I hate fat pillows

(…and other travel confessions)

I hate fat pillows

I unpack much faster than I pack. Within 30 minutes of getting home Saturday, the truck was cleaned out and our suitcases were unloaded after a week of wandering around Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. I like coming home.

But I like most everything about traveling, too (except for the frantic clean-up the day before the trip so I can enjoy how clean the house is when I come home!).

And except for when I get this feeling, “We have no clue where we are, do we?” (as in, there really is NOT a Chick-Fil-A here, despite Ms. GiGi, our GPS, so confidently saying so).

And except when I start feeling grouchy around Day 5 because I’ve been completely surrounded by people for at least five days in a row.

And except for the hotel’s fat pillows. Who can sleep with a pillow eight inches tall? Let’s be real: Fluffy pillows are for looks, not sleep.

But I’m not complaining. That’s what the Hebrews did coming out of Egypt when reminiscing about onions over manna, not me. Right?

Well, maybe technically I don’t complain. I just start going silent or sighing or asking (again), “Now what’s the plan?

So around Thursday of last week, after touring Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum that morning, and not finding that Chick-Fil-A as promised for lunch (I knew it wasn’t going to be in the middle of a neighborhood, crazy GPS), and before we went to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory that afternoon and back to Churchill Downs that night to watch the races, I started my “not-complaining.” Sigh.

It’s not how I grew up. Because we didn’t travel at all.

(Well, unless you count the four-hour station wagon ride from Alabama to Mississippi every few months to visit grandparents. And the once-in-a-lifetime trip we took to visit my uncle in Virginia when I was in middle school.)

Unlike this from Emily Wierenga:


. . . my parents didn’t raise us to believe in travel. But two out of three (we got the God and music part) aren’t bad, right? Daddy traveled in the Marines, then frequently on business with NASA later, and that was enough for him. Mama wasn’t one to venture out far without him (except to Mississippi), so we stayed home.

But I married a man who loves to go. So I’ve discovered I love it, too. While we were homeschooling our two daughters, we turned every trip into a field trip of adventure and education.

And no complaining.

But we’re empty-nesters. Now what? Now we set our own schedule and only pack snacks for me and I don’t have to chronicle each museum tour with reports and photos (although I’m still inclined that way).

And the no complaining rule?

Oh yeah. I don’t want to be a whiner; I want to be a worshiper. But without kids around to influence, I have to consciously remember to look for God for myself in the places and the people and even the circumstances wherever we go.

And he shows up in enthusiastic tour guides and thoroughbred horses and race car drivers.

And he especially shows up in the kindness of my husband who suggests by Thursday afternoon that we nix the races that night and instead kick back in the hotel with a pizza delivery from Papa John’s.

And I say okay.

Because to enjoy traveling, I need to work with how God designed my personality, not against it—alternate activity with rest, keep a hard-copy atlas for when GiGi loses her mind recalculating, recalculating, . . .

and from this trip forward, pack my own pillow.

* * *

Do you have any travel idiosyncrasies? Recommend a fun place to visit?

I’ve started reading (and loving!) Emily Wierenga’s newest book, Atlas Girl, a travel memoir about how God’s love pursues us everywhere we go, and always leads us back home. Emily is a passionate writer who makes you feel what she feels. You can read chapters 1 & 2 here, or buy the book here.  All proceeds go to The Lulu Tree, a non-profit for helping moms and orphans in Uganda.


26 thoughts on “I hate fat pillows

  1. kd sullivan

    I wow what you mean about fat pillows. I always have weird dreams when I sleep on them, not to mention a stiff neck! I like how you chronicle the difference between traveling as a homeschool mom and so an empty nester. Totally get it! I still want to write reports on everywhere I go…maybe that’s what we can blog for? This for the reminder to worship rather than whine….always needed reminder.

  2. floyd

    I’m cut from that mold… I like travel, but it’s better in hindsight sometimes… There’s no place like home. I have to remind myself that God is everywhere too. Funny how in this life, even the good stuff is a struggle.

