Why the best part of a holiday is coming home

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother going away. First there's all that stress getting ready to go, to leave the house, with exactly everything you will need.

Then, of course, there's the coming home.

OK, sometimes I'm actually glad to leave somewhere.

Like, places with too many snakes.

Or the Hotel (I'd call it Hostel — even Hostile) Brian in Amsterdam, where I got a room with a woman I'd spent 12 hours with on a train. A woman who, when I came in from my first night in the city, had locked the door and told all the people standing around it to go away, she had a knife. The manager, who was in the crowd, was actually trying to cajole her to let me in. That was a situation I would have been happy to trade for home.

But really, any escapade (snake-infested tent or knife-wielding bunk mate) you can walk away from has its … charms. Or at least its travel memories potential. Coming home only brings known bummers — the mail, the work, the post-vacation bank balances, the bad news held back so it wouldn't ruin your trip (roof leaks, dog needs knee surgery) waiting for its turn in the gut-punch greeting line.

On my recent return, as on most homecomings, I did remember that there are advantages waiting in regular life. Aspects of regular life that are, really, gifts. Some big, some small. Some may even be silly to others, but to you, they are gifts.

Coming home reminds you there are things to appreciate in your life. Things you should be grateful for but have come to take for granted.

For me, that would be:

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Fruit: In all but … say ... Thailand or Singapore, I usually go fruit-deprived. First, there are all the countries where you really can't eat anything but fruit you peel yourself for fear of germs. Then there are the countries where the water is fine but somehow it is never the season for, say, a decent apple or grapefruit. Or the fruit that looks decent is some mystery price, a combination of kilograms and euros that always seems to wind up costing $3 apiece. Too much to take a chance on. Produce markets, yeah, that works, but usually I avoid them so I don't see the live animals sold there. No, give me my market with its astonishing array of fresh fruit, gotten from somewhere in the world, any time of year for a price that, if not cheap, is at least easy to understand.

The bathroom: Handles and faucets I don't fear touching. A seat I will sit on without first arranging little squares of toilet paper (if there is toilet paper). A door I know will remain shut. Plumbing I know how to operate.

My TV: I can pretend I want to be edified with the latest news, but really, I sometimes like to take a break with "Forensic Files," "Real Housewives" or even "The Voice." It seems every hotel TV today boasts a litany of news stations, followed by a spate of sports stations. Then you return to the menu with its $15 movies.

Free market prices: Guests, travellers, we are hostages, a captive audience. Which is why hotels can demand $15 for a movie, and I'm sure some people pay for it. Every time I go out for a meal I know I'm spending too much. At home, I have some say in what I spend, and where I'll get the best value for my buck,

No more navigating: Maps, apps, anything I use to get from square A to B on a trip, it's all taxing and nerve-wracking to me. Or anyone navigationally challenged, I suspect. And since I'm alone, I know I have to rely on this less-than-reliable part of my brain. Getting lost can be fun. Trying NOT to get lost stinks. I come home. Fire up the Google maps in my car and poof, I just do what it tells me.

My wi-fi: No more being at the mercy of other servers, asking for the password, typing in some string of numbers and letters that are case- sensitive. At home, I turn on the laptop and poof, I'm connected. It's as if all those little filled-to-the-top bars are waving "Welcome home!"

Places for my stuff: I love exploring, but I know it comes at a price. Seeing new things, enjoying the discoveries, requires a reallocation of attention — just when you need to pay more attention to certain basics. Like all the stuff I bring for exploring. Travellers lose stuff. I don't mean a mitten, though even that can have consequences. I mean like a camera, or even just a lens or an SD card; a mobile phone, a wallet, a passport, a credit card. You name it, you can lose it.

Back home, I'm not only carrying fewer important things all at once, but I'm less distracted. Plus, I can usually find anything I've lost somewhere under the seat in my car.

These are just some of the joys of life at home. Of course, there are the macro-joys. Like coming home from a place where they still really have no toilet paper – or running water.

There are radical differences in scenery: In Paris, I could look out my windows on the Seine and beyond and watch the nuances wrought by each moment of light and dark. Here, windows with a view of hillsides changing color with the season, and nuthatches bickering, and the brass ring view of bird visiting my feeder.

Even your ears have to retune. I love the music of other languages. I miss speaking French and having other people actually understand me. But nobody really gets me, gets the nuances, like the people back home, who listen and want to understand, even when I make little sense.

Oh, and yeah, who needs words anyway? (How quickly we forget). I find plenty of surrogate canines to pet when I'm on the road — especially in Paris. But their memories fade when I open the car door at the airport and there stand one-eyed Sadie and knee-hobbled Belle, barking and tail-waving a welcome home that makes the coming home worth the going away.

TNS

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