Almost four months into our adventure, we have called 23 places “home”. Some were certainly more cozy and comfortable (and clean) than others, but each one has been our home for at least a night. I am learning that “home” can have many meanings. Of course our true home is in Denver - both our actual house and our family and friends who live there. But we do refer to each of the places we stay as “home” and we’ve realized that certain things can make you feel more at home no matter where you are -- both aspects of the place you sleep as well as items you carry with you.
I’ve thought and read a lot about this concept of “home” while on the road, particularly in the context of the word "hygge". It's getting a lot of buzz - hygge is a Danish term (pronounced “HOO-gah”), which roughly translates to “coziness” and “well-being” and incorporates concepts of warmth, safety, togetherness, and community. It’s about curling up with your family on a winter day, lighting candles, drinking warm beverages, turning off your electronic devices, and just being together. I’ve read a few books about it (The Little Book of Hygge, The Nordic Theory of Everything, the Danish Way of Parenting, and am currently reading The Year of Living Danishly) and love the concept. Without actually calling it “hygge”, we try to incorporate this into our days, even when we are both working. The best example I can think of on a work day would be the 15-20 minutes first thing in the morning when we sit in bed and read with Blythe. Sometimes it is only one of us and the other is getting ready, but it’s the best way to start the day for her and us. It’s even better when Forest joins and the adults have a hot cup of coffee in hand! Otherwise, I think we hygge most often during Blythe's bedtime routine, which involves getting cozy with her and Bunny (of course) and reading many, many books (lately we are all about Angelina and Hairy Maclary, a NZ discovery that I highly recommend, particularly if you love dogs). What about you? Have you heard about hygge and how do you incorporate it into daily life?
On this trip, creating hygge can be tricky. We can't make each house or apartment our own, we don't travel with particularly cozy clothes, and sometimes there are no comfortable spots to rest. I'm feeling this a lot right now in Japan where we've stayed in two places with no Western chairs, couches, or beds. I read in the evening sitting on the floor against the wall, which isn't very comfortable if you are an American and used to relaxing in a chair or on a couch (which probably means I have bad posture and weak back muscles).
I'm even more aware of the notion of home because Blythe has started talking about it a lot. When we pack bags, she talks about getting a "new home" and she asks a lot about going home - I don't know whether she means to our current house or to Denver. The wheels are definitely turning for her about what it means to have a home and she knows we've had a lot of them. She does sleep in the same travel crib with Bunny and her blanket each night, so at least she has some consistency.
When it comes to finding hygge on the road, there are five things I consistently look to: wearing my slippers, unpacking, keeping my clothes fresh and laundered, preparing meals at home, and tracking down our favorite comfort foods.
First, the one item that I’ve packed for this trip that has made me feel the most at home is my Quoddy slippers. I hemmed and hawed about whether to bring them on this trip since space is at a premium and it meant I couldn’t bring my favorite espadrilles or black flats, but I haven’t looked back. They are the first item I unpack when we arrive at a new house or hotel room. We don’t wear shoes in our house in Denver nor do we elsewhere (especially not in Japan where it is strictly forbidden), but whereas I know our floor at home is clean, I can’t say the same for all the places we’ve slept. More importantly, there’s just something so cozy about sliding your foot into a sheepskin-lined slipper. They instantly help me feel at home.
Second, for any stay over two days, I unpack my clothing. I don't always do so fully, but I take the packing cubes out of my suitcase, unzip them, and get my clothes organized. There is something about putting my massive suitcase away and being able to see my clothes that helps to feel like we are actually staying put for a bit. We are currently in Kyoto and spending two weeks in the same home, which is the longest time period we've spent in one place since Kauai. It's marvelous.
Third, being able to do laundry is a must. There is something about having clean clothes that makes me feel like I'm not a vagabond and so I tend to wash things more often. I miss our washer and dryer in Hawaii that managed to both wash and dry clothes in about an hour, unlike the machines in New Zealand, which took 2+ hours for just the wash cycle! And I really miss dryers and am confounded by the absence of them in so many places. Where we have had them in Japan, they don't really work - it took 6+ hours to dry a small load of clothes at our home in Kanazawa.
Fourth, having a kitchen and a grocery store nearby is a lifesaver. Eating out with a toddler is not always enjoyable and it can be hard to be healthy and economical if you are eat out three meals each day. We try to always have breakfast food on hand, even in hotels, and one of the primary reasons we stay in airbnbs over hotel rooms is so that we can have a kitchen. We don't always cook; for example, in Japan we often go to the nearby grocery store, choose a selection of the delicious, fresh sushi they sell, and bring it home to eat. We did make a stir-fry in Kanazawa that included fresh bamboo shoots and I have some fun ingredient in our refrigerator set for making another one (including fiddlehead ferns, ginger flowers, and lotus root). But back to feeling hygge - I need a fridge with eggs, butter, cheese, and fruit, plus bread of some sort to feel at home.
Finally, Blythe hasn't napped consistently since we started this trip and at the end of the day when she is asleep, Rob and I need to be hygge as a couple. For us, this includes having dark chocolate and either a good IPA or stout or tea. It's amazing how a square of chocolate and splitting a beer once your toddler is finally in bed can make you feel. I am sorely missing my all-time favorite tea, Harney & Sons Decaffeinated Hot Cinnamon Black Tea, and cannot wait for my first cup in Denver.
What I'm learning is that while no place we have stayed was perfect, we just have to make the most of each one, embrace the idiosyncrasies, and try to make it feel as much like ours as possible. We've moved around a lot in New Zealand and Japan but will move less once we head to Europe. We reserved a home in Amsterdam for two weeks and another in Stockholm for three, which is a great start, plus I'll get to experience "hygge" first hand! I can't wait.
Quoddy is a beloved partner of The Garden of Eden, but I’d be writing this post regardless. If you are planning a trip of any significant length, I recommend packing your favorite slippers. And if you need a new pair, consider a pair from Quoddy.