  3. Jean Wise

    I love to travel but this post made me smile and think at the same time. LOL.

    I try to read about the places we will be visiting and find some unusual and/fun site to see. We do like local wineries and find the local people there a great connection to the community to find additional places to stop. Sometime the ‘hole in the wall” restaurant has the best food.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Jeff loves going to the “hole in the wall” places too. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. It depends on exactly what the hole looks like. ha. We found a couple places on this trip though and all were good!

  4. Karen

    I found your blog through The Simple Woman’s Daybook. Your comment about Richard Rohr’s book caught my eye. I’ve learned so much from Richard. Your blog is a great source for books! I’m off to check out some of the other titles you’ve listed.

    Enjoy your day.

  5. Joanne Viola

    Lisa – I love going away but I love coming home so much more 🙂 And I must admit, it takes me a few days to get used to the hotel pillows. It is so true that some of the best vacation moments are staying put with a pizza & watching a movie, perhaps because it is then we are reminded of “home”. I am in the middle of Atlas Girl & loving it as well!

  6. Sharon

    Amidst the chuckles, there was some really good truth in here! Yes, God did give us our personalities, and He works through them. I think it’s the enemy that tries to get us completely frustrated with *the way we are* – not to be complacent in the areas that should be worked on, but we should believe that God knew what He was doing when He *fearfully and wonderfully* made us.

    OK, travel idiosyncrasies:

    1) Do not get anywhere near the bedspread. Heard horror stories about those.
    2) We never get maid service. We always leave up the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Hate thinking about people possibly snooping around in our stuff.
    3) Sleep with the fan on.
    4) Check (and check and check and check) everywhere before checking out. I hate my OCD.
    5) We usually pay cash when possible.

    But, I must admit, I do love traveling. And tent-camping. And coming home again…


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I smiled at your list of idiosyncrasies, Sharon. 🙂 Thanks for being honest. We all have our things. It’s always interesting to travel with others to discover their quirks too (and have our own exposed!).

      I think differently about bedspreads now too. I wonder if I was better off when I was ignorant though. ha. I definitely check and double check and triple check before we leave too. Yet “we” (I’ll take part of the blame) still left my husband’s cell phone charger last week plugged into the wall at the hotel. I didn’t think to check the plugs! Next time I will though.

      You’re a tent camper too? It’s been a few years since we’ve been, but that’s how we always camped. Not too many of us left though. Even back then we were usually surrounded by more and more motor homes and fewer and fewer tents.

  7. t

    i am an introvert, trying not so hard to move out from underneath the safety of home…and not complain when i am away. maybe i’ll find a way to be daring just a little. thank you for sharing, I’m grateful to be on this journey with you.

  8. Dolly@Soulstops

    Your comment about working with how God made you instead of against it when you travel…yes! I’m always reminding myself of that truth….and that you got God and music from your parents – what a blessing 🙂 glad you’ve been able to enjoy traveling with your hubby…and I’m with you, I’m not a big fan of fat pillows although I’m thankful to have one 🙂

  9. Barbara H.

    I’m smiling because I can identify with so much of this. 🙂

    I am not a traveler by heart, but my husband would like to do a lot more. We’re pretty tied down right now with his mom here, but who knows what we’ll do in the future.

    My stomach turns on me when I travel. I used to think it was due to drinking water in different places (before bottled water was so prevalent), but then I realized it happened before we even left. I guess it’s just nerves.

    One of the best things about travel is that’s the only time I feel I have any extended time off (if we’re staying in hotels and eating out).

    One of the best things about coming home: my own bathroom. 🙂

    I wrestle with that not complaining thing, too – especially when there is a problem because something that should be working isn’t working. Once when I was commenting on how hot it was, someone said something about complaining. I thought, “I wasn’t complaining – I was just making an observation.” But maybe making what could be perceived as a negative comment when there is nothing anyone can do about the situation is at the very least unhelpful and better left unsaid.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you totally that one of the best things about traveling is having “time off.” Not having to cook is my favorite. 🙂 But no house cleaning, no clothes washing, etc, are nice too.

