11/27/2011 02:48 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Home Away From Home: Bring Comfort With You On The Road

Want to feel at home on nights when you're not sleeping in your own bed? Wondering if the office replication service that Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock uses has a residential division? When traveling it's hard to feel the same comfort you feel when you're at home. In this article I take a closer look at how we can bring some of that homey comfort with us on the road, whether it's to a hotel room or to a friend's guestroom.

We all feel comfortable and zen-out at home because our homes are our territory -- it's where we thrive because we can just be ourselves and it's where we have control of our lives. In our homes, we can choose to be with other people or not and we can put out the things that have meaning for us and define us like photos of pets or trophies that commemorate achievements. And our homes provide us with sensory experiences that sustain and comfort us -- the ones that welcome us in after a day in the world -- such as scents, sounds, sights, and textures.

When it comes traveling and staying with family or friends, we can't exactly bring all the meaningful objects that evoke comfort in our 'home territory' with us to a hotel room or a guest bedroom (or that sofa bed in a friend's family room). But we can, to a certain extent, create an environment that appeals to our senses the way our homes do.

Photo: Flickr, Ame Otoko

Control is really key for comfort and being able to modify light levels, heat and ventilation (think: windows open or closed) can do a lot to make you feel more at ease. You'll also feel more of that 'at home' type control with a little background info on where you're staying or the people you're staying with. If you're crashing with friends, find out how your hosts begin their day. If you're hoteling it, check to see when breakfast starts and ends.

Scents have a fundamental influence on our emotional well-being, so recreating the smells of your own home on the road matters. If your bedroom at home doesn't have a signature aroma, it's a good idea to establish one before your trip. Lavender and jasmine. Did you take oodles of lovely naps on your grandmother's front porch in the shade of the jasmine plant? If so, make your bedroom smell like jasmine.

Don't forget sound. Do you listen to particular music or soundtracks while falling asleep? Bring them along and plug in your ear buds as you drift off. If you don't wear earplugs to sleep at home, forgo them on the road. Too much unaccustomed silence can make you tense.

Photo: Flickr, Samuraijohnny

When staying with family and friends, it's good to keep in mind that the best territories have clearly defined borders and allow for some privacy. They're low on stress and high on security. The hotel room wins out over the sofa bed on this front, naturally. If your family and friends have difficulty leaving you on your own and you're staying in one of their homes, consider re-examining the budget and schedule and booking a hotel room. If a hotel isn't feasible and you end up on a sofa bed at a friend's, try slightly shifting the furniture in that family room to help you block out a space that's 'yours', but don't do any significant rearranging. Remember, you can make the sofa bed your home for three days of the year, but you're ultimately in your host's territory. You can feel more in control of the situation through other means, as well. For example, wearing a sleeping mask, which blocks light to your eyes, indicates you're not yet ready to start your day and will probably keep others at bay for a while in the morning.

Photo: Flickr, Wanja Krah

Territories have rituals. Maintain the ones you have at home while traveling. Favorite pajamas? Bring them along. Usual bedtime? Try to maintain it. Nighttime habits, such as glass of water by the bed? Fill'er up.

Even the best trips eventually come to an end and travelers find themselves back at home. Regular life resumes, usually all too soon, but remembering that you have a comforting place to return to can help you get through the most difficult trips...even if you forget the lavender at home.

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