Comfort in Travel

What is probably the largest, nearly invisible factor in our choice about Travel? Comfort, yes, comfort, the unsung slayer of rich experience, chance encounters, and other life giving adventures. I suggest that where we travel, how we travel, when, with whom, where we stay, what we do each day, what we eat etc. are all determined in part or wholly by the level of comfort or discomfort that each action will provide for or inflict on our bodies and emotions.

Back Road Breakdown in Sumba

When I want to be comfortable, there’s no place like home. It’s designed for comfort, as it should be. On the road, however, it’s different. Whenever I can, I curb my desire for comfort, which would otherwise overrule the possible rewards of small and large adventures and other incursions into the unknown. If an unknown path means I will be hot and sticky for longer than I would like, oh well. I may get home late and miss my nap and dinner – really, it’s OK. That wedding celebration in the village down the road that I was by chance invited to, was worth it. It is actually the fear of being uncomfortable that drives us rather than the actual discomfort.

I see that an inverse relationship exists between staying comfortable and experiencing meaningful travel, just as I think there’s an inverse relationship between comfort and growth, comfort and adventure, comfort and learning more about ourselves, comfort and aliveness. The more comfort (or fear of discomfort) the less fun, growth, chance meetings, great memories. The older I get, the more the inclination there is to choose comfort and the more vigilant I must be in choosing what I do. I remind myself to choose the unknown. The known is comfortable, (hotel room, villa etc.). Home is comfortable. Choose adventure, not the hotel pool and bar.

Tradtional Sumba Bamboo House Downstairs

Don’t misunderstand — I take comfort where I can get it. I love a great mattress as much as or more than the next guy, and I want to return home enlivened not exhausted. I just don’t want what informs my choices in travel to be about my ultimate comfort. I want my choices to be about experiencing life and the lives of other and the quest for all manner of beauty. Five stars aren’t in any way bad, they just tend to separate us from the lions share of the life, culture and people we are visiting. If I’m offered a cot with a family in a remote village for a night, I hope I’ll be smart enough to choose that over the Hyatt. What do I want to be ruled by, another night in a comfy hotel that I’ll forget before I get home, or sharing the home and food and family life of a Nias tribesman that I will remember and share for a lifetime? The quest for comfort kills countless possibilities.


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Having journeyed to the Far East and Asia over 20 times in the past 20 years, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by the ingenuity, craftsmanship, balance and human spirit that have gone into the making of those works I have seen and collected.

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