Travel & Bringing Home with You

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I travel a lot for work. For the most part, I enjoy this; I get to see new cities, eat different foods, and meet new people. Last year I visited Florida, Georgia, DC, Las Vegas, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee. The rolling hills in Tennessee took my breath away, and I ate like a king in Charleston (which I think is one of the greatest food cities in America). It only took about three days in the south before I was saying y’all–a phrase I would desperately like to import to Boston, and thinking of the pelicans at the beach in Miami still make me smile.

But it can also be hard to spend so much time on the road. Hotel rooms and restaurants can start to feel impersonal after a while, and I find myself craving the comforts of home. Mornings are the hardest, when I miss eating breakfast and drinking tea with crazy bed head and in my oversized flannel pants; breakfast in the hotel restaurant often feels like another moment where you have to be “on,” or at least presentable. And they never have good tea.

As you may have noticed from the pictures I’ve posted to the blog so far–I drink a lot of tea. And I’m picky about it. It’s obviously not popular like coffee in America, so it’s usually not made correctly. (Too many people have been subjected to my mini lecture about the proper ways to make a cup of tea, and I’ll spare you, but the essentials are this: put the tea leaves in before pouring the boiling (not just hot) water in the mug.)

I think it is our Irish heritage, but my family always drank a lot of tea. My nana used to make a cup before dinner each night, and let it cool down throughout the meal, to drink when she was done eating. It was part of the ritual of dinner, just like my grandfather’s mile-a-minute delivery of Grace. Many an afternoon, my aunts and uncles would sit around the kitchen table, drinking tea, and having long conversations. I was often more comfortable with adults than anyone my own age at the time, and I loved lingering at the table with my own cup of tea–which was then more sugar and milk than tea. When I would visit my great aunt, who lived in a beautiful condo outside Harvard Square and always seemed to me the most sophisticated and kind woman, she served her tea in china cups and a real tea pot.

In college, that beautiful, crazy time when all your best friends live just down the hall, I played host by offering everyone a hot cup of tea (made with my contraband electric kettle), and spent many nights reading novels or writing bad poetry and sipping tea. And when my family moved to semi-rural Maine, and our favorite brand of tea was hard to come-by, I would buy it in Boston and bring it home for visits, to much applause and, of course, a quickly-made fresh cup.

In short, a good cup of tea always reminds me of home, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the things I miss the most when I travel. So you can only imagine how pleased I was when a dear friend gave me a cheery mug for my birthday last year, and I found a way to bring this piece of home with me. The mug in question is hard plastic, so I can squeeze it into my suitcase (which I am almost always sitting on to zip shut) without fear of it breaking. Remembering the trusty kettle from college, I bought a smaller version online, and packed it together with a tin of my favorite teas, and now I have an ever-ready kit for having tea on the road. These days my hotel rooms feel a lot more cozy, and I savor my mornings full of bad hair and a quiet cup of tea.

When you travel, do you bring a piece of home with you? Or do you like the adventure of experiencing something totally new?

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