Extended trips to a hospital suck. Here’s what you can do to make it more comfortable.

I recently returned from a long trip to Mayo Clinic. It was successful and I learned a lot — including a bit about self-soothing. Okay my mom helped too.

The point is, having a long stay at a hospital can be really depressing, uncomfortable and the homesickness sets in the moment you set down your bags. All we ever want to do when we’re sick is to cuddle up with something familiar. Here are some things you can do to make the stay a little more comfortable.

Where you stay

  • Do you like walks? Baths? Working out? Try and stay at a place that allows you to have at least one outlet or point of comfort on-site. I personally desperately wanted a bath tub. My whole body hurt after long days of being poked and prodded and all I desired was to melt in an epsom soak tub.
  • Also, keep in mind proximity to the hospital. My mother and I chose to stay close enough to the hospital that it wasn’t stressful to drive there and back a couple of times a day, but far enough that I didn’t completely feel like I staying was on campus.

What you bring

Bring anything that reminds you of home and makes you feel the most like yourself. Stuffed animals, a candle, a book, tarot cards, excessive skincare options (obviously I took part in this one). No matter your age, this is your chance to have a safety blanket when you want it. If you have an emotional support animal and are able to bring them, DO! Now that I have my puppy, I wish she would have been there with me.

What I brought: 

  • Tarot cards
  • Magazines/books
  • Crystals
  • Skincare/treatments and masks
  • My favorite sweatshirt and sweater
  • Fluffy socks (it was summer but I was able to snuggle up during a movie!)
  • Bright nail polish
  • Homemade soap from Sade Baron
  • Lord Jones CBD Gumdrops

I was planning on only bringing comfy clothes and was going to opt out of bringing my favorite handbag. At the last second, I tossed it in and I’m so happy I did! It helped me feel more like myself and less like a patient (even if I needed to be one for 12 hours a day).

What you can get there

  • My mom came up with the best idea on the first day — flowers. We went to Trader Joe’s and took some time to pick a few different kinds of my favorite, non-allergic flowers. After that, we went to the local dollar store and bought a couple of vases so that we could make bouquets and place them around the hotel room. If they don’t have vases, use big cups or glasses!
  • We also got little baskets to put our toiletries in. This way, it looked more homey and we didn’t have to go through the process of digging through our bags every time we needed lotion or toothpaste. It was all out for us to see!
  • Cotton pads and micellar water saved my life during this trip! Okay maybe not. But they saved my skin! Every night I was too tired to stand at the sink and wash my face. With micellar water and cotton pads, I was able to wash my face in bed and go to sleep feeling clean.
  • Epsom salt is easy to find at any pharmacy so you don’t need to lug around a 6 lb bag. My favorite is Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt. Dump a bunch of that into your tub and wait for you muscle aches to chill out.

Set it up

  • Put away all signs of the hotel. If there’s a sign telling you how to use the coffeemaker, hide it. It’s amazing how putting away those constant reminders can help you settle in and shake off that hospital/patient feeling.
  • Spread color and flowers around the room(s)! I’m a big believer in color therapy. Happy colors make you happy!
  • Stock your fridge with healthy snacks that fit your diet. And make sure to bring some with you during the day while you’re running between tests and appointments. Hospitals have horrible options for anyone with dietary restrictions.

As always, feel free to share your recommendations and ask questions in the comments section!

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Losing Bourdain

I was a freshman journalism student when I met Anthony Bourdain. After reading all of his books and seeing each show at least twice, I cancelled a weekend away with friends to splurge on last-minute tickets to see him speak. Although most of Bourdain’s stories were familiar to me — I had watched every episode of “No Reservations” — it was beyond worth it.

Following the event, I finagled my way into the VIP meet and greet just so Bourdain would sign my first travel journal. He was kind enough to humor my jittery, 18-year-old self with a brief conversation and a scribble in my notebook. Bourdain sweetly posed for a picture with my dweeby face peeking over his shoulder.

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I quickly told him about growing up with an American mother and Czechoslovak father, who instilled a passion for travel and food. I explained that my love for his show and approach to culture stems from the lessons my parents taught me. Essentially, if someone makes you food — no matter the appearance or ingredients — you eat it with the same respect and admiration as if your own grandmother set the plate in front of you. You should probably even take seconds. I’ve always strived to embrace traveling and storytelling in that way.

When I left the event, I immediately called my mom. I was on fire. The whole world seemed so open and I desperately wanted to dive in. I continued to pursue my career in journalism, high off of that one encounter that triggered my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed demeanor.

But just as my jaded mentors predicted, that sparkle faded. The weight of the world just gets heavier. The hopelessness from pouring your soul into telling the stories you were so honored to recount only to fall flat, has been destructive. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t faced several existential crises over the years.

Many of us saw Bourdain as an idol — and perhaps that was our biggest mistake. His death so harshly reminds us that fame is not impervious to pain or sadness. We frequently omit this reality. We focus on mirroring our heroes’ success instead of recognizing the human that created it.

Bourdain embraced and uncovered human imperfections whether it be by talking about his own struggle with addiction or listening to the conflicts of others. He worked to humanize and empathize with people from every corner of the world by sharing their most vulnerable moments with them  at the table. Bourdain appeared fearless. He was a warrior for many by mainstreaming travel and acceptance rather than tolerance.

The announcement of his death will ring in my ears for a while. It will remind me to take my own mental health more seriously. No more skipping therapy appointments because I’m too busy. No more hiding my pain in fear of judgement. We’ll honor Bourdain by living our lives with fervor and empathy for those around us.

Hug your loved ones. Call your therapist. Take your meds. Drink that glass of wine and slurp those noodles. RIP, Tony. You are missed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255