What Do You Miss When You Travel? This Is What I Missed …

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Gauguin, Tahitian Landscape 1891

When I set off on a two year sailing voyage, I had a fantasy of who I’d become. With the stunning South Pacific islands as my inspiration, I’d learn to paint like the French artist Paul Gauguin. I would crawl inside an artistic cocoon and emerge as a master painter.

Gauguin sailed to Tahiti to escape “everything that is artificial and conventional” about European culture—a sentiment I can relate to, except that my modern world of strip malls, fast food and Rebecca Black is a tiny bit more artificial than the one Gauguin ran away from in 1891. (If he was still alive today, I’m sure he’d poke his eyeballs out with the pointy end of a paintbrush.) Gauguin escaped to Polynesia to paint colorful depictions of Tahitian life (and perhaps more importantly, to philander with prepubescent island girls).

Anyway … I wanted to be like Gauguin (except for the whole sex-with-minors part). In my vision of life at sea, I spent my days dabbing a pigment-engorged paintbrush against a canvas of possibility, recreating the exotic forms of the South Pacific islands: the curvy bodies, the flora, and the relaxed way of life in these spectacular peaks born from the ocean.

Paul Gauguin, ‘Nevermore, 1897.

Unfortunately, I didn’t become like Gauguin because ocean life wasn’t always the leisurely sojourn of my imagination. My time was dominated by scrubbing laundry by hand, cleaning up rampant mildew, or toiling over how to cook an edible dish from lentils, breadcrumbs, slightly smelly eggs, cornflakes and stale oregano flakes (which were possibly mildew flakes).

But mostly, in my spare time, I plotted creative ways to hunt, beg, trade, or kill for fresh fruit.

In the remote islands, fruit was hard to come by. When we reached the sandy coral shores of the Tuamotu Archipelago, fruit ceased to exist. Desperately craving a bite of vitamin C, I turned to my paints for comfort. Somewhere in the depths of my subconscious, I must have reasoned that, if my eyes believed they were seeing succulent fruits, I could trick my body out of getting scurvy.

This is all I painted in two years: fruit, fruit and more fruit. It captures how desperate I was to wrap my parched lips around some ripe melons, and philander with innocent, juicy flesh. I call it:

A Legal-Age Orgy Of Colors

Watermellons

Strawberries

Tomatoes

Oranges

Avocados

What do you miss most when you travel? How do you quench your longing?

Leave a Comment

  • Denise September 23, 2011 at 6:45 am edit

    I miss my bathroom…in fact, the state of my hotel/hostel bathroom can make or break a trip. I am up to anything during the day – swimming in mud, climbing a mountain, walking around a city in -7 – but when I get back to my accommodation, I need a bath or shower I’m not disgusted to lie or stand in, a comfortable toilet, a good heating system if it’s winter, and a place I enjoy grooming myself in in the morning. Of course if I stayed at 5 star hotels all the time this wouldn’t be a problem, but in fact I always stay in private rooms in guesthouses or, somethings in 2 star hotels.

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  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica September 23, 2011 at 11:50 am edit

    What I miss changes based on where I am traveling. I have found that I do not miss much, and there is usually a substitute or something really fantastic that makes up for anything I do miss.

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  • Tania Elfersy September 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm edit

    You have another talent? Amazing!

    Having grown up in the UK, there are times when I will miss Marmite (what you probably know as Vegemite).

    As a vegetarian, it is probably a craving for B vitamins. . . .

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  • Monica Stott (@TotalTravelBug) September 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm edit

    These paintings are amazing!
    I once spent 6 months on an island and while plenty of fresh fruit and veg was brought in by boat, we never had fresh bread. I dreamt about fresh bread! If I could paint I’m sure I would have painted fresh bread too.
    There are lots of other things that I missed while I was travelling but for most of the time I didn’t even realise I missed them until I was home and had them back again. Here are a few: http://www.totaltravelbug.com/2011/07/life-after-travel-returning-to-normal.html

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    • Torre DeRoche September 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm edit

      Monica, I can completely relate to every single one of the pleasures you missed.

      I missed bread too until I was given a recipe for cooking it in a saucepan on the stovetop. That changed my life. I’d bake bread on the stove with olives, onions and rosemary inside of it. Delicious.

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  • Paige September 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm edit

    When I’m on a long trip, I really miss clean laundry! I mean, I do wash clothes while away, but they never feel quite clean until I get home and run them through a heavy duty wash cycle and dry them in a dryer. I am not someone who believes much in ironing, but the constantly wrinkly feeling on the road gets old quickly. I usually budget for buying some clothes while on the road (my favorite souvenirs!), so that helps, at least for a day!

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  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm edit

    Your paintings are so fantastic! I love being in the middle of your book and following along on your blog. Sooo much fun!!!

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  • Tatiana September 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm edit

    Actually – your paintings are really good. :D

    What do I miss when traveling… hm. I’m not sure! I think I miss solitude and peace. When you’re traveling, people expect you to be on the go, every day, doing stuff. I like sitting and lounging around – why do I need to be busy all the time?

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    • Torre DeRoche October 3, 2011 at 12:39 am edit

      Thanks Tatiana. Somehow, even when I travel, I manage to fit in a lot of lounging around time. I know what you mean about solitude and peace: if I don’t get some peaceful recharging time at the end of every day, I’m not a happy camper.

