“What makes a home a home” ~ (Part 2)

One of the lowest points in our travels, for me, was when we were in Goa, India (awaiting the start of a freelance writing job at the nearby Alila 5 star hotel) and staying in a deserted dumpy location. After an afternoon on the beach, followed by getting soaked in the rain we trekked back the long distance we had walked, under a sky now dark, damp and cold and significantly sandy. (Not a great combination.)

The only thing I could think about and focus on, was how wonderful it would be to have a hot shower once we got back to the room.

I said my repeated prayer “please, please let there be hot water”… all the way back to our room. Even in tropical climates, I am a big fan of hot water. I love hot water! It is definitely one of my priorities in life and a factor which makes a home feel like a home.

Well, the sad reality was that not only was there NO hot water… but there was, NO water! Period. Nada. Not a drop came out of that shower, no matter how many ways I tried turning the knobs in different directions. Not a drop!

Only a bucket on the floor of the bathroom half filled with COLD water. Which is of course what I had to use in order to get the sand off. I felt like crying, but instead, I sang my hindi ragas through the icy disappointment.

We get spoilt in the so called “developed world.” We take certain things for granted. Water, hot water, flushing toilets, the like… And yet of course, having spent many years working to provide bamboo housing for victims of disasters in Nicaragua and Haiti, we know well that there are many more people around the world with no running water than there are people with water.

Talk about an extreme contrast ~ we went from one night in Goa, India without a working shower, to the following 2 nights in absolute uber luxury at the 5 star Alila Hotel, just 15 minutes away. A bathroom which was bigger than the bedroom we had been in the night before, a pool at our doorstep and all the “trappings.” Okay, we had stories to write for their blog, but that was a job we were happy to take on!

Fast forward almost exactly one year later and we are in Wicker Park, Chicago.

Now about that running water……

We find ourselves living in Chicago in May, in an iconic artists building (we had eyed for many years before, with the view to one day having a loft space here). The beautiful high ceiling loft however, has no bathroom, no running water, except the communal restroom way down the hall. But here we are. In an awesome building, with crazy low rent (for the neighborhood), a buzzing active scene at our doorstep, and I am pissing in a plastic bucket at night! In America!

And so, with the theme of what makes a home a home, for me, I know it HAS to include hot water. Of course to most of you in the developed “first” world, this seems obvious. But, ha, here we are in America, with no running water in our space (no bathroom, no kitchen sink, no shower) and no internet either.

Okay so we have very interesting and somewhat eccentric neighbors, a loft which doubles as a space to show my art work, and a deal on rent with no cost for utilities such as heat. Soon after we moved in, we were given a practical solution for my quest for hot water, by one of our artist neighbors… to join the gym down the road, as the membership opens up access to showers with unlimited hot water (and even saunas to heat up in.) We did that for a month, (first month free!) and that was a pretty good temporary solution.

My unsatisfied need for hot water, made me walk into the nearby Chicago Apartment Finders office.

I like to know my options, ie, what else could we get in the neighborhood for what we are willing to pay?

“So what are your priorities for an apartment?” Asks the realtor.

Me: “Running water, for sure!” Hey I know my priorities!!

Look of disbelief crosses the realtor’s face….”Umm. Well, actually, yes ma’am well.. all the apartments have running water”, he says.

Me: “Oh good. Because right now I do not have running water in my apartment.”

Stunned silence……. and finally he composes himself and asks, “What else is a priority?”

Me: “A working flushing private toilet, that would be very nice.”

“OH! Well, yes …. all our apartments actually have those as well.”

I did not hear back from this realtor, and how this story goes, is that we negotiated with our building manager to install a bathroom in our loft. Not an easy negotiation, not an easy process… but eventually one day there were workers installing tubing in the hallway and drilling holes in our large “closet” space.

Lo and behold, we got ourselves a shower, yes with HOT water, a toilet and a basin.

NOW it feels like HOME!

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This is how the large empty closet space looked before we transformed it into a bathroom.

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Add a shower, a basin, a toilet… Voila! Serves as a closet for clothes as well.

10 thoughts on ““What makes a home a home” ~ (Part 2)

  1. Charles

    and what a fine whizzer you now have! Enjoyed your story. But, do you have to give up the apartment to do the next trip? Spike

  2. Alison and Don

    Your loft sounds fabulous, especially now it has a bathroom! The longest Don and I have stayed in one place in the last four plus years will be the 5 months coming up in San Miguel in January. We’ve house sat, stayed in hotels, apartments, hostels, luxurious houses, and with family. We have a list of basic requirements: Bathroom with hot water!, wifi, private room, comfortable beds (hopefully), heat in cold climates (hopefully) and convenient location to shops, sights, transport, etc. Oh and price of course. Then we unpack. If it’s more than 2 nights I fully unpack and hide my suitcase away in a cupboard so I’m not living out of it. Then it feels like home. Home seems to be wherever we are and we don’t miss having a more permanent home at all.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      So good to hear from you Alison and Don ~ fellow nomadic travelers! Yes it is quite hard to believe we have been here in Chicago almost 8 months… The longest “stop” since we left our home in Nicaragua 3 years ago! We are about to get “back on the road” in a week!

      We have heard good things about San Miguel ~ it’s fun to have extended time in one place too!

      Funny.. Ben also unpacks his backpack if it’s a few days stay, whereas I like living out of my mini “closet” and had serious withdrawals when I unpacked for the first time in over a year upon arrival in our Chicago loft!

      Totally agree with and love that feeling too… Home is wherever we are! Yes indeed! Thanks for commenting and enjoy Mexico!

  3. badfish

    Hey, thanks for visiting my blog…it offered me the chance to visit you here!! Pissing in a bucket at night…been there, done that. Don’t want to do it again. I love Goa, been there numerous times, what part were you staying in? Will you be staying in Chicago a while now that you popped for a bathroom?

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Badfish, thanks for reading us! We were in Northern Goa after spending time in Kerala which we really loved, particularly Kochin!
      We have been in Chicago for 8 months (long time for us in one place!) but the cool thing with our loft was that the $ we spent on the bathroom applied towards our rent! On the road again Next week heading back to Asia!

  4. Curt Mekemson

    I spent many years leading wilderness backpacking trips for 7-9 days. The hot shower at the end was even more important than the break from backpacking food. And, oh yes, it was also nice to have a real toilet as opposed to digging a cat hole in the woods. 🙂 –Curt

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Curt,
      Good one! Further confirmation of the importance of that hot shower!
      Where were you leading wilderness trips?
      Personally I like
      ‘going’ outdoors , well, peeing that is!
      Thanks for reading us!

  5. joannesisco

    You’ve just described why I don’t like camping – why I don’t understand the attraction people have for camping. I deeply value access to a running water, and a private toilet.
    This is a great reminder of how privileged and myopic we are in the developed world.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Usually the appeal of camping is being under the stars and in nature. In our urban loft, we don’t have those perks. Was a rough start to “welcome back to America.”

      But absolutely, not having basics really makes one appreciative what we usually take for granted.

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