How Many Beds Have You Slept In?

How Many Beds Have You Slept In?

By |2016-07-21T23:57:13-04:00March 9th, 2011|Perspectives|46 Comments

Bed-IraqNo, I’m not asking how many people you’ve slept with, just how many different beds you’ve slept in over the course of your life so far.

Last week, while flying from Perth to Singapore, en route to Thailand, I randomly decided to try and count the number of beds that I have slept in over the years. And it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with trying to reach a semi-accurate ballpark figure. First, I began ticking off the beds I’ve slept in over the past 11 years since my current travel adventure began and I did so by tracing over every country, city and village I’ve ever visited as meticulously as possible. The next step was to begin adding up the beds that I slept in during my high school and university years by trying to recall my whereabouts at all times during that period of my life.

The task was difficult and I carried on for over three hours, right up until I found myself unable to remember any more beds for twenty straight minutes. Then, I looked down at my piece of paper full of tick marks and began doing the math until I reached a total.

And the total? 583.

At first glance, that doesn’t seem like such a big number. But when I consider that I slept in 583 beds over an 18 year period (6570 days), that averages out to one bed every 11.27 days since I began high school. And I went to the same high school for all four years, living in only one house at the time as well.

So after looking at the total number of beds this way, I suddenly find it disturbing. Surely sleeping in a different bed every 11.27 days cannot be healthy for one’s body and mind, especially when half of those beds were in third world hotels and guesthouses, or in other words, more closely resembled a piece of sand paper than a mattress.


Admittedly, one of the major downsides of this lifestyle is not having my very own bed. Knowing that I will have a good night’s sleep on a comfortable mattress is unfortunately only something I can dream about, as I lie awake on a dirty mattress made of towel scraps and filled with what feels like steel shavings. Oh how I wish I could carry around a bed of my choosing at all times, everywhere I go, so that every day on the road ends with a blissful rest.

Instead, I continue gambling, never knowing what I’m going to get and how I’m going to sleep. And while I’m still tough enough to handle sleeping on a piece of plywood covered with cloth for a night, or maybe two, long gone are the days when I could spend a week or more sleeping on such a ‘mattress’ in order to save a few bucks while declaring my loyalty to that traveler’s concept of adventure!

This is actually a large part of why I have begun to slow down my travels over the past couple of years. Instead of being constantly on the go, I now prefer to spend several months per year staying in one location so that I can find a place with a good bed that I can sleep in every night, allowing me to achieve that zen-like state of mind that a consistent good night’s sleep can provide.

I want to wake up with a wet, drool-soaked pillow more often! Unfortunately, with my nomadic lifestyle and my absurd rate of sleeping in a new bed every 11.27 days, my craving for such a luxury remains unsatisfied most of the time.

Let’s hear your numbers! How many beds have you slept in? Too many to count or enough to count on one hand?

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  4. Verity March 18, 2011 at 12:37 am - Reply

    For the last few years I’ve actually started taking photos of the places I sleep so I don’t forget (also the food I eat when I travel). I have a collection flickr[email protected]/sets/72157622103774728/

    It was quite helpful with the counting but unfortunately I am still stuck on photos from more than a year ago (it takes so long to upload).

    I got the idea from this photography exhibition I saw where one artist took photos of the view from the window of the rooms he stayed in. I thought it was a great idea.

  5. Verity March 18, 2011 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Well… I’ve counted for the last five years and it’s already 144. That was all the trips I had helpfully programmed into Dopplr. I’m going to have to do a bit more thinking but I have to go to bed now (in one of the ones I have spent a bit more time in :).

    • Earl March 18, 2011 at 5:25 am - Reply

      Hey Verity – 144 beds is not a bad start at all 🙂 And I hope your sleep last night was enjoyable! My sleep last night was on an airplane, which was not so enjoyable at all.

  6. Verity March 18, 2011 at 12:03 am - Reply

    Omg. I hadn’t even thought about this. Good grief… it must be a fair few. Now I am going to have to count. I’ll let you know when I am done 😀

  7. Andy Jarosz March 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Great idea for a post! I think I might give you a run for your money Earl – but a couple of hundred of mine will be from travelling on business (and business beds should count half because… well, just!) Plus, I reckon I’m older than you so have a few years extra start. But whatever the number, like you I sometime wander what variety of bug life we’ve exposed ourselves to over the years. Thanks for a happy post 🙂

    • Earl March 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      Hey Andy – I wish I had some business beds as part of my bed history! And to be honest, I’d be perfectly happy to let you have the higher total count 🙂

      And not only is there bug life we’ve been exposed to, but how about all the other nasty stuff (which I don’t care to name at this time) that we must have slept in over the years. Third-world sheets rarely seem too clean. And when I worked on board cruise ships, I learned that even the sheets on board five-star vessels need to be cleaned using a $10,000 machine in order to remove the blood and semen stains. Damn, I didn’t want to mention it but I did.

