As I sat on the terrace of a simple but wonderfully located and well-maintained hotel in the center of Cali in Columbia, I remembered how much I have always enjoyed being in hotels. I think it’s fair to call it “the joy of hotel living.” I don’t mean staying a night or two, but at least for a week and ideally for several weeks at a time. What is so special about living in hotels?
Living Like a Rockstar
When I was growing up, one of Germany’s best known rock artists was Udo Lindenberg, who famously lived for over 25 years in one of the best hotels in Hamburg. There are many stories about other rockstars living the high life in the fanciest hotels, though sometimes smashing the interior with guitars and booze. Anyhow, my interest in hotels was born including the dream of having somebody cleaning my room and changing the linens every day. Too bad my family could only afford simple hotels during short vacations in the Alpes, nothing compared to the life of the rich and famous.
The Consultant’s Hotel Life
My upgrade in hotel choices happened the moment I entered the McKinsey workforce. Staying in 5-star hotels in major cities became the norm. Too bad the workload was such that enjoyment was quite limited to a short, but good, night’s sleep and the hastily consumed breakfast buffet. But there was a way for me to get more utility out of this travel lifestyle. Faced with getting up at 4 a.m. on Mondays in my hometown to take a flight to the client’s site and arrive late morning already sweating, I opted instead to arrive on Sunday during daytime. While this option would partially kill the weekend, the Sunday arrival allowed for the relaxing use of the usually quite spectacular pool and sauna landscapes of European hotels. Thus, Mondays felt much better. Every extra night would also bring extra bonus nights and rapidly the status of a VIP.
I will not forget that in one year, I spent over 120 nights in a Marriott in Munich. I became a regular for whom the hotel would keep the suite in the little tower reserved for me even when I was not a hotel guest. Hotel suites are indeed nice–a living room, maybe two bathrooms, and very nice to accommodate your significant other or, if you are without one, any new “friend” you might make.
Hotels Are Great for Your Romantic Life
I cannot remember all the fulfilling romantic nights I had during business travel. The atmosphere of being together at home away from home, or, depending on my relationship status, the excitement of showing a wonderful acquaintance the amenities of the suite, were a great perk of the hard consultant’s life. Speedy room service for wine or champaign added to the joy of hotel living. I will never forget one adventure, Hollywood-style: a man stands in line for breakfast, in front of him a lovely lady. They start chatting to pass the waiting time, which leads them to agree on meeting for a drink at the cozy cocktail bar after work. And then, after figuring out who had the better room (she did, as she had a higher loyalty status with that hotel chain), they decided to take the discussions to the next and last level upstairs. No cab needed.
Cultural Discoveries of Food and Services
Later on, when working for major financial institutions in New York, my extended business travels brought me to Latin America and to Asia. As a curious person who likes to discover new cultures, the exploration started at breakfast. From amazing selections of fresh fruits in Brazil or Chile to warm Asian delicacies in China or Singapore that an ignorant Westerner would have associated more with lunch, it was fun to compare and contrast. Same goes for the hotel business itself. You can learn a lot from the service orientation of Asian hotels or the security operations in Colombia.
Being Creative in a Hotel
A few years ago, I met a writer of poetry at a writers’ meet-up in Las Vegas. He told me that he would book a week or two every year in a local casino hotel to advance his writing. Being in a 24-hour ecosystem with restaurants, coffee shops, and yes, gambling, he could advance his books in the most productive manner. This idea resonated with me and I booked a staycation shortly thereafter, though it was not long enough to really get my writing to the next level.
Writing in hotels has a long tradition, though. I am currently reading Hemingway’s memoirs about his life in Paris in the 1920s. Guess what? He and his wife lived in a small and poor place. His office? A hotel room on the highest floor. Now, as hotels during Covid-times have offered rooms to business people as day offices, I feel that we have come full circle. Hotels as a location for creativity—what is not to like about this? In fact, as I am behind on my next book, I might lock myself into a hotel and not leave the premises for four weeks. I am sure a New York Times bestseller would be born there.
What is your relationship with hotels? Are you getting more out of them than just a good night of sleep?
© Michael Froehls – 2021 – All rights reserved
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