For want of a better claim to fame, hotels often style themselves as “your home away from home.” Sometimes they are, sometimes not so much. People whose home decor includes an oil painting of a stag over the sofa in the living room will feel like a fish out of water in a designer hotel. The opposite is also true, of course. “Home” is defined very differently in different cultures, too. In Japan, people feel at home surrounded by clean lines, whereas in India, they prefer rounded shapes, clutter and lots of color. What about me? Where do I feel most at home away from home? Let me put it this way: If a tent was home to the caravan traveler, then the modern nomad’s home must be the bathrobe. My extra-large, shabby, terrycloth, blue-and-white striped Belle Maison robe that accompanies me everywhere is like a second skin that ages well. Gemütlichkeit is the result – a comfortable coziness created by the ravages of time. Hotel bathrobes just don’t cut it, no matter how fluffy they are (and usually they’re not). I can never help asking myself who else has worn the bathrobe before me – and what did they do while wearing it? What is the fabric’s karma?
Every one of these questions just adds to my discomfort, so I have given up asking them. My Belle Maison and I will be together until the end of time. Just three days ago, in Portugal, I unpacked it, slipped it on and gazed out at the agaves, listening to the surf, a cool beer in my hand. I wasn’t there for pleasure; I’d had a busy day. But my very own “home away from home” once again proved to be all that was needed to make me feel that was precisely where I was.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.