How To Make A Home Away From Home With Your Personal WoCave.
Last month I announced that I was partnering with Skinny Cow to promote women’s empowerment – in the form of WoCave travel missions throughout the summer.
I received my final Skinny Cow box last week and sadly the project is almost done – what a bummer! However, this box may have been the best one yet – in it was a fun purple ottoman and inside that there were even more items including Beats By Dre headphones, a world traveler infinity scarf, jewelery travel clutch, a travel candle and a travel picture frame that doubles as a clock!
All of these items were leading up to my third secret travel mission for Skinny Cow, which was a perfect one for me since it’s something I have a lot of experience with:
How To Create A Traveling WoCave
aka… How To Make A Home Away From Home.
A WoCave is Skinny Cow’s female version of a ‘man cave’, basically I call it “My Happy Place”. If you have a hammock on your back porch that you read books on that could be a WoCave, if you have room for your favorite hobbies (scrap booking supplies or video game consoles, magazines, musical instruments, etc.) that could be your WoCave. If you love beer and brew in your garage that could be your WoCave. Whatever is it in or wherever it is located, it should symbolize YOU, help you relax and be a place where you feel like yourself in all ways.
This last mission of creating a traveling WoCave is an interesting one for me and has been a work in progress for several years.
When we first started traveling I was obsessed with paring down – unless an item was a true essential it had to go, because we would be carrying everything on our backs. There were a variety of steps we took to become even more minimalistic before we even started traveling. We sold most of our stuff and moved into a 350′ apartment. Then we sold even more of our belongings and moved onto a 27′ sailboat for a year.
Living on the boat was fabulous and we both loved it. Had we never left San Diego to see the world, I am sure we would be there now.
People were shocked that we enjoyed it so much. “Twenty seven feet? Really? Two people and a dog? That is really small, how do you stand it?” These were common question asked by our friends and family – however their faces always changed as we gave our replies: “Well each night the ocean lulls us into the deepest and most replenishing sleep, then each morning we wake up, open up the hatch and sit on our floating patio where we watch the buzz of life on the ocean, feed the ducks and drink coffee. Then we go for a run around the harbor. During the day we work in a sun filled cabin on our foldaway table/desk. For dinner we grill, cook on our hot plates, bake in the toaster or heat up items in the microwave. At night we watch TV on our laptops, listen to music as we work or meet friends out for drinks and dinner.”
Each day was relaxing and sun filled but it was my clencher which impressed people the most:
“It only takes 15 minutes a week to clean the boat.”
People loved this idea and I could see their faces change as they mentally added up all of the time they spent cleaning then thought about what they would do with that time if it was suddenly theirs again. I could completely relate because I hate cleaning and see it as a giant waste of time, yet it’s one of the evil necessities of life.
On the boat, cleaning was awesome. We would spend maybe 15 minutes a week and the boat would be stunning – cleaned, organized and gleaming from top to bottom – floors washed, dishes done, bathroom cleaned, bed made, patio sprayed down and pillows arranged into the most comfortable way possible. A large reason it was so easy to clean was simply because there wasn’t much to it. We had enough dishes, utensils and cups to live and entertain a few friends with, there were some books that we actually read, just enough clothes to fill a small closet, a couple pairs of shoes, Chachy’s dog bed, a couple plants and just enough bathroom essentials to keep you clean and smelling pretty. We hung fresh fruits, veggies and snacks in cargo nets. There was no TV, no furniture and virtually no clutter. Everything aboard had a purpose, usually a dual purpose and it’s own place because on a boat you have to be able to tie things down or secure them in someway. It’s amazing how free you feel when you have no extra clutter to look at or to clean.
It’s stunningly simple and beautiful to live on a boat.
I highly recommend that everyone do it at least once in their life. It’s a great way to prioritize what really matters in your life. “Stuff” literally just becomes time sucking, useless junk and you begin to feel a little sorry for people who cling to their belongings like a life raft because you know that’s actually what’s drowning them in the first place.
After our new found freedom of boat life, we knew it was going to be easy to live out of a backpack. It was still hard choosing what would be the staples of my life on the road but after a few days of packing/unpacking/repacking I had filled up my backpack with the bare essentials.
We bought our tickets to Iceland. We sold the boat on Craigslist. I cried. Then it was time to hit the road for good.
