It’s after dark and we’re whizzing around Bangkok in the back of a tuk tuk after a long day of exploring.
We’ve been in the city for just two days and will leave tomorrow morning.
“Mom, are we almost home?” asks a very sleepy LJ as she leans into me.
Where is home?
Today, home is a tiny room with three single beds in a hostel in the Thai capital. We share a bathroom with the other guests, it’s kind of noisy, and personal space is limited. But, it’s clean, cozy and the beds of comfortable.
Plus, eight-year-old LJ thinks any room with bunk beds is awesome.
It seems no matter where we are in the world, the kid always refers to where we’re staying as home. She certainly still considers Ottawa her actual home; however, these days home is wherever the three of us fall asleep.
What is a home?
These days, home is not so much a place but a feeling or a state of being.
“Home” has been a lovely two-bedroom apartment in a quiet neighbourhood in Belgium, a friend’s house in Spain, a decrepit old high-rise in Romania, a huge guesthouse in Tanzania, a small hut made of palm leaves in India, a little farm in Thailand, and even an airport floor. In fact, over the last eight months, we’ve lived in dozens of different places.
Some of these places have been more comfortable than others (hello Mr. Coachroach!), but we’ve done our best to make them all feel like home…at least a little bit.
And really, home is more than just the place we rest our heads at night and greet the sun. It’s the restaurant down the street where we’ve eaten dinner three times this week; it’s that spot in the park where we played UNO yesterday; it’s that beach we hang out at every day at sunset; and it’s the old man on the corner who always waves hello.
When you’re travelling for a long time and always moving homesickness catches up to you. It’s amazing but not alwats easy, especially for kids, to always be on the go, to always be sleeping in a new bed, to always be in a state of trying to figure things out.
Sometimes, you just want something familiar.
You just want to be “home.”
So, there are a few ways we try to create a home away from home no matter where we are in the world.
How to create a home away from home
1. Decorate. Put up some photos, the kid’s artwork, a family calendar or even the grocery list. These little touches will make the space feel a little more like where you live rather than where you visit.
2. Unpack. If you’re in a place for more than a week take everything out of the backpack or suitcase and put it away/find it a place. You’ll feel more comfortable if you’re not living out of your luggage.
3. Have a routine. Try to have a regular meal time, bed time, game of cards, or even just a daily 20 minutes where you cuddle and tell jokes. Everyone, especially kids, crave a little predictability now and then.
4. Go back to the same spots. It’s tempting to want to try every restaurant and coffee shop but going back to a few key places offers a sense of familiarity and belonging to a community and allows you to expand your home. You’ll also build a relationship with the staff and they’ll appreciate the loyalty.
5. Live a normal life sometimes. Watch TV, sleep in, have a movie night, order pizza, stay home and play Lego, cook a meal, go to the park, set aside a day for housework and errands, give the kids chores. Do the things you would do at home.
6. Give the kid a space. It doesn’t always need to be a full bedroom but try to create a little spot for the kids to hideout and/or play. This can offer them, and you, a comforting escape.
7. Talk to people in the neighbourhood. Say hello to people you regularly pass on the street and chat with local business owners. You’ll quickly start feeling like part of a community rather than just a visitor.
We still have a lot more places to come home to, but in five more months the three of us will actually be home, back to our regular life in Ottawa. It’s strange to think about. I wonder how home will feel then….
How do you create a home away from home when travelling?