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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Creating a ‘home’ away

Reminders of home are important to people no matter where they are, no more so than when they're 'away'. But they become especially precious to long term travellers like us who live out of their suitcases. When I was backpacking on my own in South America when I was younger, I carried a wooden incense holder and incense with me that I’d brought from Australia, and I’d light it wherever I stayed. The scent of sandalwood would take me back to our flat in Sydney where Terry was still living and working, and remind me of him and our home. But it also made a characterless hotel room cosy. Terry and I do the same thing now when we travel, light incense in hotel rooms wherever we go. Only now the scent reminds us of the frankincense we’d use in the apartment we packed up over two years ago in Dubai. This is the start of our 29th month on the road writing, and we're starting to miss having a home. Months at a time have been spent researching countries, regions, islands, and cities where we’ve had to move hotels every day or two to test them out for the guidebooks we're writing, and simply to cover the territory we needed to. We spent January, February and part of March researching books in the UAE, Cyprus and Crete, so we were relieved to stay at a friend’s villa for a month in Turkey. We bought a tonne of groceries and the first thing we did when we arrived was unpack and put everything away and set the kitchen up the way we like it. We planned to do a lot of cooking and we did. We shifted furniture around, lit our incense, scattered travel magazines about, put novels on our bedside tables, and picked flowers from the garden. Do you like them? I delighted in doing little things that I used to do at home. Like being able to arrange my toiletries in the bathroom. Don't laugh. We even adopted some neighbourhood cats, bought them food, and fed them daily. But just because we’re missing having a ‘home’ doesn’t mean we want to stop travelling. On the contrary, we’re currently planning our next research trip to Italy and we're already getting excited at the prospect of being on the road again. It’s just that we appreciate being able to create a 'home' whenever we can. For the first time in my life, I can understand why some people get homesick when they travel. Although for me any feelings of melancholia or nostalgia I might have occasionally aren't strong enough to give up travelling. After all, giving up travelling is unnecessary when we can create a 'home' – however temporary – wherever we are.


Monna said...

Hi Lara.

I love the flowers! I am a nester by nature and that's a bit difficult in international education. We might only call a country home for two years so I rarely get to nest in the way I would like. I have, however, made every house and apartment into a "home" with photos and art prints and books. It also helps that I have developed a LOVE of (perhaps an addiction to) hand-painted Italian bowls (from Florence) and they warm up every room they are in. I couldn't agree more... living on the road, or staying in a place short-term, does not have to mean being "homeless".

Thanks for writing about this.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi there

I'm glad you appreciate the post. Thanks for the comments - much appreciated.

I was in education before travel writing, so I can guess what your life is like. We've always done the same thing - made 'homes' wherever we are, whether it was for a few years or a few nights. I not only wish more people would do the same, I wish hotels would also make hotel rooms more 'homey', even if it's just in a few small ways. I think it makes an enormous difference to the travel experience and makes hotels less cold. Don't you?