After Visiting 20+ Countries, What’s the One Thing You Remember the Most?

picture of a very fancy bathroom

I was watching The Graham Norton Show the other day. It seemed one of the older ones. That little episode featured Jack Whitehall, Jennifer Lawrence, and James McAvoy. One clip from that episode became somewhat famous, where Mr. Whitehall had a funny anecdote about poop. 

Jennifer Lawrence burst out laughing when he was done. So did I, all the while being disgusted by my imaginings of the scene.

That episode reminded me of something rather than someone -a friend from the past. Although his story was much less disgusting, it was fun, nevertheless. I could hardly even call it a story. It was a fact of his life.

A little context before I jump in: many a time, an icebreaker question that people ask is, “If you get X million in a windfall gain, what would you do with the money?”

The response could be many things, but ‘travel the world’ usually features in the top 10 of almost every list I have ever come across, including my own.

Same with this gentleman. Travel was # 3 on his list.

I later found out that traveling was a passion for the guy. He had already been to around 20 different countries. I was intrigued. 

He recounted his adventures from being in a variety of different places in Europe, Australia, and Africa. Beautiful places, all. 

As he entertained requests to point out peculiarities from each of his visits, I imagined myself in all those places, experiencing the culture, the food, and the natural beauty. My imagination had been doing a terrific job of replacing him from all the pictures by me. It was fun visiting all these twenty countries in my head.

Threatened by my wild imagination, my brain kicked in. He was the hero of these stories. Not me. And I started paying attention.

Spain was beautiful, the language, the romance, the culture. It was amazing. The hotel that we stayed at had great washrooms.

Italy has the best food I have ever had in my life. Those people really know how to live. We lived in budget hotels there, but they were spotless. The bathrooms were spick and span!

.. and so forth

A curious thing dawned on me. Every time he described a place, by the third or fourth sentence of every description, he would come to the washroom, water closet, powder room, the dunny, or some other version of it. It was becoming evident that clean washrooms were a significant part of his successful travel playbook. 

Don’t get me wrong; I like clean rooms, washrooms, and everything. My childhood was especially marinated in the ‘Cleanliness is Godliness’ philosophy. Thanks to working parents, who could use more hands cleaning up the mess than making it.

But it mattered more to the gentleman going by his mention of washrooms at least 30 times in a conversation about 20 countries he visited. 

It made me question my priorities. 

Maybe I am not as clean as I am supposed to be. But the lazy being that I am, I was quick to settle on the following: 

He is way too clean; maybe a freak! He must have some early onset of germophobia or something.

I let my imagination run wild again. Wilder this time. 

I imagined getting my hands on his photo albums from all his travels and one photograph after the other – they were all pictures of the loos he had visited. 

From the most basic to the most exquisite. But all undeniably sparkling clean. 

No mountains, no beaches, no sunrise, no sunset. Just the loo.

And then I forgot all about him. 

Time can do that to you until one day, far from my apartment, loaded on two liters of water with an urgent need to go. 

I never realized I had a photographic memory until that day as the images from that guy’s photo album played in my head.


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