This unpaved road in Lesotho near the Orange River was actually the smoothest part. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

If I Want The Comforts of Home, I Will Stay at Home.

I often see articles pertaining to aspirational travel from other authors in the travel weblog space; and many of them profess about how you can travel in comfort for free — or for very little cost — often with the goal of hawking credit cards to readers.

If I Want The Comforts of Home, I Will Stay at Home.

Tent camp site Kenya bed
This bed was in a covered tent at a camp site in Kenya. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Unless you happen to be a travel nomad, home is the base — the foundation — of where you are located. You purchase furniture of your choosing to ensure that your home is as comfortable as possible — and let’s face it: when was the last time you had a travel experience which was actually more comfortable than your home?

If you say “yesterday”, well — excellent for you — but how often do you really experience that phenomenon?

Do not get me wrong: traveling in a premium cabin aboard an airplane, staying in a spacious suite at your destination, and driving around in a luxury car all sound quite appealing; and not only would I not refuse the opportunity if presented to me, but I believe everyone should have the opportunity to try that at least once — even if it means splurging…

…but unless it is ridiculously ostentatious, does that really become a good travel story?

Traffic in Cairo
Traffic in Cairo. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I have sat as a passenger in a white van as a bush taxi in Côte d’Ivoire for more than an hour on bumpy unpaved roads through jungles to get from places such as Bouaké to Korhogo, sweaty hot and hungry. I have fended off mosquitoes while sleeping in a covered tent in Kenya. I have driven in Lesotho on unpaved roads in a vehicle equipped with two-wheel drive on a “doughnut”, climbing over boulders and through ruts next to cliffs with no guard rail, wondering if I can beat the sun so that I would not be driving in a pitch-black night during a possible thunderstorm.

Over the years, I have slept on airport floors and benches overnight; was forced to use a rental car as a hotel room; fought clogged traffic in Mozambique; had people try to swindle me — unsuccessfully most of the time, thankfully, such as with a toll collector in Morocco; experienced some of the craziest driving experiences of my life in Egypt; walked from an airport to head downtown into a city; and actually found a bone in my shrimp while dining in some hole-in-the-wall pseudo restaurant.

Please do not ask me to explain that last one, as I know that makes no sense and I have no idea how that happened — nor the time when I found a piece of the shell of an egg in my fried potatoes.

There was a moment during each one of those times where I wished I was at home in my comfortable chair, in my climate-controlled home, with fresh drinking water at my disposal and relaxing — but I also realized each time that I was in the middle of an adventure unique to me. I was not whiling away the hours watching actors portray these scenarios via television. This was real life, with no idea of the exact final outcome, as the “story was being written” in real time as it was happening…

MozGuest Residence Maputo Mozambique
Room in Maputo. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…and guess what? I survived. I do not have a problem sitting in a seat in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane for 15 consecutive hours. I have no problem sleeping in a room with little more than a basic bed — as long as it is reasonably comfortable and I am not disturbed. I had no problem riding as a passenger in a Jeepney in the Philippines instead of a limousine.

The best part is that I have great stories to tell — stories with memories which will last me a lifetime — and photographs to accompany them, in most cases…

…and there have been times where I have been pleasantly surprised — such as the hotel employee who went out of his way to get me on my way from Luxor back to Hurghada; and even filled the tank of my rental car with fuel. There was the police officer in Manila who paid for my Jeepney ride. There was the crowd who helped to calm down a man who grabbed me by the arm and would not let go — while screaming at me in a local dialect which I did not understand at all — at an open air market in Abidjan. There was the man behind the front desk of a hotel in Nicosia who let me check in at 3:00 in the morning at no additional charge even though I was not scheduled to check in until 12 hours later; and he even invited me to partake in an extra breakfast.


Flat tire
Flat tire in South Africa. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

As I originally wrote in this article, travel is disruptive by nature. Its purpose never was to have you feel like you are at home — in fact, quite the opposite: the main reason to travel is to experience what is either not possible or not probable at home. It is eating food, indulging in cultures, meeting people, and sleeping in places — all of which are so unlike home that it creates a memorable experience that simply no other conveyance of knowledge or entertainment can offer. I would even purport that the discomfort of travel has the traveler ultimately appreciate more of what life has to offer and contributes to opening one’s mind more to the differences which exist in the world.

I am not suggesting that you should purposely go out of your way to create a negative travel experience for yourself. Do not worry: travel enough and one will come in due time — usually when you least expect it.

Some people are content to just stay at home and lay down, watching hours worth of movies and television programs while relaxing on their comfortable couch or bed. While there is nothing wrong with doing that occasionally, that is not for me.

I would rather be traveling; and while sleeping in a suite or being upgraded aboard an airplane is always welcomed, I have done that before and do not need it to truly enjoy exploring corners of the world with which I am still unfamiliar…

…and although the examples I imparted to you in this article are only a minuscule fraction of all of my travel experiences, the entire “book” has not yet been written, as I have many more stories in my future to add as I continue to travel…

This unpaved road in Lesotho near the Orange River was actually the smoothest part of the drive towards Sani Pass. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Good article. Thanks.
    I once told a person about my accommodations in a certain hotel and how great it was….and he very quickly told me his bedroom at home is ten times better than ANY hotel room. Though, he was a millionaire!
    I once told a relative in Central Europe about what I paid for a hotel room in Bratislava….<$100. He was astounded. He stared at me and asked, “Did you enjoy the room while you were asleep?” And he added, I hope you slept good!
    So it all depends.p
    The best hotel room I was ever in was in a Sheraton in Zagreb. The bed was perfect. The room was exceedingly private and quiet. My wife and I enjoyed the stay. Very attentive care at the breakfast buffet.
    I don’t understand how some call a room with antiques a gem. Antiques are someone else’s old furniture that they didn’t want. And now you and the former 10,000 people prior can enjoy the “antiques.”
    $775.00 a night for this? But, hey…to each his own. Different people like different things.
    Sheraton knows how to set a table and how to maximize the comfort of a hotel room. This new fad with TRU and all these wild red, green colors in hotels and being “hip” is nonsense. But, as I said, some people like that.
    Cie la vie?

  2. I think a lot depends on age and physical fitness. As an older woman with a very bad back and other limitations, I stick with comfort and safety. I also prefer luxury when available, but my travel is about 50/50 super lux and Sheraton serviceable. My husband used to say I considered it “roughing it” if they put a domestic chocolate on my pillow. A slight exaggeration, but not too far off.

    Even when I was young and fit I preferred comfort to any “experience” no matter how exciting. Many of us like travel but are not interested in “experiencing the culture” in it’s roughest form. But, I agree with the previous comment — to each his own. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

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