Traveling Shrine

Traveling is an adventure–you meet new people, eat interesting meals, and are awake to new experiences. Traveling is also exhausting and frustrating–airline delays, people acting out, and hotel rooms that make you feel like a stranger missing the comforts of home.

To lighten the discomfort of traveling, I’ve developed some self-care habits that make it possible to put up with frustrations, sleep better, and return home without needing a whole day to fit back into my body.  Some examples:

  • Buy a complete set of makeup for your travel kit–no more plundering your drawer before and after every trip.
  • Treat yourself to a pair of very comfy slip-on shoes to wear on the airplane so you can run through the airport if you have to, and take a walk when you get to our destination if you want to.
  • Switch to a Commonplace Journal. Packing a sketch journal and a notes journal and a travel journal means nothing will get journaled.
  • Bring non-work-related reading material and use flight time to read something fun or interesting. You really can’t work all the time.
  • Create a ritual for your hotel room. Make it something pleasant or soothing. Using a hotel room as an office then going to sleep with the TV on wrecks your sleep.

My ritual started with a tin of Trader Joe’s breath mints. They look like this:

Box_mintsA perfect little plastic window in a 2-inch square box. I wanted to make a small traveling Inner Hero shrine, filled with inner heroes that I can call on when I’m in a strange city. Something that calms me to a better self.

Box_openThe box is well-hinged and stocked with mild breath mints that are also low in sugar. Perfect all the way around. Note the label blocking the window in the lid. Remove it slowly, heating it with a hair dryer, to get it off. I had to use Goo-Gone to get off all traces of the label. I wiped the inside out with alcohol to get rid of the mint-dust.

Box_templateBecause the tin is already bright green, I don’t need to paint it. But I wanted to make a series of inserts for the tin, so I cut a template that would fit.

Box_insertsUsing pieces of Monsoon Paper, monoprint scraps, brayered-off pieces of paper, and other colorful scraps, I cut out colorful pieces of art. On the back, I scoured my journals for Inner Hero characteristics. I rounded the corners of each piece then wrote on the back.  My Inner Heroes have characteristics that I have or almost have and will get used to, with some practice. Here are a few:

  • She listens with curiosity, not to form an answer.
  • She hears fear in angry outbreaks. There is no need to reply in anger.
  • What is the speaker’s perspective? Can I stand in that space?
  • She notices when she judges, and considers.

Box_DoneSometimes I flip through the colored side, pick something that appeals to me, read the back, and that becomes something to pay attention to the next day. I put the card on the top, so the colored side shows through the window as a reminder.

Box_shrineOther times, I put my talisman necklace in the shrine with one of the cards to create a focal point of home and heart and use it as a meditation focal point at night or in the morning. It’s easier to meditate in a strange place with a well-loved and comfortable focal point.

Sometimes, I just shuffle through the colored sides, remembering the work they came from originally. It’s calming and grounding. And best of all, the box takes up a tiny bit of space that fits in the side pocket of my backpack, easily available.

—Quinn McDonald travels and teaches. She learns something about every city and she learns something about herself in every city.



14 thoughts on “Traveling Shrine

  1. I love this little shrine. I love the green recycled container. i love the colorful, little cards from your scrap pile. I love the words of wisdom on the backs of the cards. I love the talisman as a part of the shrine as a meditative focus and as a reminder of home. I love the idea of shuffling through the cards to see which one appear. And I love that it is so portable easy tot ake with you when away. I guess I love everything about this little shrine.

  2. We are alike in many ways. I always have a bag containing a make-up kit and toiletries all ready to go all. This habit started when I lived in Thailand and we often took off for a weekend. The bag was ready and just needed a couple of changes of clothes, swimming gear and sarong . . . with that I could go for up to a week anywhere in South East Asia.
    And I love the little shrine! I can imagine sitting using the cards to begin my meditation with my own music playing. Lovely cards in a slightly bigger tin (I like the tin, so much stronger) along with a variety of papers could form a very nice little travel journal as well.

    • Nothing like being ready to go at a moment’s notice. I have a whole set of “travel-teaching clothes”–black dress pants, no-wrinkle jacket, two matching tops, even for a one-day class (I’ve had coffee spilled on me twice), and dress shoes in an outside pocket of the carry-on. After class, in the van or car, I change to my airplane shoes. I look a bit odd in dress pants and running shoes, but I’m OK with it. In a pinch, I change to the travel pants in the airport, if there is time. I have a bapack and a small carry on that fits in even small planes, and I’m ready to go. We could run off together and make a wonderful travel journal!

  3. I love little boxes and this one is a gem. I’ll make a point of going to TJ’s soon. I love how you use it and of course the papers are stunning!

    • It’s funny how small pieces of papers you didn’t like, didn’t work out, or seemed all wrong turn out just fine if you find a small piece of it! The mints are at the check out corner.

  4. Oh what great ideas! Especially what you did with the tin! Now I have to run over and get one and have a play to see what I can come up with! And oh how I laughed at the make up idea. When we headed out to Tucson in March, I was in DFW airport when I realized I had forgotten my make up! I left it on the dresser in my hurried attempt to get down to the taxi waiting for us to go to the airport. Luckily Siri helped me find a store in Tucson that carried Clinique! My husband was funny. He said OK we can go tomorrow! I got a kick out of that one. I said no, we have to get it now right off the plane! I can’t go out with out it tomorrow. Too funny. From now on I keep an extra batch in my suitcase at all times!

    • Seriously, wait till tomorrow for makeup? No way! And certainly not with the SPF that’s needed out here. You can experiment with different brands and items, but I use the exact same items I have at home–no risk that I’ll suddenly look like I escaped from the home and am late for my medication!

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