And we were right, it was easy. It was exhilarating to have even less possessions to care about. Aside from family, friends and Chachy we literally had everything we needed to live in two backpacks, including a tent and 2 small camping mattresses.
We owned so little but felt like we had it all – the world was ours!
That was three years ago.
As time has gone on I’ve noticed that try as I might there are a series of small, yet non-essential items that continually find a home in my luggage. The more time I spend on the road, the more important these tiny items become – so much that at times I would give up an extra sweater or pair of pants just to find the space to bring them. This is a common thing I’ve discovered among travelers because you realize over time that these little tiny icons of your life mean a lot. They are the totems that can transport you home just when you need a reminder and they can make your life on the road just a tad more luxurious than normal. I’ve discovered over time that when you travel to a foreign land it’s important that when you at least feel like yourself and the ability to pamper yourself just a bit here and there becomes a bit of a necessity in order to stay sane.
It turns out that even when I’m leaving everything else behind I always end up creating ‘my space’ or my own WoCave on the road!
I guess I have been doing this for a while and in actuality it probably started on the boat. I just never really thought consciously about it or had a term for it. In fact, when I think about it, I realize that it even extends beyond my backpack because there are certain things I look for in our accommodations that actually help keep me centered and make me feel at home. For instance, whenever we travel I always search online to see if we can stay on a houseboat or a sailboat instead of a hostel or apartment. I’ve only had luck once, at this houseboat in Amsterdam, but I still continue to look for these places that add just a little bit of extra comfort.
Creating a home away from home is something that happens naturally, even if you’re only out of town for a week. As humans we crave the familiar and in a way we thrive upon it. So whether you are a full time traveler or a one week road warrior, I have some great tips for helping to create your home away from home – a traveling WoCave that won’t take up a lot of space in your luggage and will make your life on the road just a bit easier.
So without further ado, here are the little non-essentials that I bring with me when I travel – the tiny gems that I carry around the world in my traveling WoCave!
Obviously most clothing is essential but there are some things I bring with me when we travel for the strict purpose of my own comfort:
I usually have 2 of these. One I keeped wrapped around my camera strap, the other tied to my day bag. They are great to have for a picnic, covering my camera if it rains or for just pulling my hair back. I love wearing bandanas and among the million other things they are good for, they can be a really easy way to change up your look.
Fluffy Socks or Slippers
Yes, I am that weirdo that brings slippers when I travel, especially if we are traveling in cold areas and for months on end. Why? After a long day of sightseeing I dream about taking off my hiking shoes and putting on a pair of slippers or fluffy socks. My feet never get cold and I never have to walk barefoot on the floor. My feet love me! You should try it, it’s amazing the difference a small pair of slippers makes when you are traveling.
I honestly could not travel without a scarf, from wrapping it around my neck to keep me warm, using it over my head on a crowded train to get away from the world or simply to make my outfit look like I haven’t been living out of a bag for months on end, I never leave home without a pretty, colorful scarf. I even converted Randy and he now travels with a scarf too. The one that Skinny Cow gave me is perfect because I love infinity scarves and it’s made out of a map pattern. I love it!
I’m kind of an earring hoarder and I have a hard time just bringing one pair when we travel. I gave up on that idea on our first trip when I brought at least 6 pairs and I wore them all. Over time I’ve learned that I love wearing brightly colored ones when we travel to liven up my clothes with some personality. Instead of trying to cut down on my traveling earring collection I’ve learned to appreciate it and I always look for a new pair of earrings to add to the mix when we travel.
2. A Good Night’s Sleep
Having a solid sleep should never be over rated when traveling. Here’s a couple things to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep, which ultimately will help keep you healthy on the road:
Silk Sleep Sheet
Honestly, I am addicted to my silk sleep sheet. We first bought these when we were camping through Europe because they really do add a layer of warmth to your sleeping bag. We became obsessed with our silk sleep sheets on that first trip and now bring them with us everywhere. For instance, even when packing for a week in the Maldives we brought one. Some travelers don’t use them at all and I can’t understand it. They keep you warm, weigh nothing and more importantly they really help you feel like you can sleep without worries. Mine has a built in slot for a pillow and the silk supposedly keeps bugs away. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but I don’t care. When I have it I feel like I can strip all the blankets off a slummy hotel bed and still get a good night’s sleep. We’ve had to do this more than a few times. Like my slippers I look forward to being in my sleep sheet each night – it’s totally relaxing and feels like I have my own little sleeping spot, even in a crowded hostel dorm room. I would never travel without this little guy and it is definitely part of my traveling WoCave. If you’re on the fence about getting one, I highly recommend it because they are fabulous.
