one man, too many beds
I've slept in too many beds this year.
When I bought my one-way ticket to Barcelona last November, I unknowingly signed a contract to become a bed taxonomist. Buried in the fine print was a peculiar clause: either share my findings with the world or be condemned to a lifetime of restless nights.
This is my fight against incurable insomnia.
I met every species of pillow in my nomadic year. Soft, pliable ones that sank the moment my head accepted their invitation. Tough, rigid headrests that resisted the weight of my skull. Long body pillows that looked weird but protected my spine. Squishy playthings that dissolved in my hands like Play Doh.
Wherever I went in the wild, pillows lived in colonies alongside bedsheets—almost as if each species was symbiotic to the other. I found different breeds too. Sheets so thin and transparent they barely covered the nakedness of the rock-hard mattress beneath. Rough, itchy fabrics that made my skin crawl. And thankfully, I met the lullaby linens—sheets so soft and soothing, they whisked me off to REM sleep.
When people say “bed”, they usually mean the pillows and sheets that work in tandem to lull you to slumber. But in this jungle of beds, we must appreciate the entire ecosystem—the sights, the sounds, the smells beyond the alliance of fabrics.
In Cordoba, each morning, my eyes were gently roused open by the accommodating glow of the Iberian Sun. Thoughtful not to shine too bright too early. But assertive enough to wake my sleeping body. When I stepped onto the balcony, I was greeted by the seductive smell of citrus trees whose branches stretched over into my compound to hand me tax-free breakfast.
Five hundred miles north, my sleep experience took a slight turn in Barcelona’s old city. My room had one of those quaint, barely-opening windows, typical of historic buildings. Opposite the bed was a sliding door that caged me in the shadows. Each morning mirrored the preceding dark night—until I slid the door open and severed ties with yesterday’s silhouette.
Bangkok brought an interesting spin. The whiplash of jet lag twisted my body-clock upside down for a week. Which meant my bed was a witness (or accomplice?) to my crippling insomnia. On the bright side, the room came with an incredibly powerful AC and like a madman, I wielded this god-like power to bring the room to an unconscionable chill. So I could snuggle underneath the weight of the luxurious duvet like a lazy sloth.
Bali took things to another level. One morning, I found an intruder in my bed. I woke up facing the wall and heard a rustling behind me. Yep, just like a horror movie. I always assumed that I’d be able to handle myself “logically” in such a situation. I don’t know where this hubris comes from. But I didn’t even have time to panic. Reflexes kicked in and without a moment’s thought, I turned around to find…
a beautiful croissant sitting pretty in my bed.
Was this a human-sized mouse trap? How did my kidnapper know I’m besotted with buttery flaky layers?
I looked around for clues that could explain this violation of personal space. A few tablets of Imodium on my bed stand. A tall glass of water, untouched. An empty pastry bag. The puzzle solved itself. Oh, I was sick yesterday. I forgot that I had been battling Bali belly for the previous three days, and left a snack for Future Tobi to eat. Somehow, in the swirl of night, the rogue pastry escaped its house and planted itself beside the vacant pillow behind me.
Feeling much better, I got out of bed and followed the sunlight. That apartment had big bright windows that opened up to a little lounge area with two hammock-style chairs and tiny stools. The view was typical of a tropical island—sandy roads, beach shorts and bikinis, locals zooming around on motorcycles, and the pleasant whoosh of the beach waves. I collapsed into the chair and tried to enjoy the moment, but the sweet chorus of capitalism—heavy construction next door— drove me to abandon this plan.
My year-long journey into nomad-hood taught me a few things about beds.
1. There’s a sweet spot.
There’s a sweet spot in bed design. You want your bed to be a haven. A clean, resting spot that nourishes and replenishes you. But you don’t want to be kidnapped by your own bedding. There is a thing as too comfortable. Escaping the clutches of your uber-luxurious bed should not entail enormous acts of self-will.
2. Bad Beds are snitches.
Extensive research1 confirms that Bad Beds conspire against their unsuspecting humans for amusement. While you sleep, A Pissed-Off Bed will sell you out to mosquitoes in the neighborhood: Dinner’s on me, guys.
3. Our spaces shape us and nomads gamble on this
This isn’t news to anyone—but it’s remarkable how much our spaces affect our mental health. Interior design should really be called emotional architecture—because your space sets the tone for your day—especially in this remote world where a lot of us work from home. Is your space calm and serene, or lively and energetic? Does it alleviate or magnify your stress?
Nomad-ing is wonderful, but it can be jarring when you spend two weeks in one place, finally get acquainted to the rhythm of the space…and then you leave. You don’t know the vibe of your next destination. Will it jive with your spirit? So many variables come into play—sunlight, fabrics, textures, plants, colors, spaciousness, views beyond the window, neighboring noise. It’s a gamble…players are advised to be tread carefully.
Last week, I nearly signed a lease in San Francisco. That fell through and now I’m subleasing with a friend for a month or two. Doing the thing I’ve done a thousand times this year—starting again. Meeting a new bed, yes, but also beginning a new quest for the Right Work Cafe. Discovering whether my new local grocery has the stuff I like. Finding out the side streets to avoid. Memorizing a new apartment code.
Acclimatizing again and again is exhausting, but alas, I am lucky to have housing in this city where so many struggle without the pillows, beds and duvets I just spent a thousand-ish words reminiscing about. That being said:
Stability, if you are out there, I would like to meet you.
source: “trust me bro” 💀