Most people go on trips to Europe for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. Some of us, myself included, tend to be on the road a little longer. When you’re gone from home for so long, how do you deal with homesickness and missing your environment?
I’ve been living out of a backpack sporadically since I was 20, professionally since 25. It was a thrill at first, but as the trips got longer and longer, the thrill wore off and I wanted to be home. Over time I’ve developed a coping strategy for being away. Making the hotel room as comfy as possible helps.
If I’m staying in a hotel for more than a few nights, I like to buy a bouquet of flowers for my bedside table. My favorites are white Oriental lilies, which have a very strong scent. They tend to open slowly and last a few days. This is a small pleasure that I enjoy in my home, something that I’ve always done when I need a little pick me up. It somehow makes a hotel room more inviting. The flowers were €10, I borrowed the vase from the hotel. Money well spent.
Scent is a personal thing and some people like myself are sensitive to the smell of dank hotel rooms. I recently stayed in a hotel that smelled like a 1970’s basement and the room instantly made me uncomfortable. My remedy was a scent disk. Bath and Body Works sells little gel disks meant for cars, but the are great for travelers too. I choose the “Fresh Linen” scent because it smells like clean clothes and I can pretend that the scent is coming from my very not clean suitcase.
Small habits can make a room a home. I try to cultivate patterns, like laying out my toiletries kit the same way, putting a bottle of water on my side table, arranging my shoes against the wall. These little things help me navigate the room when I’m groggy and not entirely sure where I am. I don’t hang clothes in the closet, though. If I do that I’ll often forget them and leave them behind.
The most important comfort item in my room is my pillow. I carry my own pillow, it is true, even if I preach the gospel of light packing. But sleep is very important when you’re on the road, especially when you work as much as I do. Most hotel pillows here in Europe are not what you might be used to. They are often hard, oddly shaped, lumpy or just simply not what you like.
My pillow is surprisingly light and compact. I bought an inexpensive down pillow for about $20, the key being that it is the bottom of the line. Cheaper down pillows have less down fill in them, which is exactly what I want. It’s a twin sized pillow and fits neatly in my suitcase, squishes down to almost nothing and weighs very little. When I arrive in a hotel, I give it a good shake and it pops back to life. It’s warm and soft, very comforting on tough days, and it has a familiar smell.
The pillow case is a gift from my sons, who decorated a white zippered pillowcase with fabric markers. They’ve drawn pictures of things they think will remind me of home. It’s very colorful, and a good thing too- I never forget my pillow anymore because it doesn’t blend with the hotel bedding, and the maids don’t take it away by accident.
The zippered pillowcase is also a great item to have for laundry day. I dump my clothes in there and zip it up so that my delicates don’t fall out on the way to the laundromat. That could be embarrassing.
How do you make your hotel room more like home? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear more ideas.