I used to have a friend who had a delicate knack, she could make any room feel like home within minutes.
I’m still not 100% sure of how she did it exactly, maybe the way she threw a piece of fabric over the bed-side lamp, or the way she immediately folded over the blanket to reveal the much more comfortable sheet below, or the way she meticulously arranged the toiletries, but probably, it was the perfect combination of everything she did that reflected her personality and made any space hers.
Now I personally never really developed this tact, maybe because I never really found spending time in a foreign space to be a nuisance, but after extended periods of time sleeping in beds that aren’t “yours” home-sickness can get to the best of us.
So for those of us who aren’t gifted with the natural ability to Mary-Poppins a drab hostel dorm bunk into “home” I’ve devised a list of tricks that might help you ground yourself through the mesmerizing whirlwind of revolving lodging doors.
Make friends with the staff-
While some luxury accommodations go to great lengths to make their staff as invisible as possible; However, if you want to feel at home in your temporary abode, you’ll want to engage with the staff.
As soon as you check in, make sure everyone knows you, and you know everyone. People are more likely to remember your name if you remember theirs, and when you come “home” you’ll be greeted like family.
Let’s face it, most people don’t pay attention to the housekeepers, and yet they’re around almost 24/7. Your new-found Kiwi roommates might be busy out on the town when you get back from your hike, but guess who will still be there mopping the floor?! You got it!
**extra bonus** You’re much more likely to get to know the true life of the place you’re visiting by chatting up the locals than the guests. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language, signs go a long way, and a kind heart is universal.
Comfort your senses–
We are what we perceive (or is that backwards?) so tricking your senses into a familiar and intimate feeling will go a long way.
Touch– Get cozy (and hygienic!)-
My grandma has a habit of changing as soon as she gets home. She does it so she doesn’t soil her “outing’ clothes, but you can use it for the purpose of feeling at home.
Pack something which you dedicate to your “lazing around the house” and put it on as soon as you get into the hostel. Please, for the comfort of everyone else, don’t make this skimpy.
Another thing you can do is to get your own pillowcase. While the pillow will always feel different, at least you’ll always have that same feeling against your cheek.
I personally recommend a silk pillowcase as it doesn’t let the bedbugs bite (among other advantages.)
Actually, you might want to look into a whole silk travel sheet, some have an integrated pillowcase, as some hostels might even require one. This girl can’t travel without one.
Smell– Be courteous to other guests-
Some other resources on the internet point you to scented candles to feel at home, but please, don’t go there.
Not only are candles a fire hazard, especially in shared rooms, scented candles are VERY BAD for people with asthma or allergies.
So wether you’re in a dorm room, or a private room, don’t make life impossible for your current mates, or the guests who’ll come in next.
Consider instead some essential oils, which only very rarely cause allergic reactions, and use them in moderation.
Maybe sparingly spray your special concoction on your pillowcase or nighties, as mentioned above.
Alternatively carry something around which smells familiar, while not overwhelming!
FYI, turning your essential oil concoction into a spray takes an extra step.
Having your own toiletries might also help in this department.
Sight– Take your nightstand everywhere-
I don’t mean literally, come on! As I alluded to earlier, throwing the same piece of fabric over your bed-side lamp will ensure you always get the same quality of light. This alone might go a long long way.
But if you’d like to take it a step farther, consider how waking up to the sight of the loved ones you left back home will cure your homesickness.
NO, obviously, you won’t carry even a 4×6 picture frame with you, but consider maybe an accordion photo book.
Or, check out how you can turn a perfectly ordinary cigarette case into something more useful: a travel frame! (please excuse the blatant Pottery Barn plug!)
Of course, this photographer uses very expensive vintage cases–here’s my cue to remind you to never travel with things you cannot part with–but you can get yourself a very unique and inexpensive travel case from pretty much anywhere.
How about one with a map on it?!? Or, be thrifty and eco-friendly and McGyver your empty Altoids can into a travel frame.
(Actually, there’s a LOT you can do with Altoids cans as a traveler, like, a whole lot!)
**extra bonus** if you use an altoids can, you can store all kinds in there, making your entire night-table condensable to nearly tic-tac size. Who’s got the Mary Poppins skills now?!
Hearing– Don’t just soothe yourself to sleep-
Sometimes you get lucky and your bunk mates are quiet. When they’re not, tuning them out is an obvious got-to.
Consider, however, using sound to start your day off fresh. Play your favorite song, or even a sound byte you collected from home, to start your day off while you’re getting ready (in the bathroom of course, away from those still sleeping peacefully)
Maybe it’s your niece’s laugh while you play at the park, the rhythmic sound of a train passing by, or the hustle bustle of your home town’s favorite pedestrian street! Whatever freshens you up and gets you psyched about having woken up again this morning, ready to front another awesome day.
Taste– Take a break from the exotic-
Yes, we travel to experience the new and exotic; what we can’t get from home.
Sometimes, however, too much is too much.
If you’re feeling a lull in your travel mojo, you might be all cultured-out. There’s no shame in going for something familiar to soothe the soul. It sure is cheaper to pig out on a burger, or savor a plain-jane chicken soup than it is to buy a plane ticket home.
Buy yourself peace of mind–
Sleeping with one eye open isn’t an option if you plan on going the distance with your travels.
Sure, you have to make sure your valuables are safe, and sometimes that means locking everything in the provided locker, or sleeping while hugging your backpack.
Always make sure your passport is safer than Fort Knox, even if that means sleeping with it in your pants.
More importantly though, lighten your load, especially of valuable items, so you have less to worry about. Mr. Kristofferson was definitely right when he said “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
**extra bonus** You’ll find that as your emotional state begins to relax, it will be easier for you to open up to new opportunities and adventures. It’s just a side effect of leading a care-free life.
No matter what tools you find help you feel at home, none will be more powerful than a routine.
When you pack and unpack, make sure everything has a home and there’s a home for everything. When you get up, try to have a series of steps that just don’t change. In fact, the least tools/tricks/and gimmicks you need to carry around with you, the lighter your pack will be, and the lighter your emotional load. Find a way to wean yourself off of your gadgets, and into a weightless routine instead.
Now don’t go overboard with this either. A strict routine can bog you down just as much as baggage.
Be loose, but slowly grow comfortable with yourself, and root yourself to your own, constant, reality, despite your changing environments. Consistent exercise, yoga, or meditation, are all routines that will build a stronger you, and are obviously superior to routine visits to local bars.
If you need help building a habit, we’ve got you covered.
As always, Happy travels!