There's something about hotels for me. I don't know what it is but I've always loved them. Since I was a little kid I have always gotten a feeling of excitement checking in to a hotel.
I would venture to say that my parents instilled this in me indirectly. They took my sister and I on so many vacations as children. We were fortunate enough to take a vacation nearly every year around thanksgiving or Christmas up until I graduated high school. We visited places all over the US. Mainly we headed to warmer climates. Cities in Florida, Arizona or Southern California.
We always stayed in hotels.
The process usually went something like this:
We'd arrive at the airport in whatever city. We'd hang around the luggage terminal while dad went and picked up the rental car. Then we'd pile ourselves into whatever exciting new midsize sedan we got to have for the week, and drive to the hotel. I would be practically vibrating with excitement until we arrived at the hotel.
And then once we got there, we'd check in and get to the room, where my parents thought process was:
Lets sit hang out for a while, make a plan.
That was counterintuitive to my philosophy which was:
I NEED to run around in circles like a lunatic because there is so much to do.
Inevitably I always got yelled at within about 15 minutes of checking in.
When I was old enough my parents would just give me a key and send me away to explore on my own. They were as excited for this newfound freedom as I was.
I'd take a cursory look at the hotel map with my hopes set on seeing one word, which made me happier than any other.
The idea that we got to sleep in a new place that had a room built in JUST for video games. My tiny brain couldn't handle the dopamine that flooded it when those thoughts began.
So I'd run out of the hotel room walking around taking in the sites. Dipping my toes in the pool and looking for fun places to explore.
On the occasion that there was an arcade, when I finally discovered it I was overcome with one of two emotions.
The first being joy that the video game room existed and now I had only to convince my parents to give me quarters to burn in it.
But then there was the second emotion - Extreme disappointment.
This was because I was unaware that "arcade" was some crap architectural term for an outdoor area with absolutely no video games.
What a rip-off.
Since I wasn’t making any money as a child, I spent most of my times at hotel pools. There was a kind of freedom that came with being able to walk around this entire property with relatively no supervision. I could go, get lost and come back within a reasonable time limit. Rarely if ever was that something that happened anywhere else. GO discover a new place and just play and get lost.
By the time I was pubescent my parents let me go to a summer camp that took overnight trips to places like Toronto, Pennsylvania, D.C. and Atlanta.
Now while these might not be the most exotic North American locations, to somebody just entering the arena of his teenage years, travelling with girls (very attractive girls at that) this was like winning the lottery every day for an entire summer.
And while it felt like winning the lottery, looking back it was more like organized chaos.
We stayed at crappy travel lodges and motor inns (hotels willing to accept a busload of adolescents weren't usually of 5 star quality), four kids to a room, two guys to a bed. Burping farting, eating enough junk food to feed a small town and immediately pouring baby powder and toothpaste over the first guy to fall asleep.
It was the most fun I'd ever had.
The first thing we'd do, or I would do anyway, would find out the room numbers of all the pretty girls. As soon as we got back to the room I’d be on the phone. A lot of times I spent half the night up talking to those girls on the phone.
Because that’s all that we could do.
Our counselors would put a piece of tape on all of our doors to make sure that nobody snuck out after they did final room checks. It was a simple security device but it worked.
There was something beautiful about that innocent fun we had chatting on the phone until we fell asleep with the receiver in our hands. Just kids talking. About everything. I got to know some of those girls better than girls I would date in my 20s. When the only two paths you have to walk down are kissing and talking, you venture farther down those paths than you might ever imagine.
But it wasn't all perfect midnight chats with the first girl you’d ever met with breasts. It was also a series of poor decisions.
Like the room we had in a couples activity retreat past it’s heyday in Pennsylvania with the huge bathroom. It was so big it had a toilet and a water fountain. We turned it on and laughed about it. We giggled and took pictures and some of us even drank out of it.
I am almost positive that was the last time any of us drank out of a bidet.
We locked each other out on balconies, toasted pop tarts on coffee warmers, and had pillow fights that left us sweaty and out of breath.
We unintentionally slept through wake up calls and intentionally slept through knocks on door from whomever telling us to quiet down.
It was about as good as it gets. I'm not sure watching somebody waking up with a water balloon toothpasted to their face will ever be as funny again. Then again the likelihood of witnessing that is also quite slim.
Canada, Virginia, New Jersey. These places weren't that far from where I grew up, but the places we visited were millions of miles from any place I could have imagined.
When I entered high school I started travelling as part of an organization I was in. We stayed at nicer hotels, some much nicer, some just barely. I was slightly older then so the ridiculous shenanigans between roommates weren't as prevalent. Plus, by then I was a seasoned veteran of hotels. What was a familiar occurrence of being away from home for me was a much newer adventure for many of my peers.
I still loved it though. Any attempt at pretend adulthood was readily and willingly accepted by me.
In many ways pretending to be an adult is the only way I've ever learned.
I think that may be true for many people.
By my senior year of high school I was missing school every other week for trips to even more exotic places like Indianapolis, Tennessee and believe it or not, Jamaica.
I loved operating on my own. Checking in and out by myself. Still getting the room numbers of the pretty girls, still staying up half the night chatting, and thankfully, sharing a bed with nobody.
There wasn't as much downtime or horseplay, but I still loved the sense of adventure I felt when in those hotels.
And I slept well too. Aside from a few nights here and there due to anemic pillows or squeaky mattresses, over the course of my life I have slept pretty well in hotels.
There is something fresh about it too. The sheets, the towels, all of it new. For me. A clean slate for adventure.
I think it also speaks to the considerably cluttered lifestyle my room has always embodied. Things, and stuff. I have always had too many things and too much stuff. Honestly I haven't really known how to be without it. My friends who are stuffless, they amaze me.
So maybe that was it. That I could immerse myself in the location, in the experience, and not be distracted by knickknacks and whosawahtsits everywhere, distracting my eye from listening to my soul, trusting it to go out and explore.
Maybe I love the idea of being able to pick up a phone and have somebody there to answer all my questions, deliver something to my room or give me suggestions.
It seems our homes are never big enough but even a slightly larger than normal size hotel room can seem enormous.
There was a gap in my life where I didn't stay in hotels very much. College and the years after saw many hostels, and friends houses, but few hotels. That has changed a bit in recent years as work trips and conferences have seen me returning to hotels. This year saw the most hotels I've stayed in, in any year, since my teens.
And I love it.
I never foresee myself wanting to be a road warrior, a travel maven, somebody who logs 50,000 miles a year or more.
But I do love that I get to stay in hotels from time to time, check into a brand new city and slip into some clean sheets at the end of the day.
And if I want to go out again, well, there’s no tape on my door stopping me.