Small Blow Up Pillow
Have you ever checked in somewhere only to find a hair on what is supposed to be your new, clean pillow? I definitely have and nothing grosses me out more. I get the creepy crawlies just thinking about it. That’s why I love my little blow up pillow. To be honest, I only really blow it up for use on an airplane or on a train – in a hotel/hostel room I simply stuff it with some of my clothes and then I have a nice little, comfy pillow with no hairs on it but my own! Bliss.
3. To Remind Myself I Am A Girl
In the beginning I contemplated traveling without make up. I could save some space and weight in my bag so why not? Some girls can do this and look great waking up out of bed looking perfect. Not me. I look like a sasquatch coming out of a deep winter slumber and even though I don’t wear make up every day, it’s nice to know I can actually dress myself up a bit for travel photos or just for wandering around. Here’s a couple small things I don’t even want to admit that I travel with but I do:
This sounds strange coming from a girl who never actually paints her nails! But I do paint my toe nails – all the time! There’s something about looking down and seeing pretty toe nails in my flip flops that I love. It makes me feel like a girl without being overly girly because yes, I was that 9 year old self proclaimed tomboy who hated ballet and instead rode motorbikes and made mud pies. A little toe nail polish can go a long way in feeling good about yourself, especially when you haven’t done laundry in a month.
Aroamas Perfume Sticks
This is a new item for me and for the world really because this fun product was just launched this year and I am already in love with them. TSA friendly so I don’t have to put them in my liquids bag and they smell great! They come in a ton of fun, location based, scents and it’s just enough to give a nice whiff to your daily travel routine. I have concluded that a little Aroamas perfume and some nicely painted toes can really make up for wearing the same shirt 5 days in a row.
Mini Hair Straightener
It’s almost hard for me to admit this. I used to pride myself on having fantastic hair that required zero maintenance and I did – a decade ago I could wake up and have awesome hair without trying. Then I got thyroid cancer and my hair decided to take on a life of it’s own. It’s much better now than it was even a couple years ago but I’ve discovered that sometimes if I spend a little bit of time, it can look even better. I’ve never been one to spend hours working on my hair and this little gem can make my hair cute almost instantly. It’s become more important as we work more on the road – you never know who you will meet or what type of function you will get invited to. Just make sure you invest in one that can handle foreign voltage or bring a converter with you.
4. Relax Me
Everyone has their relaxation techniques. Between working, taking photos and trying to see the sites I feel like I have very little down time on the road but I still have 2 go-to items that I bring with me on every trip.
A paperback book (or two)
I refuse to buy a Nook. I spend so much time either on my laptop writing or editing photos that I flat out refuse to read on an electronic gadget. I don’t care what the extra weight of a book is I will just deal with it. My eyes need a break and I love flipping real pages – dog earring where I’ve left off, making notes and underlining things I like. I know you can do all those things electronically but I don’t want to. I choose to stay analog when it comes to my reading. Even though I’m not religious I always bring The Gospel of Mary Magdalene with me whenever I travel. I like it because I can pick it up and just read any section at any time. I also find that it’s a book that really makes me think about things with a different perspective and it’s a nice reminder that we are all connected in the world. Also my cousin Sarah gave it to me and inscribed the front of it so I think of her when I see it. I also bring (or buy along the way) a small novel that I can read. Travel stories are the best since they really help me to write and think creatively.
Logic puzzles are like my crossword crack. I feel like I am (hopefully) expanding my brain when I do logic puzzles so I always bring a small book of them with me. They also help relieve stress because they force me to think about other things. They make the perfect in transport activity – on a bus, train or plane all I need is a pen and no one ever wants to steal a logic puzzle book!
5. The Electronics Fun Bag
I suppose you could say that my camera and laptop are non-essentials but for me they are a fact of my traveling life so I am leaving them off this list. There are however a couple other electronics that I opt to carry around with me:
My Memory Lane SD Card
Being a photographer, I have a ton of memory cards with me when I travel. But I also have a special one that I always take with me. This card has a random assortment of photos from home on it – my sister’s birthdays, Chachy, my Auntie Toni’s 90th birthday party, Christmas and random pics of friends and events. There is also a collection of photos from different places we have been like Spain, Morocco, Guatemala and Italy. I don’t know which card it is but it’s like a little gift to myself when I find it. I could be shooting something else while we are traveling and then as I review the photos on the LCD screen I might find a surprise photo of Chachy wearing a hat or my Auntie Adele making pasta. It never fails to bring a smile to my face and it’s a nice way to have photos from home without having to actually carry them. Sometimes I will find myself on a train just looking through these photos on my camera and now I always leave a couple images from our current trip on the card to add to collection.
