By GIRLWITHABOOK CO-FOUNDER, OLIVIA CURL
I grew up camping. Hard core, back country, days on end carrying your food, shelter, warmth, water, everything-on-your-back-kind-of-camping. I even grew up snow camping. (Yes, that’s camping in the snow.) Let me tell you, even for a rough and tumble pacific northwest nature girl like me, there is something distinctly unique about staying in a house, but having no plumbing.
With camping, there’s a tent and outside of the tent, nature. If it’s decent enough weather and you’ve got a water source, you can brace yourself and plunge into a river with some biodegradable soap for a quick clean up. If it’s winter, well, you’re in a tent in snow and you weren’t expecting to shower that week anyways. Maybe just a sponge bath with some baby wipes (you gotta do what you gotta do).
For whatever reason, none of these essential childhood experiences properly prepared me for spending three days and two nights in a rural Kyrgyz village with no plumbing. We’re talking about walking past the sheep and cows in their pens past the horse and through the field to get to the outhouse, cannister of boiled water above a basin, bringing buckets of water up from the spring kind-of-no-plumbing.
Working, running after our 8 year old case study kiddo, Ainazik, as she walked to school, trudging through snow, doing all of the normal life things, while staying in a three room house that doesn’t have heating, somehow was more challenging to my brain than snow camping. I was desperate for a shower. (In fairness, we were all desperate, our baby wipe stash got used up halfway through the second day.)
After three amazing days of work, learning what doing a case study meant for us, rolling with the punches of not speaking Kyrgyz, and becoming friends with a great group of kiddos, we headed back to Naryn City, the capital of Kyrgyzstan’s eastern Naryn province. Our primary goals for Naryn City: a hot shower. Wifi would have been ideal, but it was not even close to a priority.
Beautifully, the Khan Tengri hotel -- a delightful establishment with a decent breakfast that I would highly recommend to any travelers making their way through Naryn -- had plumbing AND hot water. Scalding water, some would say. I nearly had to lower the temperature, but I didn’t. I relished in the heat, so excited to not be desperately wearing every piece of clothing I’d brought on the trip just to stay warm-ish through the night.
Sometimes when traveling, it’s a conversation that makes an impact on your perspective. Sometimes it’s witnessing someone else’s joy, someone else’s pain. Sometimes it’s something big, and other times it’s something very small. And sometimes it’s the simple joy of being clean and toasty.