Travel Terrors: There’s A Hotel In My Closet

Vintage Comic Postcard

by Susan Bonifant of Worth Mentioning  

One day long ago, while I was looking for something fun to read, I came upon Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs.” In her description of Tauruses, Linda referred to us as “creatures” who are highly attuned to their senses; drawn to things that look and taste and smell and sound good, and feel nice to the touch. In gracious astrology language, she predicted I would be a “home and hearth” type.

I found Larry, to whom I was as attuned as a person can be without being sewn to him, and we started our family. I became a stay-at-home and hearth mother which, as Linda predicted, was as easy for me as breathing. Eventually I discovered Pottery Barn and we became a catalog. What’s not to love about that?

This is what.

“Home and hearth” also describes a person who is averse to unfamiliar surroundings. In other words, we/they don’t travel unless we/they have to.

I am hotel-challenged. I wake up in the night disoriented and panicky as if I’ve fallen off a cliff. If I can go back to sleep, I wake up moments later and it starts all over again – fall off the cliff, wake up, fall off the cliff – until I reach the somewhat acceptable hour of 4:00 to rise. Then I make coffee and read and wake up Larry. The second night always goes better because I’m too tired to be apprehensive.

This kind of mystifies me. I don’t have a terrifying hotel memory or a scary association with hotels at all. They are just, upon waking suddenly, in every way, unfamiliar. But for me and maybe other home and hearth people who are attuned to their senses, it is the grown-up equivalent of a monster in the closet.

For a long time I was too busy homing and hearthing to travel anyway, so it made no difference. Now, my children have left home and taken my excuses with them. The world just beyond my familiar surroundings feels like a party invitation that I declined while everyone I know is talking about what to wear.

I kind of have to change this, and kind of right now.

I will pause here to mention that this is another kick-ass thing about being fifties. It doesn’t take years to understand things about yourself anymore. When you’re older, you understand things about yourself while you’re walking to the kitchen from the living room. You have to. If you plan to do anything useful with your revelations, you can’t dawdle. I more than kind of like that.

Three things have brought my hotel-issue home, pun intended.

First, I want to make new memories with my friends, and they – all of them – travel.

Second, I will be a certain type of older person some day. I can be the eighty-year-old who is enriched by the unfamiliar or, I can be the eighty-year-old who knows what’s on sale at Pottery Barn, where the phrase “home and hearth” was born.

Third, my friend Kris Lucas, who pleasure-travels far and wide and more often than anyone I know, posted a picture on Facebook recently: she is boarding a Piper which will fly her to the bottom of the Grand Canyon where she will connect with a helicopter which will connect her to a pontoon ride on the Colorado River with Hualapai natives. I look at her her cute wash-and-go blond bob, face caught mid-laugh and little bag which probably holds a change of clothes and essential toiletries. She looks like a celebrity en route to a friend’s private island. There is nothing about this woman that says “I would, except that I’d have to stay in a hotel.”

I want to post a picture like that.

And so, I have made the decision to start traveling. And not sissy-traveling by car, either–I didn’t get over my fear of flying for nothing–but by plane/boat. I’ll do it in stages, backwards. I’ll book a cruise–which combines fear of flying, fear of falling in the ocean, and fear of hotels all in one club sandwich of anxiety. However, because cruises don’t set sail for several decades after the deposit is made, I will have plenty of time to bond with transportable comforts for sudden wake-ups; special music, special pillowcase, special eye mask, etc.

I’m kind of excited. This could kind of work.

We are the same age, Kris and I. She is vastly more knowledgeable about different parts of the world than I am today, and gratefully so, considering how she has inspired me. By the time we hit our late seventies, I’m hoping it might be my photo that inspires a person to pick out an outfit and go to the party.

Because what a party girl I will become, once I lose the eye mask.


  • Sue Bock

    I love that you are challenging yourself. I love to travel and explore and relate it to the history I learned in school (or not). I like seeing the world through another eye, so to speak. Life is full of adventures out there, even in your own backyard. When you fling that eye mask in excitement you’ll see what is out there.


    • sbonifant

      Thank you, Sue. I agree. It’s overwhelming to think of what I’ll discover now that I’m “getting my travel on.”

  • Carpool Goddess

    I enjoy traveling, but hate flying! So the day before I fly is fill with anxiety. I also think I don’t like change, so taking me out of my warm, comfy home seems stressful too.

    • sbonifant

      After 9/11 I stopped flying for four years and only started again when my oldest child had to travel to see colleges. As Chloe pointed out, I wouldn’t have gotten back on the horse if I hadn’t gotten back on the horse. Also, while we can plan the steps toward change, I think actual change is hard to imagine or we’d all have an easier time with it.

