8 Things You Take For Granted Until You Move To Rural Southeast Asia


When you move to Southeast Asia, your friends and relatives will tell you that you are having the time of your life. And maybe that is true – I am really happy here. I get to travel around a unique part of the world, dive into various cultures, and live in a tropical paradise. That being said, it ain’t all island hopping and palm trees. It’s easy to forget how wonderful some things are in the Western world, until you don’t have them for seven months. Let me remind you of those things you shouldn’t be taking for granted over there:

1. Air conditioning

Let’s start with the obvious. You think you need air conditioning in your 80° summer heat? Try high 90s every day, year round. And that’s while you’re wearing a polyester, layered dress-skirt combination that goes from your wrists to your ankles (gotta be conservative, friends). Combine it all with 95% humidity. Welcome to living in a constant state of sweat.

2. Cheese

The food list goes on and on, but cheese might be at the top of it. There is no doubt we are dairy-deprived here. Perhaps your nearby market does have “cheese” in it… but it will always be hella expensive and it will never be the real deal. Oh, if only Gouda or Brie could be a part of my life again. Until then I will keep fantasizing about making mozzarella in my sink with a homemade cheese cloth a.k.a. 20 tea bags sewn together.

3. A home without insect infestations

I treasure the days that I would get angry at seeing a single ant in my kitchen. Now I am accustomed to finding 137 of them attacking the table in my bedroom for no reason: Why are you here? What is your motive? When it’s not ants, it’s 1 a.m. cockroaches, wasp-larvae combination flying things attacking lights, or the various spiders that inhabit the corners of our ceilings. We don’t mind the geckos though, they’re our friends.

4. Towels

I know this seems odd… but I can’t find a damn towel here that doesn’t leave my entire body covered in fuzz. I would just like to fall asleep one time and not wake up with green fuzz in my mouth. I’ve even offered to buy used towels from hostels. New low.

5. Road kill cleaner-uppers

Have you ever wondered who picks up the corpse when you ran over that rabbit that one time? I don’t know who is in charge of that, but these people do a hell of a great job in America. I would often pass unfortunate deer during my commute down I-83, but everything would usually be cleaned up by the time I was headed home that evening. Here, I pass at least seven dead animals on my 10 minute daily drive, whether it is cats, dogs, monkeys, goats, wild boar or monitor lizards. I unabashedly admit to missing the days when explosive guts weren’t a post-breakfast scene.

6. Clean air

I live in the jungle, and jungle burning is a serious issue with little action or advocacy against it. Every morning, there is a thick haze that rises from the trees, filling the lungs of those outside with various air pollutants. Sometimes it is so heavy even into the late afternoon that I wear a mask to work. This is such a non-issue at home that I used to use the words “fog” and “haze” interchangeably. The first time I saw the haze here, my colleague warned me about being outside in it. “Why?” I said, “It’s just water in the air!” Ehhh, wrong.

7. Toilets

I used to be apprehensive about using public toilets in the States. Now I feel beyond lucky if I find a Western toilet at all during my travels. Bonus points if the toilet seat doesn’t have footprints on it.

8. Bagels

The shit I would do for a bagel.