Chink, chink. I heard the electronic lock on the hotel door release and in walked Tom looking pretty swanky in his designer suit.
“Hi, babe. How was your…”
He stopped mid-sentence when he turned the corner and saw me forearm-deep in a sink full of dirty laundry in the hotel bathroom, scrubbing my underwear and shirts and draping them across the shower to dry.
His initial thought was to remind me that we do have money to pay for laundry services now. But a more pressing question entered his mind instead:
“Why in the world do you have so many dirty clothes already?”
I had arrived just two days ago to meet Tom in Australia.
Right about now, you are probably assuming I have some weird OCD condition that results in changing outfits five times per day. But before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain the real reason I was doing my laundry in the sink just two days into my trip: I packed a bag full of dirty clothes.
As I write this, I realize that the truth doesn’t actually make me sound any saner. That is unless, of course, you have actually been a backpacker and have, like myself, grown accustomed to packing dirty clothes and subsequently washing them wherever you happen to find a sink plug. (Hint: if your underwear waistband reads “ExOfficio” this is probably you.)
Now, I haven’t always been a dirty-clothes-packer. My mother, for example, used to not only pack all clean clothes (what a novel idea) for our trips while growing up, but she also cleaned our house and vacuumed over our footprints on the carpet as we left out the front door. As such, my original and native travel habits were mostly of the same sort of civility, although slightly less severe.
But something changed when I backpacked and traveled abroad for a year. A trip, at some point, stopped being an event to prepare for and come home from. Now, it’s just a regular part of life. Home feels like another destination and everywhere else, so long as I have my backpack and a plastic bag full of dirty socks, feels pretty much like home.
Sorry mom, you tried hard, but the only thing I’m doing now while exiting my front door for a trip is praying I remembered to pack all my chargers.
Of course, with laundry strung up across the bathroom in our posh Sheraton suite in the heart of the central business district of Melbourne, and Tom staring at me with briefcase in hand and sporting a snazzy suit, I did begin to feel a bit silly. So I dried my hands, bagged up my clothes to take in for proper cleaning, and Tom and I laughed it off as an “old habits die hard” moment. We reminisced fondly of the many days we washed laundry by hand in hostels of South America and the even less civilized days in which Tom chose to skip laundry all together and wear the same pair of underwear three days in a row. Oh boy, old habits do die-hard.
Travel sure is a bit different these days. Although we still like to think of ourselves as backpackers at heart, our trips now are often a result of Tom’s job and as such, include a garment bag full of suits, complimentary breakfast, lounge access, and actual hotel rooms with a King-sized bed, rather than two bunks in a hostel.
Right now, for example, Tom is traveling all over Australia for 2 months for work racking up Marriott points and United miles. At the moment, I’m tagging along, using up all his United miles, and working from the hotel during the days. We then use every spare minute on the weekends and evenings to explore wherever Tom’s job happens to have him at the moment (which at this moment is Melbourne).
It sounds glamorous, I know, but rest assured it isn’t all cupcakes and frosting. Working on a California time zone from Australia is taxing and more than a little disruptive for normal sleep patterns. Melbourne, for example, is seven hours behind California, and one day ahead. If it is noon on Monday in California, it is 5am on Tuesday in Melbourne.
If you are wondering what it feels like to work seven hours behind and one day ahead, just imagine going into work every day four hours late and working every Saturday morning. When I’m waking up in Australia, my clients are half way through their day and returning from lunch back home. On the flip side, monday’s offer a little reprieve as it is still Sunday in The States and every afternoon I get several hours of uninterrupted work.
All of this is the cost of being able to spend time with Tom and explore this wildly lovely and dangerous continent, and it is a worthwhile cost at that.
This is a different kind of adventure for us, but it's an adventure nonetheless and I can't wait to share it with you.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!