  • Julia

    I’m a traveler. I love to travel. The smell of jet fuel excites me and gets my adrenaline pumping. The older I get the more I’d rather stay in a nicer hotel, but I’m still game to go to hostels. The night before I travel I don’t sleep well, but that’s from the excitement!

    • sbonifant

      I see people like you in airports, on trains, in terminals and am always impressed by how casual and upbeat you seem in what can be a stressful environment. Good for you, never lose that drive!

  • Chloe Jeffreys

    My poor husband spent his childhood going on the same vacation every year to Sequoia National Park. Now Sequoia is a nice place, but every year? So after we were married we began to plan our first vacation together and of course he said, “Let’s go to Sequoia!” And of course I said, “But you’ve already been there.”

    And thus began our journey in traveling.

    Four years ago I told him we were going to Europe. He laughed at me. Two weeks later I bought the tickets to Rome. He stopped laughing. But we went and had a great time. Two years later he took me to Paris. And before our plane landed back in the States he was talking about our next trip, to Barcelona we hope to do in 2014.

    The only way to do it is to start doing it.

    The best thing for me is to figure out what I need to feel at home. For me it is tea in the morning. I need to start my morning off with a hot cup of tea to feel truly at peace. So I carry a small tea supply with me whenever I travel. Somehow that little thing makes a world of difference.

    Likely there is one thing like that for you. Maybe it’s a soft blanket, or your favorite cup. Something that reminds you that your home is wherever you are.

    I do believe that we can, and should, make ourselves have new adventures throughout our entire lives. It’s the only way to keep growing. You might not have a taste for hotels today, but I believe you can develop a taste for them over time and experience. Good luck! I can’t wait to see your pictures of your wild adventures to come.

    • sbonifant

      I admire your initiative and I’ll bet your husband appreciated it. Also, I love what you said about select (and transportable) comforts, I have and need those too. Truthfully, we all should have something that is a little bit hard to do, but which, when we do it anyway,makes the outcome even better. Thanks for the encouraging words.

  • Mary Anne

    I love traveling-hate hotels but that’s the only way to stay when you travel. My idea of camping is a hotel with a door to the outside LOL

    • sbonifant

      Camping! Camping would present new, wild-animal phobias so that isn’t even on the list. But I’d like to have a growing list of favorite places I’ve stayed.

  • Anne Parris

    I love to travel, but it makes me so tired. Like Haralee said, it takes a day to recover.

    • sbonifant

      When I was dating my husband I flew every other weekend to see him and had NONE of these problems. But, um, I guess that was different.

  • Haralee

    I used to travel for business 40+ weeks a year. Me and All my other road warriors would say the same thing. Don’t sleep well the first night, great the second!

    • sbonifant

      I’ve found myself booking at least two night stays when I have to travel for exactly that reason. Then on the third day when I’m lovely again I always wonder if I should have stayed longer.

  • SharonGreenthal

    I like to travel, but I don’t like the work involved. I love to see new places, but hate the process of getting to them. I have to be comfortable, so I don’t like to travel on the cheap. Hence, I don’t travel much. Ah well.

    • sbonifant

      I flew to Cleveland and back last week to help with my daughter’s wedding planning. Once I was there, and made it through a few hours of sleep the first night, I realized how little I really need to be comfortable…coffee in the morning, wi-fi, etc. But you said it – the prep, the airport, the cabs, the unknown vs. the familiar. All part of the curve.

  • lisaweldon

    You need to share a little of that travel phobia with me. I have the opposite problem…never wanting to stay at home.

    • sbonifant

      With any luck, that will be me in the near future. Today, visualizing. Tomorrow, actualizing. Right? Right?

  • denisedanchesfisher

    Join the club…I have turned down more great jobs because I do not travel well. I have traveled, and usually make it a BIG trip because it takes a whole lot to get me going. Once I go, I am thrilled about being on an adventure. However, I don’t do well on my own, and having to travel for business, I guess it is just a travel phobia, plain and simple. I envy people who can get up and just go, no anxiety, no worries, just ‘do it.’

    It aint me babe..

    • sbonifant

      Travel phobia! I suppose if we must have a phobia, that’s better than many. Like you, I envy people who “dash off” on “little getaways”, with 24 hours notice and not the slightest hint of a tummy ache. I have it narrowed down to waking on the first night and I’m getting a tiny bit better. This time next year, I hope to be talking about how I used to be. Good luck!!!

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