By Amy Thibodeau
I have been on the road now for just over three months. I love to travel but like many people I also crave some stability: a little corner of the world to call my own. Sometimes it's challenging to recreate a sense of comfort and security while traveling, especially if, like me, you are on a fairly tight budget (read: not everywhere I've stayed is nice). In the last few glorious months I have developed a few techniques that I use to make myself feel settled, even if only for a short period of time.
Bring an object with you on your travels; it could be a small photograph, a piece of jewelery that holds sentimental value or anything that means something to you. I carry around a little wooden cat model that reminds me of the first place that felt like home for me in London. When you get to a new location, unpack your item and put it in plain view in whichever room you think you'll spend the most time. In a small way, I believe that this helps to claim the space as your own, even if it's only for a short period of time.
Unpack your suitcase if possible. This may not be practical if you are only staying somewhere for one night and can also be a challenge if the place you are staying in doesn't have a proper chest of drawers or a closet, but do the best that you can. I find that the act of putting my things away in my new space makes me feel like I belong there, like the room is somehow making space for me. This will also help in the long run because it will make it easier to find your things; you won't have to go rooting through a suitcase or backpack every time you want to change your clothes.
Cook for yourself. There are a range of budget accommodations that are equipped with basic kitchens. Of course you will want to eat out while traveling and in some countries, like Mexico, eating out is so cheap that it can be hard to justify going to the trouble of cooking for yourself. But every now and then, making your own food can be an excellent way of feeling at home; you can eat what you want and depending on what is available at your local market, you can even satiate a comfort food craving for something not readily available in local restaurants. Cooking your own food is another way of settling in and treating your current location like it is home, rather than just a temporary spot you are passing through.
Explore local neighborhoods. There are few things that make me feel more comfortable with a place than the sense that, like the locals, I am 'in the know'. Learn where your nearest corner store is located, the nearest market, the non-touristy pub where the locals drink, the coffee shop ... If you really want to experience the truth of a place, you need to find out how and where locals live. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll come to find you know exactly where you are going and that knowledge will fill you confidence and comfort.
Make a play list of songs you love. Listen to it, if possible on speakers. Let the familiar sounds flood your new home. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply.
Allow yourself to occasionally feel homesick. Almost everyone who is traveling long-term occasionally longs for the familiarity and comfort of home. It is the dirty little secret of the travel obsessed; sometimes, even with our amazing lifestyle, we feel a little bit sad, maybe even lonely. When you don't know your way around, don't speak the local language and aren't immediately relating well to habits and customs that seem impossible to decode, you are going to have moments when you think back on wherever it is you left and you are going to imagine how wonderful life was there. My home base is in London, UK - one of the most amazing cities in the world in my opinion - and there were many moments in Mexico where I would look longingly at my Facebook feed and all the amazing events my friends were planning to attend, the photos of Hyde Park in the summer, leisurely afternoons drinking beer on the South Bank ... and I felt a great sense of missing out. Of course, I didn't think about all the rain, the horrible commute to work on the stinky, hot underground, or the throngs of tourists that flood the streets of London during the summer months. When you are feeling homesick, you will always look back at 'home' with a romantic lens. Allow yourself be heart sick for awhile but then remember why you left, why you are traveling and how amazing it is to have the world open up before you. Make a list about everything you love about travel. Carry it around and keep going.
Do you have any tips for making temporary accommodations feel like home? Please share in the comments section.
Image Credit: Is Anybody Home by D Sharon Pruitt