  8. Rebecca March 14, 2011 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Wowsers! That’s a lot of beds! I couldn’t even begin to start to count but would guess roughly a couple hundred…

    • Earl March 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Hey Rebecca – A couple hundred isn’t bad…you still have time to catch up!

  9. Dalene - Hecktic Travels March 13, 2011 at 3:11 am - Reply

    So, where do you put your “notches” then if not on your bed post?? 😉

    I’m nowhere near your count, but it’s not the bed so much that kills me. It’s the damn pillows! Why can’t hostels invest in a good pillow?? It makes all the difference…

    • Earl March 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Hey Dalene – That’s an excellent question although I think hostels might fear that good pillows would be taken by travelers! If I could find the perfect travel pillow to accompany me on my adventures, I’d gladly leave half of my other possessions behind in order to fit it in my backpack 🙂

  10. Tijmen March 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Never thought of actually counting them, but I think my number would be more around 200 or so. I do move around quite a bit, but there are also times where I spend 3 months in the same place. I should keep beter track of them next time I start a big trip, should be an interesting number 🙂

    • Earl March 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Hey Tijmen – I’m sure those times that you do spend 3 months in one location make a huge difference, not only in helping keep your rate of changing beds lower but for your sanity as well!

  11. Ed March 10, 2011 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Nice food for thought earl, counting the number of beds we’ve slept on.

    It will definitely take a toll in the long run. But sleeping in those 583 beds is worth it right? Considering the number of places you’ve been as opposed to being stuck in one bed and in one place? I can sacrifice the level of comfort of sleeping in a plywood at night knowing that there will be better rewards of exploration during the day.

    • Earl March 11, 2011 at 3:50 am - Reply

      Hey Ed – Of course it’s worth it! I’d change beds every night if that’s what I needed to do in order to continue learning from this world. Never has there been a time when an uncomfortable sleep made me want to stop traveling. It only makes me want to sleep comfortably every now and then!

  12. Nicolas De Corte March 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Wow, that must have been a hell of a nostalgic trip to calculate all those beds so far back in the past.
    I’m not going to do the same exercise, but I’m quite sure that I won’t hit the 583 by far. Even if you count the air mattresses, couches, floors and the times I didn’t remember where I’d slept, I won’t make it 🙂

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      Hey Nicolas – Consider yourself lucky that you haven’t slept in 583 beds! I wish my number was something more reasonable. Although, like you said, I did enjoy going over every one of my trips and remembering every hotel, guesthouse, sofa and train station where I’ve ever laid my head 🙂

  13. Sam March 10, 2011 at 5:49 am - Reply

    Hey earl, I’m actually on my 5th mattress in 3 years at my own house. I’m wondering if anyone can beat that one. (2 warranty issues+ 1 we ended up exchanging + 1 flooded). Take care

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Hey Sam – Sorry to hear that my friend. Five mattresses seems like more than enough for three years so hopefully the one you have now will stick around for a while. If not, maybe you should just try sleeping on the floor!

  14. Dyanne @TravelnLass March 10, 2011 at 5:41 am - Reply

    Funny, it never occurred to me that the many less-than-comfy beds I’ve slept on in my travels might have been detrimental to a good night’s rest – I’m usually so exhausted from exploring some new land, I could fall blissfully asleep on a sheet of plywood!

    In any case, after 30+ years of travel, no way could I possibly count the beds. But I must admit, the very best thing about coming home is to… snuggle into my own bed!

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Hey Dyanne – That’s the key…to make sure you are completely exhausted from a long day of exploring before trying to go to sleep. Only then does the comfort of the mattress become less of a factor! And I won’t even begin to imagine how many beds someone who’s been traveling for over 30 years has slept in. The number must be astronomical 🙂

  15. Dina March 10, 2011 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Very interesting, Earl, I’m going to count that later, even though I’m sure the number is not impressive like yours yet. It’s impressing that you can count those all!
    Funny about changing bed often. The most comfy beds I’ve had are not those at home. Right now we are staying at a guest house in Honduras. Nothing fancy, the mattress is rather hard and I can feel the sewing dents. But I find it comfortable. It’s just the pillow that troubles me most often. Growing up in Indonesia, “hug pillow”, the one you put between arms and legs is highly important. I can tolerate wrong shape (should be long and cylindrical), but when only 1 pillow per person provided, I feel somewhat lacking.

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      Hey Dina – The pillow is a whole other story! But lucky for me, all I need is one pillow, and I just use one small corner of it when sleeping. Perhaps you should carry around a hug pillow with you. Or invent a traveler’s version that can be compacted and stuffed into a backpack!

      • Dina March 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm - Reply

        Haha, but I’m struggling in reducing stuff in my backpack now, it’s too large and heavy at the moment! We do use a “backpacker trick” in pillow: use clothing bag/laundry bag as pillow. But the shape/length is just never right for that. I think I need to develop ability to like “just a corner of pillow” like you, but man, it’s tough! Hugging pillow just feel too good!

