In 1790, the French writer Xavier de Maistre was sentenced to 42 days in house arrest for dueling. He spent that month and a half basking in the joys of traveling while homebound, and wrote “Voyage Around My Room” to celebrate what a grand journey he took without leaving the four walls of his home.
Traveling while homebound? How timely! Over the next little while, we’ll be doing our damnedest to live a beautiful life even while locked away. So in honor of us all stoking the home fires for the indefinite future, we put together ten of our favorite ways to travel well and give a shit even when you can’t really leave your room (along with the far-flung location we learned them in)– some little survival tips for the tuckered soul.
My entire life I’ve been an early riser. That first sliver of light peeks through the curtains and I’m up with it. Early mornings, without any noise from the outside world, I’m left with the frankness of my own being. A good morning is when I’m able to sink into that first moment of calm instead of reaching for my phone on my nightstand which seems to always be on max brightness.
This past week, with the endless news that feels impossible to look away from, has made good mornings harder to create.
Laura and I have been rifling through our mental library of travel stories to entertain each other during our isolation. Sheltering in place means no plane tickets or road trips to far flung places, and we’re stuck traveling only as far as our own minds can take us. We’ve reminisced about Japan’s snowy mountaintop ryokans, the chill of the first autumn winds in Provence, and how damn good that first bowl of cacio e pepe was when she was 3 months pregnant and starving in Rome. Especially now, travel is not something we will ever take for granted. Remember when we could just buy a plane ticket and go anywhere? Those were good days.
Last summer, Laura, Misa, and I took the three-hour road trip from New York City and wearily arrived at the Inn at Kenmore Hall, a boutique hotel set on 20 acres in the Berkshires in a house built in 1792. It still boasts original details, like ancient sloping floorboards and ornate woodwork, but with modern comforts like radiant bathroom floors and plenty of Aesop body balm. The owner Frank, a Dutchman clad in vintage workwear, calmly welcomed us, invited us to pour anything we’d like off the bar cart, and then built a fire in the imposingly large fireplace. “Make yourselves at home,” he told us. “There’s a fresh loaf in the kitchen and some local butter.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “hospitality is a little fire, a little food, and an immense quiet.” Given that definition, the Inn couldn’t have felt more hospitable.
The following morning, I woke up early to the mist hovering above the rolling hills of the Berkshires. I made my way downstairs in the dim morning light and found a single candle lit at the breakfast table. “Coffee will be ready in just a moment,” Frank said from the kitchen. Candles, too often reserved solely for nighttime use, make the greatest morning accessory. Since that day, I’ve sought for the first light I see each morning not to be the glow of my smartphone, but rather the gentle flicker of a candle.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t quarantined with a kindly dutchman to help set the tone for our days in isolation. We can, however, still be hospitable to our own souls. So before you get to a little coffee in these strange mornings, listen to Emerson and start with a little fire.
Light a candle in the early morning light and allow the immense quiet to ease your mind during these uncertain times.