For most people, the office or work site is a "home away from home" – a comfortable environment that is decorated to reflect one’s identity. But what of those itinerant souls for whom "office" means a series of hotels, airports, train rides, and temporary spaces across around the globe?
When asked how they preserve a sense of stability and home while living out of a suitcase, seasoned travelers* volunteered their expertise. If your work takes you on the road, make yourself "at home" with the following tips:
· Carry at least one item that brings comfort – it can be small, a photo or something symbolic of home, stability, and permanence.
· Bring a candle in a can – they help clean the stale air of hotel rooms. And the familiar scent is a subtle but profound reminder of home.
· Never leave home without a snack bag containing your own healthy favourites. Road food is notoriously unpredictable, causing travelers to overeat or make poor choices.
· Use technology to pack the things that provide continuity both in work and personal terms. An almost weightless CD allows you to carry the contents of a photo album, a shelf of music, or a drawer of documents.
· Try to find a stress-free way to be in touch with loved ones. Communication can become "pinched" if you are calling on the fly or if you run out of coins in the middle of an "I love you."
· Replicate "at home" rituals even when on the road; flight attendant Vanessa Joe says that she and members of the flight crew celebrate birthdays with potlucks and cakes baked on board (once the passengers are settled and watching the movie, of course).
· Create routine out of non-routine. For example, always pack in the same manner (tickets in the same place, similar items of clothing, etc.). We are creatures of habit and establishing a routine alleviates the upheaval of constant travel. In a way, the essence of "home" is being able to go "on automatic" and not having to think about every action.
· Try to book the same hotel if you’re on a circuit. It’s incredibly comforting when staff members recognize you by name and remember how you like your coffee.
· Join an international service organization. Shelley Serdahely, who raises money to support older women returning to education, finds the familiar rituals of these groups very welcoming on a road trip.
· Build in some personal time, especially if your travel entails public speaking and professional socializing. When the "smile" muscles get tired, it’s time for a time-out. Retreat to your hotel room for a hot bath or Chinese take-out in front of the TV.
Finally, vive la difference! No matter how many tips you acquire or how acclimated to travel you get, you really aren’t at home; so, instead of dwelling on the lack of familiarity, enjoy the novelty and change of scene. A lot of people stuck to their desks would give anything to trade places with you!
* Many thanks to Keith Woodend (retired Overseas Relief Worker), Vanessa Joe (Flight attendant, Delta Airlines), Shelley Serdahely (Executive Director, The Jeannette Rankin Foundation), and Eddie (Communications Consultant).