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  • Kirsten September 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm edit

    Wonderful post and paintings! Related to the laundry comment, when I get home I realize how much I miss having a wardrobe of clothes! When travelling, I tend to get stuck on a few favourite shirts/shorts that I wear over and over again – cleaned in sinks wherever they can be found. But getting home I always find that cozy sweater that was too big to pack, or those shoes that weren’t practicle enough to bring along and its like finding a long lost friend!

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  • Moira September 26, 2011 at 8:20 am edit

    I love your fruit paintings Torre – you are a truly multi-talented artist!

    I miss my family when I travel, I always see things I know they’d love, or I’ll eat something amazing that I’d love to share with them. On the weekend, I went to Red Hill Brewery and had some very yummy beer – I really wanted to share some with Dad.

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    • Torre DeRoche October 3, 2011 at 12:44 am edit

      Thank you, Moira. I feel exactly the same way when I travel. The more beautiful the place is, the more sad I feel that I can’t share it with certain people! This desire to share experiences with people I love fueled me to write a book. I hope your brought some beer back for your dad?

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      • Moira October 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm edit

        yes I did! We’re going to have some this weekend over a game of chess (it’ll make my usual loss a little less pride-challenging!)

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  • Chris October 1, 2011 at 6:07 am edit

    Your paintings are gorgeous! A talented writer and a talented artist? I’m jealous. I could never pick up a paint brush or a pencil and craft anything that required more than fancy prose.

    What do I miss about travel? The freedom of it. Sure, sometimes you miss the reliable internet or the ability to just channel surf – but I liked not having a place to be tomorrow or a time I needed to be someplace. Unless the time or place were arranged by me, obviously :-p

    I miss being able to walk up to a group of complete strangers and make friends without awkwardness. I hate how closed off people are in Oz.

    I miss meeting new people and knowing that, 9 times out of 10, there’d be some mutual interests and passions there. I think Australia is my kryptonite when it comes to meeting girls >_>

    And I miss being excited at the start of every day. I can’t recall the last time I woke up and felt excited for the immediate future.

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    • Torre DeRoche October 3, 2011 at 12:50 am edit

      It sounds to me like you belong overseas, Chris! I know exactly what you mean about Australians being closed off. I’m not sure what that’s about, but we can be a very cynical and judgmental bunch. It can make living in the moment and sharing yourself wholeheartedly a bit difficult sometimes. I get a lot of hits to my blog from Australia, but I get very few comments and interactions from Aussies. When my finger hovers over the ‘publish’ button, I’m always terrified of what my Aussie peers will think. “What a dickhead,” is pretty much what I imagine Australians saying when they read my posts! Aussies can be quiet, judgmental observers. We have a strong culture of knocking tall poppies down to size and it stops many of us from participating with everything we’ve got.

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  • Michelle Cusolito October 5, 2011 at 3:01 am edit

    I hear you! What I REALLY missed was FRESH fruit and vegetables-the kind you’re advised to avoid when traveling in the developing world. In Morocco I also missed water without minerals. The locals favored a brand of water called Sidi Harazem- they felt the minerals were good for you. The only problem… the water tastes TERRIBLE at 120 degrees F. (Which was the approximate temperature of the air in the Sahara and therefore our water).

    When I lived in the Philippines, I ate and drank everything the locals did. I was only hospitalized once in that year for dehydration as a result of gastroinestinal yuck.

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  • Audrey October 13, 2011 at 11:40 pm edit

    Your paintings are wonderful!!! The colours are definitely Gauguin inspired ;)

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  • Melissah October 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm edit

    I’ve been on the road for 2 years and am just about to go home (to Australia). While I haven’t missed having any of my stuff I do love Kirsten’s comment about discovering her old stuff and it was like ‘finding a long lost friend’. I am so tired of looking at the same things. Opening up all those boxes might feel a little like Xmas!

    I also miss the remoteness and wide open spaces of Australia – I live in the Kimberley and there is nowhere quite as awesome anywhere for clear sunsets, peace and quiet and endless space.

    But I haven’t miss Vegemite … not very Australian am I!!

    P.S. Ordered your book while here in Switzerland, and it arrived within a week. Read it last week, in a day … loved it.

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  • GRRRL TRAVELER | Christine November 4, 2011 at 6:45 am edit

    Very beautiful paintings! I was in India for three months and craving fresh pineappple. That may come from being born & raised in Hawaii, but I can never get enough of my pineapples. The only kind of fruits in India you want to eat are those that you can peel and I’m not good with stripping pineapple with a 4″ swiss army knife. I wanted it so badly, the only place I could think of launching to next that would get me fresh (& safe) pineapple off the streets was Thailand. That’s how I figured out where I was going next!

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  • Patricia Sands November 5, 2011 at 4:23 am edit

    Hi Torre – I’m really behind in blog reading but I’m on a roll to catch up! As usual, I had several laugh out loud moments here. You manage to express your low points with high humor. You are without question a survivor. I hope you are keeping those fruit paintings. They are fabulous!
    When I travel the only thing I miss is my family. Thank goodness for skype!

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