The other day as I was lying awake at night, I decided I should start counting something to fall asleep. As counting sheep seemed a bit too mundane, I decided to try to remember the number of beds I slept in during 2011. As someone who is constantly on the move, I figured it would be quite a few. But I was still pretty surprised when the total came to 73.
(Hotel 25Hours in Hamburg, Germany)
Wow. 73 different beds in 365 days. That’s a new bed every five days. Or a couch, mattress, hammock or whatever it may have been.
Funnily enough, 2011 was actually one of my less mobile years: I spent more than a third of it living in Brooklyn, a bit less than a third visiting family in Finland and a third traveling around the world. That’s nothing compared to years when I’ve been on the move for six to eight months at a time. During those times I probably crashed at a new place every two or three days.
So what’s the big deal about this bed number of mine being so high? Well, for one thing it means I’ve had many changes of contracting bedbugs over the last years. Since I’ve stayed clear of them, I guess it means the world’s bedbug crisis is not quite as bad as we all thought. Phew.
But the real point I wanted to make about my 73 different sleeping arrangements is that it shows that this traveling lifestyle is not as easy as people think. You see, when I tell people what I do with my life (“I travel the world and write about it”), the most common comment I get is, “Oh, I’m jealous! Your life sounds amazing! You’re so lucky!”
Newsflash: More than luck, my lifestyle requires hard work and sacrifices. (I know, not half as appealing anymore.) How many of you could imagine changing beds every five days? And doing it for years on end… probably not too many. Most people like their own comfy pillows and blankets way too much to give them up. And don’t get me wrong – I love a familiar fluffy pillow as much as the next gal. But I also know that if I want to travel, that means giving up some things. One of the first ones is a place to call your own – you don’t want to be paying rent elsewhere while you are out roaming the globe. If you plan on only leading a semi-nomadic life, I suggest subleasing your apartment to someone while you are gone. Either way, you’ll have to get used to laying your head down in a new place every few days.
So where do I get my beauty sleep while on the road? Well, in different places: hotels, guesthouses, hostels, friends’ spare bedrooms or air mattresses, strangers’ couches (who I have befriended on the road, or met through traveler sites like Couchsurfing.com), hammocks, tents and sometimes in planes, buses, trains or even airports as I mentioned in my Quality Hunters blog. Yeah, not quite so glamorous anymore.
My accommodation in 2011 ranged from an outdoor hammock overlooking the mountains in Lanquin, Guatemala for $2 a night to a $350 hotel room in Amsterdam, Holland. So yes, I never know what awaits me! And that’s the beauty of it. Over my traveling years I’ve come to love the unexpected, and I thrive at not knowing where I’ll crash on any given day. I wouldn’t have it any other way right now.
(Zephyr Lodge in Lanquin, Guatemala. At $2 a night, you can’t beat this hammock accommodation for price nor the views!)
(Sakura Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, where the door slams into the bed every time you open it as the room is teeny tiny.)
So next time you meet someone who travels a lot and you are about to exclaim, “I wish I could do that!”, just remember: you can. All you have to do is be willing to give up some of your home comforts and the sense of security that comes from living a stable life. In exchange you’ll get a life full of surprises, exotic foods, colorful cities, tropical beaches, new languages and international friends. Sounds like a fair trade to me!
And if you are ever having trouble falling asleep, I can truly recommend counting beds instead of sheep (as eventually I did fall asleep!). And once you do the math, please let me know what your total is! Do you have me beat?