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Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn

The salad bar in my latest hotel's shower.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Etsy sells this quote on t-shirts, wall decals, and shot glasses.

I don’t need to wear the saying on my chest or paste it on my wall in 12-inch letters, but I’m always happy to drink a shot. And if the glass says something inspiring, even better.

If I’m being honest though, journeys are hard. Journeys involve traffic, or removing coats, shoes, and belts at the TSA checkpoint. And clearly, Mr. Emerson hasn’t flown Southwest Airlines.

Destinations, alternatively, are great. Destinations can be Bora Bora, which is far better than the 17-hour journey it takes to get there.

I’m Team Destination, not Team Journey. This is why I love arriving at hotels. When I get there, I feel relieved, and not because I’m desperate for the loo.

Hotels are where we end our arduous journeys. And while the arrival is always wonderful, the actual stay in a hotel could be better.

I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been to many, many hotels.

When our family lived overseas, we travelled throughout Asia and Europe. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some swanky places where the bathtub was the size of a plunge pool. Let me tell you, it isn’t easy to bathe a toddler hockey puck when they can do laps in around the tub.

I’ve also stayed in ratty motels where I slept fully clothed on a towel above the covers to avoid germs. Some were so bad, I thought about sleeping in my shoes in case I had to escape from a botched meth deal in the parking lot.

In other words, I’ve been around.

Most hotel rooms are uniform: bathroom on the left, closet on the right, opening to a bed on the left, a desk and television on the right and possibly a fridge. This isn’t true of all hotel rooms. Some are flipped so the bathroom and bed are on the right.

In the good old days, that fridge was a fully stocked minibar. Now it’s an empty cube of sadness. I don’t miss the snacks. In those high-flying minibar days, you had to be rich, drunk, or on an Ambien-induced midnight binge to eat $9 M&Ms.

I think about improving the hotel experience often. As I lie on a hotel’s mediocre pillows, fumble with the not-actually-functioning thermostat, or try to squeeze something larger than a cotton swab into the bathroom trash can, I ask myself: Why aren’t there more hooks so Mr. Hockey and I can both dry our towels? Why is the clock wrong? Does it matter if I’m unplugging the clock to charge my phone anyway? Why aren’t I a hotelier?

Hotels have updated phone charging by putting USB ports in the base of lamps or in walls above bedside tables. Then Apple got rid of USBs for iPhones. Thanks, Apple! Maybe before making another charging change, you could warn the real hoteliers – Mr. Hyatt, J.W. Marriott, and Paris Hilton.

I’m always looking to upgrade my travel/packing infrastructure in order to improve my hotel stays. I read Wirecutter for the best packing cubes and cord stowage. I watch TikTok for innovative folding techniques. And I leer at Instagram luggage ads like they’re porn.

My latest infrastructure addition was a hanging toiletry bag, which came in handy during my recent tour of Israel. The hotel rooms were small, and the bathrooms had no counter tops. I hung the toiletry kit from the towel rack to free up space. Still, I had to stand sideways to blow-dry my hair. It was like being on a boat.

Yes, I probably should have taken this opportunity to discuss what I learned during my trip to Israel. Perhaps delve into the current political issues or the continual conflict occurring there. My trip was informative on those topics, but all I can say with certainty is that… it’s complicated.

This column is better suited to a superficial treatise on hotels and packing cubes.

Or shampoo. Hotels have stopped stocking mini shampoo/conditioner/lotion/bodywash bottles, instead attaching large refillable pump bottles of products to the shower walls. While I applaud their environmental commitment to reducing their single use plastic, they could make the labels’ font size bigger. Some of us don’t wear glasses in the shower.

Hotels use high end brands of products to give the feel of a spa experience. The soaps and lotions are concocted out of herbs or fruit. I just stayed in a hotel with peppermint shampoo, cilantro conditioner, and rum body wash. I wasn’t sure if I should wash myself or invent a signature cocktail.

Maybe minibars aren’t gone. Maybe they’ve just moved to the bathroom.

At least the body wash wasn’t peppermint. This flavor soap can sting sensitive body parts, which I unfortunately learned the hard way.

I know, this is all a lot of privileged complaining. I shouldn’t care if hotels are slightly uncomfortable, I’m lucky to be travelling. I’m supposed to be out sightseeing anyway. So what if the pillows are lumpy. Suck it up, buttercup.

But I complain about hotels out of love! And on the off chance that my suggestions will be heard by Mr. Hyatt, J.W. Marriott, and Paris Hilton.

With all due respect to Ralph Waldo Emerson, I’d like to coin a new saying, “Life is Bora Bora, not Southwest Airlines.”

Put that on a shot glass.

Published in The East Hampton Press on May 25, 2023

Photo by Me!!!

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