Getting out of your comfort zone

Although I’m partial to the green rolling hills of Middle Tennessee, it’s hard to deny that England in the summer is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve never been, you undoubtedly have images in your mind…try it. Close your eyes and imagine the English countryside. What do you see?

Quaint villages with narrow roads twisting from end to end?

Stone cottages with enormous roses climbing the walls?

Cheerful pubs with swinging signs and colorful names like the Saxon’s Horse or King’s Head?

Steep hills covered with sheep?

If you can imagine it, chances are, I saw it last week. The images might be cliche, but they are true and they are a wonder.

England is breathtaking from the outside. It’s when I go indoors that I have a problem.

A SIDE NOTE: I think I am what most British people would consider a typical  American. Wasteful, profligate, loud and spoiled. Yes, we are two people living in a large house…4 tvs, 4 computers, 2 cars and a great yard. But I am not wasteful or profligate by American standards. Not in the least. It’s all relative.

And that brings me to paper towels. (Are you reading Hellbilly?)

I have a strange addiction to paper towels. I have to have them. In fact, when the weather people start talking about snow, I go buy paper towels. When I go off on my annual weekend at the lake with my girlfriends, one of them brings an extra roll of paper towels so I won’t have a come apart if we run out. To take my paper products fetish a step further, I also can literally not eat unless I have a napkin (linen or paper) in my lap. Really, I can’t.

Sadly, both napkins and paper towels were in short supply at some of the places where we stayed–including one where we were charged with cleaning the kitchen after meals. Asking me to clean up without benefit of paper towels, Clorox wipes or even a sponge was perplexing. I’m not being obtuse here…I really didn’t know how I was to wipe the counters and tables without those products.

I’m sure that many of you are laughing at me and my ignorance now and that you already know the answer to cleaning without paper products is the cloth rag.

Ugh. Ugh. And double ugh. It was gray. It had crumbs permanently attached in the meshy holes. I imagine it smelled, but I didn’t get it anywhere close to my nose.

BUT, I am an adult and I had to suck it up and show a good example for the kids (who were equally perplexed). We wiped the tables and counters, but I wouldn’t call them clean.

I’m sure that the average person living in England has a much smaller carbon footprint than I do. They just use less stuff. Yes, my paper towels and napkins are going in the landfill. Yes, I turn my shower on full blast and enjoy the hot water all I want. And yes…I throw away food I don’t want or don’t like.

Am I spoiled? You bet. Does it make me a less worthy person? Not by a long shot.

It’s just all a part of what you assimilate when you travel. Being a pilgrim is not the same thing as being a tourist. We were asked to step out of our comfort zones. For the most part, that’s not as hard as it seems. But asking me to go two weeks without paper towels is tough. I’ll just know to pack a roll or two next time.


Filed under Travel

14 responses to “Getting out of your comfort zone

  1. I’d say that my carbon footprint is probably too big. I live with my parents, we have 3 tv’s, 3 PCs and one car – but there are usually at least 2 tv’s and 2 pc’s are on at any given time. I’m also the kind of girl who takes a 20 minute hot shower in the morning and has a bath in the evening. Thats just how I roll. Even in the stupidly hot (by our standards) summertime my routine is the same.

    I’m with you on the cleaning. I don’t agree with the cloth thing for cleaning surfaces at all because they harbour germs. I’m all for the disposable wipes, which I even have in my desk at work too. I think its possibly a generational thing. The older generations of English people – especially those who were around during or just after WW2 – still very much carry the mend and make do attitude with them.

    Not me though – I’m in my 20s, young and friviolous and CLEAN and thats just how I like it.

    As Denis Leary once said “I didn’t do this to the planet, it was this way when I found it”.

  2. Maybe it all got lost in translation. Paper towels are generally referred to as ‘kitchen paper’ or ‘kitchen towels’ and I have found that some people won’t understand you even when you are speaking just a slight variation of their own language. It took me a year to get an extension cord. 2 years to get ice trays. Now I’ve got a 2 extra packets of paper towels in my basement (they used to be ‘Bounty’ brand, but ‘Bounty’ has become ‘Plenty’ … did it become ‘Plenty’ over there too? And does that mean there is no more hunky, lumber man (tree killing! god, I see the connection now) on the packaging? Glad you survived the challenges! xxx e

  3. Too funny. We have a pretty small carbon footprint but paper towels is one thing I just won’t give up. Just the thought of a kitchen rag skeeves me out!

  4. If you take the cardboard tube out of the middle of the papertowels, you can mash them much flatter for packing…not that I have done that…oh, dang it, yes I have….I completely get what you are saying!

  5. No photos of the lovely English country side?! Not even one?!

    I, too, am addicted to paper towels. Brawny are the best by far.

  6. I love my paper towels.
    I do.
    I hate cleaning with sponges or rags. Its gross, and I find it unsanitary.

  7. I am not kidding when I tell you there have probably been a total of 2 rolls of paper towels and/or napkins go through this house in the past 15 years. And then someone brought over a giant package of paper napkins a few weeks ago and

  8. I use cloth stuff. Not because of my carbon footprint, but because someone gave me a bunch of free stuff, and why spend money on something when I got all this free shit right here?

  9. Julie Fisher

    So, all right. . .now I’m suspecting that you really didn’t go on a real pilgrimage at all. I mean, a real pilgrimage does not deal with the lack of paper towels but rather the absence of toilet paper. THAT is when you are forced to do some serious soul-searching. For me, I am right now recalling such an experience in a small town in Italy. The scenery there helped, too.

  10. I have to be honest, when I hear that Europeans tend to lump all Americans in such negative categories, it makes me sick. Since when is it ok to stereotype a whole nation of people as one thing? Isn’t that prejudice? I guess I don’t get why hatred of Americans is acceptable in other countries. Especially when almost all of the Americans I know are hardworking, generous people who are just trying to live, to support their families, and help others. And maybe get a little joy out of their own existence. How dare they! People who would display such blatant prejudice are disgusting to me, you know? I’m off my soapbox. The rolling hills with herds of livestock do sound lovely. I would love to go to Europe one day. I just don’t know if I could deal with the “stupid, ignorant American” looks some people might throw my way.

  11. Oh Gwen, I didn’t mean to imply that they all think that way–I think by and large they appreciate our openess and friendly natures. And the stereotypes cut both ways, of course. Plus, I can’t blame them for thinking I’m loud and wasteful because I am. I was just skeeved by the wash rag, that’s all.

  12. My mother in law accuses me of using up all the toilet paper whenever I come to her house. Without getting into specifics, let me just say I need a certain amount to be able to handle this normal bodily function…and a coupla squares ain’t cuttin’ it.

  13. You have 4 TVs?? Is that so you can watch the Vols lose in four different rooms?

    OK, a bit early for SEC football trash talk, I guess.

    Re: paper towels, I don’t remember there being a shortage in the UK. They are overly fond of those hot air dryers and rolls of towels, but maybe I’m just not as big a fan of paper towels! I do remember a distinct shortage of decent beef, however.

  14. Ouch Free Man…that’s gonna leave a bruise. 🙂

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