My fan whirred across the room, a low noise blocking the erratic hum of passing cars—my neighbors on their way to work. I shed the last moments of sleep and I could have been in any room, anywhere in the world.
And yet, I was home.
My bed here in Florida is more comfortable than many I have slept in over the past nearly five years on the road, but as I woke, the quietude overtook my thoughts.
The sounds at home differ from the frenzy of life in other cities I have laid my head. Though I rise early and with great enthusiasm—I am one of those warily regarded by many as a “morning person”—yesterday morning I laid in bed and allowed my mind to transport me to the moments I have woken elsewhere in the world.
The image of a rooster flashed into my mind. Oh, the roosters. Five years on the road, five years I have shared spaces with these creatures and I haven’t yet come to terms with why no one ever told me roosters don’t crow at dawn. Or rather, they don’t only crow at dawn. They crow when it’s high noon on the other side of the world. Or at sunset. Or precisely when you decide to roll over and try to get a bit more sleep. If I had grown up on a farm I would have known this tidbit, but it wasn’t until I slept in the guesthouses of Southeast Asia that I first learned that much of the world lives alongside this noise.
I have been back in the states for the last three months and the longer I am home, the more my brain romanticizes this aspect of life on the road. You see, when there are roosters I know I am waking to a day that brings a culture apart from that of my youth, a language to challenge my mind, and the fun of the unknown. When I live in a new place, the mundane becomes the challenge for the day even in tasks as ordinary as hunting down a post office.
I am often asked what day-to-day life is like in developing countries. There are the fun things, like food and culture, that are easy to peg down, but travel goes deeper and the oddest memories surface at times, transporting me into past moments. Yesterday morning my mind wandered; in waking to near silence I realized how different minor moments in life are when you live somewhere else.
Traveling and the sound of roosters are forever linked in my head.
And this association stands even though the rooster is my nemesis. I’m a light sleeper and the moment the first rooster crows, my busy brain urges me to start my day. But a day rising to the sounds of roosters often means more. It means stepping outside the familiar at every step; even when I’ve been living somewhere for months (as I did in Thailand and Mexico), I wake with possibilities.
One of my favorite memories of Thailand is the national anthem. Each day the Thai National Anthem is played at 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the radio, television, and on loudspeakers in many public spaces (you can listen to it here). When I lived in Thailand, the National Anthem became a quiet anthem of my mornings. I would wake at 6:30 a.m. to write, my hot coffee and breakfast cooling as I lost myself in the solitude of rooster crows and the waking noises of my Thai neighbors. Then at the very moment the clock struck 8.00, the first chords of the morning national anthem jolted my subconscious to the present. An elementary school behind my apartment blared the anthem through their speakers and the tinny music floated into my apartment.
Hearing it made me happy. I felt a part of the community each morning and I counted on the ritual as a part of my day.
Finding a ritual is a core reason I travel slowly, the reason I love renting an apartment for weeks or months. Though I have not become that true “expat” in the sense that I live permanently in a new place, the slow travel gives me a chance to allow daily rituals to seep into my routines.
In my Mexican apartment, instead of a national anthem I woke to the garbled voice of passing pickup trucks hawking their wares. Loudspeakers affixed to the roof of these trucks blared out their cyclical mantras:
“Gasolina,” sung the gas truck
“Camarones frios,” promised another, offering me good deals on cold shrimp, shrimp without their heads, jumbo shrimp … each time the truck passed I imagined the voice as a Spanish-speaking Bubba from Forest Gump.
The trucks circled town every hour, and the army of roosters prancing around the family compound I called home raised their voices in agreement throughout the day. It was a constant noise and the background to my day.
Yesterday though, I woke in my room and rose from my bed—and my memories— just as the street calmed from the workday evacuation from the neighborhood. I brewed my coffee, turned on my laptop, and prepared to write.
And I thought to my self: today, today I miss the roosters.
Later this week I’ll share a post with upcoming speaking dates, travel plans and general announcements as I am getting antsy over here to hit the road once again.