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How to… …arrive and unpack in strange countries

“Bear Bruce Mini” has travelled with me for eleven years now and has brought the comforting feeling of home to tents, rooms and jungle caves.

If I am not on the road travelling but actually staying somewhere for more than a few days I love to unpack. Unpacking is usually the first thing I do, because that way I can make the place I live in my own.

I grew up traveling and always felt comfortable in a new environment, no matter how different the place I live in is from what I’ve known so far.

I think part of that is that even with just a few things I can turn any place into something that is my home. I put my books on display, put up a postcard from a friend and hang my Mala somewhere on the wall. I might buy some flowers or if I’m staying longer print out a few photos.

When you have this kind of nomadic lifestyle and move around as much as I do, there are two obvious choices: never put down roots anywhere or always put down roots everywhere. I prefer the latter. That didn’t start as a conscious choice but maybe more I think it is in my nature to connect with places and people.

I have a few traveling friends who are the opposite, they use their room as an anonymous place to sleep in and don’t let people become emotionally close but rather focus on a few old friends. A lot of those people have grown tired of the constant flux of friends.

I understand that, sometimes it is hard to always be away from friends no matter where you are, because you never have a place in which all your friends are. But I don’t really see it this way. I look at a globe and when I close my eyes I see an image of a warm golden net of people I love that spans over the whole world.

Only a sad goodbye is a good goodbye

Of course putting down roots easily brings with it challenges, because leaving becomes much harder.

It’s good to decorate your room a bit, even if you only have basic things at hand. That way you can make your room feel like your own space.

However, in my opinion a goodbye that isn’t at least a little bit sad is not a good goodbye. If you are not sad to leave a place and its people it’s quite obvious neither meant a lot to you.

I therefore much rather put myself through a sad goodbye than having an easy goodbye without any meaning.

My tips for arriving at a new place thus are:

  • Unpack everything as soon as you can
  • Have one or two things that always travel with you, to have something familiar (for me that’s a small Teddybear and my Mala)

    Postcards from friends and random trinkets can also make you feel more at home

  • Decorate! (it doesn’t have to be expensive, I for instance use post-its with little drawings or quotes)
  • Treat yourself to at least one nice local thing for your room that will make you smile when you look at it and is connected with a positive feeling for the country you’re staying in (for me that is currently wind chimes made out of shells)
  • Invite new people you meet at work over for an International pot-luck night, if you don’t have a kitchen, go savor some local cuisine with them
  • If you feel homesick go with it for a little bit. Send your friends an E-mail, call, but don’t hide from the fabulous new place you’re at right now! You will leave this place eventually and see return or move on so make use of the time you have an enjoy exploring!
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2 comments on “How to… …arrive and unpack in strange countries

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Every new place I move to, I bring with me a suitcase full of photos and trinkets and knick-knacks and sarongs and fridge magnets and drink coasters and…(the list goes on and on) to make my little space feel like home. Even hotel rooms that I’m stuck in for a week or so for work end up becoming a little bit of me-ified after a few days. For me, I find it better to be able to feel at home everywhere than to feel at home nowhere. 🙂 My only problem is that, as I travel and move more and more, my knick-knacks etc increase in number….and yet I still can’t afford to pay excess luggage fees! 😛

    • Hi, thanks for the comment. yes, I’m like that too and know of the trinket trunk problem well 😉 it’s especially bad since I don’t have any childhood room or permanent residence where I could store something.. Oh well, life’s still pretty good 🙂

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