Traveling is Just Doing Laundry in Other Places
Andy likes to say that traveling is just doing laundry in other places. Which made me laugh the first couple of times I heard him say it. But then it really started to make sense. It’s the idea that it’s still your life. All the basic things you have to do when you’re home, you have to do while you’re traveling. Eat, sleep, shower. And if you’re traveling for more than a week or so, you probably need to do laundry. It’s not the glamorous side of travel, but I’ve found that doing laundry in other places can lead to some entertaining stories.
Vending machine laundry in Brussels
Last year when Andy and I were traveling in Europe for two months, we did our best to rent apartments that had washing machines. But in Brussels, we ended up with an apartment that didn’t have one, so we had to go around the corner to a laundromat. We saw a machine that sold detergent, but it took awhile for us to realize how to actually purchase it.
Turns out the whole place was controlled by one pay machine. So we had to find the number that corresponded with the detergent on that machine, go across the room to the pay machine and pay by entering the number we wanted (see the 20 and 21 on the photo below), and then the detergent would come out of the vending machine like a candy bar. We had to use the same pay machine to pay for the washer and dryer as well and enter the number of the washer or dryer we were using.
No naked laundry in Bologna
While in Bologna, there was a washer in the apartment, but the other bloggers we were sharing with were having problems with the machine. Not wanting to ruin our clothes, we decided to just find a laundromat. Amongst the signs telling you how much things cost and how to work the machines, we saw this interesting sign.
Maybe they had problems with people stripping down to their underwear in the past?
Power outage in Minori
On our first or second day in Minori, on the Amalfi Coast, we decided to do laundry. Unfortunately we started the washer around the same time we were trying to cook something in the oven. Little did we know that, in many parts of Italy, the circuits can’t handle more than one “big” appliance at a time, and we blew a fuse. We had to call the owner, who had no idea what to do. It took her quite awhile to find someone who know where the switches were, but then we were back on track.
Side note, while in Rome the next week, I was blow drying my hair while the washing machine was running, and that blew a fuse as well. Apparently even a hair dryer is considered a “big” appliance. Consider yourself warned.
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Ao Nang laundry strings
Ao Nang was our last stop in Thailand, and just a couple days before we left for Malaysia, we did one load of laundry. I’m sure there are laundromats somewhere in Southeast Asia, but we didn’t see any, and besides, it’s incredibly cheap to have your guesthouse (or the one across the street in our case) do your laundry. But when we got our clothes back, we noticed something strange. Tiny pieces of yarn had been threaded into every item of clothing. I suppose this was to make sure our clothes all stayed together, but there were two or three different colors, so I’m not sure what the thought process was. We spent a good chunk of time gently pulling those strings out of our clothes and trying not to make bigger holes in everything.
The laundry lady in Siem Reap
Right around the corner from our guesthouse in Siem Reap was a tiny convenience store run by a sweet old woman who was constantly reminding us how to say “thank you” in Khmer. We brought her our laundry about three times during our 11 day stay. But during the second round, Andy noticed his favorite t-shirt was missing.
Knowing the laundry lady spoke almost no English, I typed into my translating app that we were missing a green shirt. When I showed her the Khmer translation, she shook her head and waved my phone away. Given her age and Cambodia’s history, I’m guessing she couldn’t read. But she called someone on her phone, handed me the phone, and I explained about our missing shirt. About 10 minutes later, the man who I assume actually does the laundry pulled up with Andy’s missing shirt. Crisis averted.
So don’t shy away from doing laundry while you travel. Even though you plan your trip to go see the famous sights or eat the delicious food, there is so much potential for interesting and even funny stories from the mundane activities like travel laundry. Travel is all about the experiences, but they don’t all have to be monumental.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:20 PM
This is a really interesting article.
Here in Morwell, Victoria, Australia where I live, we have a new laundromat that opened roughly a year or so ago called The Laundry Lounge that is run by a local guy that I know and by Australian standards it is outstanding. The website for it is here: http://thelaundrylounge.com.au/ . It has free wifi, coffee vending machine and coke and chips vending machine as well as brand new washing and drying machines and the owner Tony is almost always there to help about with any issues. Typically though, in Australia, laundromats are treated by their owners as cashcows and are not invested in at all unlike Tony and his state of the art facility that we are lucky enough to have here.
What I am curious about is what is it like on the road as far as quality of laundromats are concerned, say in Europe. Are they fairly standard like the one in Brussels in terms of being automated and state of the art, or do they vary considerably in standard, cost and quality like they do here in Australia. Some like the other laundromat that is available here in Morwell are downright nasty and awful.
Have you had some times when traveling where you have had to hand wash simply because there were no laundromats available or the ones that were, were no up to scratch?
I would like to know because for me laundromats are an absolute must both at home and when traveling. I am simply not up to the task of hand washing due to the pain it would generate in my hands. Simply squeezing my hands can hurt at times, let alone doing it repeatedly to wash laundry.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:15 PM
The few times we’ve used laundromats in Europe, they seemed pretty standard, but mostly we rent apartments that have washing machines. On a couple of rare occasions, I’ve washed a few pairs of underwear in the sink when I wasn’t going to have enough time to do laundry before running out of underwear. But if I really needed a lot of clothes washed, and I didn’t have access to a machine or a laundromat, I’ll just send out a few things to be washed by the hotel or guesthouse. I try not to travel with clothes I’d be upset about having ruined, just in case something goes wrong, but I’ve never had any major issues so far.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:18 PM
That’s what I have noticed with most experienced travelers and travel bloggers – most of their clothes are easily washable and serve a number of functions. Expensive, hard to clean and rare pieces seem to be left at home or taken in very rare cases. I like the travel clothes offered by the Columbia brand. I could easily see myself on the road in a place like New Zealand in those.
July 21, 2014 @ 12:14 AM
This cracks me up! Honestly, laundry kept sticking in my mind as one of the biggest pain points when considering doing a RTW trip. In the end it didn’t turn out to be a big deal at all; it’s dirt cheap in Asia, and we stayed with enough hosts (friends, Couchsurfers, Airbnbs) through Europe and America that we rarely had to pay for it on those continents. The only times I recall going to a Western laundromat was in Bologna and in Paris (both times we had to ask someone for help, lol).
July 21, 2014 @ 11:40 AM
I think it’s the things you don’t really consider doing while traveling that overwhelm people. But of course people do laundry in other countries! I loved how cheap it was to send laundry off in SE Asia. And I agree, the laundromats can get confusing sometimes!