Because we have an Iphone the Ipod is really not essential but I love it and bring it with me all the time. Beyond our social media accounts, it has games on it, my playlists and a ton of podcasts. Perfect for zoning out in noisy places, exercising on the road, falling asleep quickly (I can never make it through more than 15 minutes of a podcast without falling asleep) or entertaining myself. Plus having the right playlist at the right time when you travel is priceless – sometimes you need some sad tracks if feeling homesick, other times you need something exciting if you’re getting ready to go out for the night.
Beats By Dre
Thanks to Skinny Cow these are a new addition to my traveling non-essential arsenal. I was PSYCHED when I saw them in the box because I have been wanting a pair for a long time. What really cemented it for me was on our 35 hour flight to the Maldives I realized just how loud the plane was. I had my little earbuds in and cranked up almost all the way just to watch the movie and the engine sound was still almost deafening. I really started wishing for a pair of good headphones at that point and now I have them! Plus these are travel specific so they actually fold up nice and small – yah! I am super excited to start traveling with these because they are extremely good at blocking out other sounds and will be perfect for planes, trains and hostels! Thank you so much Skinny Cow for such an intuitive gift!
This goes without saying. There is no home away from home without Skype. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to travel without being able to Skype my family and check in on them. I would be much more anxious without a little face to face time. Plus, I get to show them exactly where we are which is always a good time. In Florence, I took my parents and sister Kate on a walking tour of the city using Skype on our phone – it was so much fun!
It seems more and more I bring along little snacks with us when we travel. It just really nice to know that even in a foreign country I will have a little bit of food with us from home. Also, if you get sick in another country sometimes all you want is a little bit of food that you know won’t make you ill. I think my horrible food poisoning in Morocco really made me realize how important this is.
In my round up I usually bring:
Apples & Almonds
Although these both give me a bit of anxiety going through customs, I still bring them with me and they are great for plane rides!
They weigh nothing, with a little water you can eat them cold if you need to and they will fill you up. These were more of a necessity in our camping days and now I just feel like something is missing if I don’t have a couple packages with me.
Via Coffee Packs
Just like the oatmeal, the weigh nothing but are so nice to have for a few reasons. 1. You might be worried what kind of water the coffee was made with where you are. 2. The coffee might be terrible. 3. The coffee might just be really kind of expensive or 4. The coffee is just really different from that of ours at home. Case in point for number 4 – Italy. Italian coffee is fantastic but after a couple months in Italy you might just start to crave a regular Americano coffee, which is almost impossible to find. Knowing you can have a cup of coffee that is made just the way you like really can’t be overstated. If you’ve ever found yourself spending an entire day just trying to find a classic Cup ‘O Joe on the road you know exactly what I mean. Plus you can’t really relax in your WoCave without a good cup of coffee can you?
Because I am a vegetarian I love having a few of these in my bag. If given the choice, I will never eat them because I don’t really like them that much, but I have found myself in situations where people don’t even know what being a vegetarian means. Or if they think they do, they will bring you a plate of fish or chicken. Instead of going into a full crazy-hungry-person frenzy and lashing out Randy or anyone else in a 10 mile radius I can just eat a Cliff Bar and bam, problem solved! Not truly an essential but definitely something I would carry with me in my traveling WoCave to avoid turning into a hungry lunatic.
These are all of my little extras that make up my WoCave when I travel. All I need is a boat to house sit or an apartment with a nice garden patio and I’m home no matter where I am!
I hope these give you some good ideas to create your own WoCave when you hit the road. I’m sure many of you already have your special items that you bring with you and I would love to hear about them.
How do you create your WoCave? What little travel must have’s do you bring with you when you hit the road that remind you of home or make you happy?
Thank you all for supporting my WoCave missions with Skinny Cow. It’s thanks to their generosity that I was able to write these stories, so thank you so much for traveling along with me and reading about my adventures! It’s because of all you awesome readers that we can do these fun projects!
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!