secret Service hooker drama recently went down.

But that's not what this post is about. Indeed, as I embark on my latest adventure abroad, I'm mentally preparing myself to do without all the things I miss most when I travel.

1. The Internet
The United States has the fastest, cheapest, most reliable Internet in the world. Think your connection is slow? Try visiting Myanmar, where it takes five minutes to load Google. Think it's expensive? In Australia, access is sold by the unit, to the tune of $20 (or more) per gigabyte. As someone who earns his income online, I sorely miss American Internet when I'm abroad.

2. Supermarkets
Although the term "supermarket" is universal, the selection of products at international supermarkets is usually miles from super. Case in point? Cereal. When I lived in China, I routinely paid $10 or more for a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, on the rare occasion that I could find it. Ditto for retail pharmacies like Walgreen's and CVS, whose opening hours alone have me hooked.

3. Happy Hour
"Happy hour" technically exists in some countries, but I have yet to see half-price appetizers or $1 beers outside our borders. Even worse, did you know that happy hour is actually illegal in some places? Residents of Wettingen, the Swiss city where my best friend lives, recently struck down an ordinance allowing restaurants and bars to serve discounted alcohol.

4. American coffee
It might sound funny that I'm lamenting universally-hated American coffee just as I head to famous-for-coffee Colombia. Unfortunately most of the coffee I've drunk during my trips has been of the instant (or just-plain-nasty) variety. So far, only Australia's "long black" comes close to the classic American cup of Joe, which is still my favorite coffee after almost 50 countries.

5. My hairstylist
Even when I bring a local to assist with linguistic matters, foreign hairstylists just can't seem to get my hair right. In Shanghai, it had to do with my fine-textured Western hair, which they cut as if it was coarse Asian hair. In Buenos Aires last year, on the other hand, it was because the stylist at the trendy Palermo salon I visited was checking himself out in the mirror as he cut.

6. Urban Outfitters
Any drama surrounding the company's CEO notwithstanding, I love shopping at Urban Outfitters. I particularly love their tees and tanks, available in every color of the rainbow, and the fact that their Levi's skinny jeans are just a tad skinner than those you find anywhere else. When I finish a trip, only a layover at Urban Outfitters can heal how sick I am of wearing the clothes in my bag.

7. Wanderlust
I never I get homesick while I'm on the road, but I do encounter a sort of inertia that temporarily quells my desire to travel more, at least in the days immediately preceding my return home. Thankfully, it takes only a short time being back here in Texas before I'm plotting my next sojourn -- and making another one of these lists.

 

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