A home away from home

Over the past 15 months I spent in Australia, I have lived in 7 different places.  Aside from the working hostel, those were all sharehouses in which I lived a thoroughly non-backpackery existence.  I'm the kind of person who likes to surround themself with personalised touches, but if you're only living in a place for a few months, it can be difficult to justify spending money on settling in.  However, if you've got the opportunity to unpack and not live out of a bag for a while, there are ways to settle in without spending too much.

Buy multi-purpose souvenirs.  If you're concerned about not acquiring too much stuff it can be difficult to justify more bulky items, so look for things that have more than one use.  My favourite is a blanket I picked up in Bali, where the market items are so cheap you could easily fill a second bag, but it's more than just an impulsive holiday purchase.  The print is a typical traditional Indonesian ikat design, and I've used it as a beach towel, bed throw, picnic rug and much more.

Burn incense or scented candles.  The sense of smell is one of the most powerful for invoking memories - incense always reminds me of my mother, and this particular blend smells like Indonesia too me, the perfect combination of home and away.  Scented candles are a good alternative because there are a thousand variants so you're bound to find something that creates the right energy for you.

Plants brighten the atmosphere as well as bringing a little bit of the outside in if you're feeling cooped up.  You can pick up posies for cheap at grocery stores and markets, or florists if you want to spend a little extra for something special.  Or, if the idea of having flowers that die and need to be replaced is too much effort for you, succulents are a great low-maintenance alternative.

Print photos.  They don't take up much space in your bag and as well as being room decor, they remind you of where you came from and where you've travelled so far.  If you're not into scrapbooking add ticket stubs, brochures to excursions you've been on, certificates etc, and create a collage of your trip so far.

Sometimes the perfect house comes with an unfurnished room but you don't want to spend a lot of money.  There are ways of getting round this.  In Australia particularly there appear to be a plethora of milk crates outside every establishment - over the past year I've used these as bedside tables, bookcases or chest of drawers, even support for a mattress.  You can pick up furniture for cheap or even free from Gumtree (or Craiglist in the states), and of course there's stuff on the streets too.  Lastly of course there's good old Kmart - in the US I bought a full-length mirror for $5, and here my clothing rack cost $12, the coat hangers $2 for 12.

A temporary living situation can be a difficult thing to justify expenditure, but for someone like me who has an evening job and often works from home during the day, putting a little effort into your surroundings pays off.  Even furnishing a room can seem daunting, but you can always sell your furniture to the next occupant.  It's the unfortunate truth of long-term travelling that we don't always get to stay in beachfront huts in tropical paradise, so at least make yourself comfortable until you get to jet off again.

1 comment:

  1. Great little tips :) I find making somewhere feel homely so hard, I'm a huge lover of photos and plants too- nothing makes a house feel like home quite like a collection of pot plants!