      I have to watch my “observations” especially in the extreme temps of summer and winter. It just comes so naturally to step outside and immediately say it’s SO hot or SO cold–because it is. ha. Still. The attitude with which it’s said (or thought) makes the difference between complaining and observing I suppose.

  10. Jennifer Dougan


    I have a pillow I enjoy at home too, but it’s my husband who has the most specific thoughts on pillows. 😉 How fun that you and your man went traveling! What did you likes best about your vacation out?

    I’m enjoying Emily’s book too, and am halfway through it. I loved the Lebanon section, with its scents, flavors, and captivating friendships there.

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’ve read more of Emily’s book than I have–I’ve only read the excerpts so far, but I do hope to get the whole book soon and read it all. I love her stories and her heart.

      One of my favorite things on our trips is so much time together in the car. We laugh, sing, listen to podcasts, or I just read, read, read and occasionally share something with Jeff. He’s an awesome and easy-going traveling companion. 🙂 But he likes flat pillows too. ha. On this last trip I just slept without a pillow the whole time. It worked well enough.

  11. Kelli Woodford

    Two years ago, my in-laws splurged on us and bought us THE SOFTEST, BEST QUALITY mattress in the wide world. Since then, I have detested hard hotel beds. Simply nothing can compare to my queen-size pillow-top. Nothing. 🙂

    But I agree with Michelle above, the line that stuck out to me the most – the one I’m taking with me – was this: “I need to work with how God designed my personality, not against it.” A lot of wisdom in that, friend.

    Thanks for sharing with us at Unforced Rhythms, Lisa.

  12. Jen Ferguson

    Yes, fat pillows are not very comfortable. I think you hit on a really important point here, Lisa. Complaining is a state of the heart, not necessarily the words that come out of mouths. So thankful for grace!

  13. Kathryn Ross

    Great post, Lisa! I’m right there with you – although NO Gigi. Can’t figure out how to use it in my phone and then I just don’t know that I’d trust her. Ended up in a dead end trying to get to Princeton once. But – the fat pillows! Was thinking the same thing a couple weeks back when I was at the LYFE Conference at Baptist Bible College – at the hotel. They looked good and fat – but once you hit them, they were flat! Spent 22 years traveling and moving as a Navy wife – got over the complain thing early on. Just going with it with God and knowing the minor inconveniences pass in their time and I’m home in my quiet place corner in due season.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Love your attitude, Kathy. And glad you were nicely surprised with those pillows. 🙂 The best pillows I’ve had in years were in Cleveland, Ohio, while we were staying in a hotel nearby the Cleveland Clinic for my f-i-l’s heart surgery. They had the obligatory fat pillows, but then these wonderful ones that went flat when you lay on them. Wanted to take them home with me.

  14. Jennifer Frisbie

    I had a day yesterday that felt like I was working against my own personality. How I wished I’d have visited you sooner! Thank you for these words. I’m going back to read them again in order to commit them to memory. Then perhaps I can make certain I work with how He designed my personality and not against it. 🙂

    Loved it!

  15. Pamela

    I jumped over to watch the book trailer. It’s one I’ll have to read. I love traveling, but I need those motel times, too. My best time is when my husband has a week’s class and I don’t have a car. Seven wonderful days in my motel to read, write and sleep. It’s the best vacation (but not for him)! Only one more class until he begins his dissertation. I’ll miss those times. ~Pamela

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, a girl after my own heart! I love being left in the hotel all day to read and write while hubby does his thing out in the world. I can take it day after day. Not many people understand, but you obviously do! 🙂

  16. Emily Wierenga

    oh girl–well first of all, thank you… for helping me spread the word about the memoir. and secondly, i love how your heart is always so open to learning from Jesus. and yes, i don’t like fat pillows too. why do they make them so fat? love to you! e.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, you’re right that they do have their use. I pile them up during the day for when I want to sit on the bed with my laptop. Everything in its place. 🙂

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