  16. Simon March 9, 2011 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    583? There are names for boys like you Earl 🙂

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Haha Simon….I thought I made it clear in the first line that this post referred to beds and not people!

  17. Phil March 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Earl, this was a fun post. I definitely just racked my brain and did a rudimentary tally, but then it spiraled out of control. One bed every 11.27 is pretty nuts when you think about it. I’m also shifting towards a slower style of travel and plan on getting an apartment on my next trip. Having your own bed is a luxury indeed 🙂

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm - Reply

      Hey Phil – I’m all for renting apartments these days as well if I plan to stay in a country for more than a few weeks. Just the thought of my own bed and being able to put my clothes in a closet is enough to convince me. And I never thought I’d be interested in slower travel but the benefits seem to grow more and more as time goes on. My body just can’t take the constant movement anymore!

  18. Christy @ Technosyncratic March 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    That’s some serious dedication! Did you count non-bed sleeping places (like tents or train stations) as well?

    I have a really hard time falling asleep when I’m somewhere for the first time. So the first night staying in any new location I can’t get any sleep (or on trains or airplanes – staying awake for an entire international flight is the WORST).

    It doesn’t make constant travel super fun, but oh well. 🙂 That’s why an RV is great – I get my own awesomely comfortable bed but can still change locations nightly if I want!

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      Hey Christy – I left out the nights spent on trains, buses and other forms of transportation but I did include nights in tents or sleeping on the floors of train stations. So any night I spent in one location, without being en route to somewhere new, I counted.

      And an RV would be great. Someone recently told me about Tumbleweed Houses (tiny, portable homes) and so now I’m trying to figure out how I can bring one of these with my whenever I travel. It would be more than ideal.

  19. Natalie March 9, 2011 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    I can not remember yesterday let alone counting how many beds I have slept in.

    Is that picture your messy bed BTW Earl? LOL

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Hey Natalie – Well, that was one of the beds I slept in during my trip to Kurdistan. I’m normally much neater than that though. Not sure what happened that day!

  20. Definitely not more than 500 beds… but more than I can remember. My favorite bed though: the one I currently just slept on. Thick, firm, and covered with fluffy goodness. I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      Hey Jill – I know the feeling. Every now and then we sleep in a bed that we just wish we could take with us! Enjoy it while it lasts 🙂

  21. rose March 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Well, I seem to have spent an average of about 21.47 days per bed in the last 10 years- but I didn’t count all the times I had to sleep in a van, a car or on a train!

    The most interesting was trying to go back and actually remember all those beds. I’m not even going to try to count the ones I slept in before those 10 years!!!

    Hope you get a lot of drooling in in the near future 🙂

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Hey Rose – That’s an impressive rate as well 🙂 I also left out the nights I slept on trains or other forms of transportation, mainly because it was giving me a headache trying to remember all of those nights too. At least your rate should be slowing down these days. It’s time to make up for all those years of bouncing around!

      • rose March 12, 2011 at 7:18 am - Reply

        I think if I tacked on all the vans and cars that served as temporary homes or shelters, as well as tents, it would add up even more. That’s scary! I usually impress people just by telling them how many different apartments I’ve lived in 🙂 I’ll be leaving this one in 3 months!

  22. David Cain March 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    I did this too for my last trip. I was gone nine months and counted 65 beds (or couches or tents or floors). So that’s one every 4.1 days! I’m even more promiscuous than you 🙂

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      Hey David – You are much more promiscuous than me! Your rate is beyond absurd. I’m surprised you were able to keep that up for 9 months. And I’m sure you’re enjoying your own bed since you’ve been home as a result.

  23. Migrationology March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Ha, that’s quite an impressive number and rate of bed switching! I’m going to have to get back with you on my own figure.

    I’ve always been able to catch a night of sleep anywhere I’ve gone, throughout my life just crashing at anyone’s house for a quick night. I’ve always been able to sleep on just a slab of concrete or a bench with no problem, but just a few weeks ago, my back has started to hurt from the random sleeping places (I think I’m getting older…).

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      @Migrationology: Yeah, getting older does seem to make some of those more adventurous aspects of budget travel a little more difficult to deal with. The thought of sleeping on a slab of concrete these days is not very appealing at all. And I once thought I’d be fine sleeping in random places for the rest of my life. How times change!

  24. MaryAnne March 9, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Oh wow. I don’t know. I’ve been going since 1994 and until recently I was quite the bed hopper. I was a terrible bed hopper in my 20s, spending most of that decade on floors, sofas and hostel beds. I yearned for a bed of my own in a room of my own. I couldn’t even conceive of (gasp!) a flat of my own. I have that now and it’s lovely– but my mindset s still geared toward change and some strange part of me says, whoa, let’s get outta here… find us some floors or sofas… It’s a curse!

    • Earl March 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm - Reply

      Hey MaryAnne – At least you have the option now of sleeping in your own bed or spending some time away sleeping on floors and sofas! What I’d give to have that choice 🙂

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