The Beds I Have Slept In

I remember the first time—I stayed in a hotel. I was eight and my dad sent me on a mission to find ice. I have been in love with hotels ever since. I even once slept with Paris Hilton—Who hasn’t, right?–no not that Paris Hilton, the real Paris Hilton Hotel.

Indeed, I have always had a soft spot for hotels. And the grand hotel lobbies of the world too because they were a place where anything could happen and where you could meet someone who could change your financial and romantic destiny. The fact that I haven’t had to buy shampoo or shower gel in decades is also a plus.

Recently, I conducted a rough, down and dirty count of the hotels I have stayed in over the years; looking through my various hotel stationary, matches and travel sticker collections, old credit card bills and a few decades worth of monthly calendars. I was astounded to find that I have slept on average, more than 80 nights a year in hotels and that means thousands of different hotels over the years—good ones, bad ones and really ugly ones too.

I have stayed in capsule hotels, concept hotels, hostels and penthouse suites, ice hotels, haunted hotels, theme room hotels, cave hotels, prison hotels, historic hotels, plane hotels, tree house hotels, resort hotels, dock hotels, halaal hotels, tent hotels, clothing optional hotels and even love hotels—not the same thing! I have stayed in hotels that had been foreclosed on (the manager was trying to earn a few extra bucks), and hotels that would be more aptly renamed Hotel Insomniac and the Bates Motel.

Over the last decade, serving as the Event Director for the annual world travel championships, known as The Global Scavenger Hunt, it has become my job to find fun, interesting and comfortable hotels for our traveling competitors to stay in while they travel around the world. The hotel is not the main event for those participating–the secret destination is.

That said, finding their homes-away-from-home, I am always thinking temporary oasis, not resort destination. Our hotels serve a utilitarian purpose: as a way to better facilitate their daily experiences—outside the hotel. We want our participants to be out and about 14-16 hours a day site-doing; yet know at the end of that busy day that they have a safe, comfortable and convenient refuge to lay their weary memory and experience-filled heads.

The things I love about hotels are: personal wake-up calls, plush robes, room service, pools (for midnight swims), city views, heated-towels, comfortable beds, conversation-filled bars, balconies, and the sense of theater in grand hotel lobbies.

The things I miss about hotels today are: hotel stationary, wake up calls from an actual person, vibrating beds (Oh, come on you do to!), big brass room keys, windows that actually open, hotels that give you a pair of white gloves to read the morning paper with and lobby shoe shines.

The things I dislike most about hotels are: bean-counting revenue managers, inadequate water pressure, Wi-Fi charges, intrusive housekeeping staffs, bathroom phones, inconvenient power supplies, bedspreads, resort fees, portage fees, mystery stains and Guest Behaving Badly (BTW: There is a GBB list–the no-fly list for hotels!).

Some hotels simply try too hard but that is better than the ones that don’t try at all; while some get it just right—the Borg Hotel in Reykjavik, the Boathouse in Phuket, and the Regent Taipei, to name a few.

Some hotels are guilty as (over)charged of being bloated, ego-stroking, self-satisfied establishments living on their perceived celebrity—when in fact their fifteen minutes ended long ago.

Some hotels are too ostentatious to the point of making you feel uncomfortable, while some brands are so bland and homogeneous that you’d think you were in Cleveland while staying in Borneo. And some of the newer boutique brands are just too painfully self-consciously hip.

Here are a dozen hotels across six continents that I have really enjoyed recently—and you would too:

Electra Palace (Athens)

Heritage Suites Hotel (Siem Reap)

Komaneka at Bisma (Bali)

Governor’s Residence (Yangon)

Hotel Monasterio (Cusco)

Vancouver Shangri La Hotel

The Bangkok Oriental

Mena House Hotel (Egypt)

Palais Jamai (Fez)

Oberoi Rajvilas (Jaipur)

San Francisco Palace Hotel

The Thief Hotel (Oslo)

Why do you like hotels and what are some of your favorite global places to rest your head?
By William D. Chalmers – Copyright 2000-2016, GEA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Reprinted from Huffington Post October 2014)

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A Travel Addict’s Index to Higher Highs

“When you travel often, you will be addicted to it forever.” — Henry Miller

Gateway drugs push you on to higher highs. Could the same be said for travel addiction?

My name is William Chalmers and I am a travel addict. There, I said it!

I fondly recall the lazy lake-side cottage vacations of my youth. We all remember our first time! I can distinctly evoke family road trips — Cedar Point, Gettysburg, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, and Ocean City, Maryland. It was a mild buzz. My first plane ride from Los Angeles to Detroit was utterly thrilling. I wanted more. I vaguely recall Spring Break holidays in Florida and Mexico — utterly intoxicating. (Sorry.) Then cross-country buddy road trips.

My taste for adventure grew. My first international adventure to Southeast Asia was the coup de graĉe… the travel bug was now firmly coursing through my veins. I was hooked. And the feeling of traveling to exotic faraway destinations only heightened my senses and consciousness. I was alive, engaged and absorbed. It was utterly exhilarating and I wanted more. A lot more.

Recently, I got to wondering about that gateway drug reference and narcotic feeling as it pertains to travel. Many of us suffer from the affliction wanderlust, which describes a “craving to travel.” But how does one contract an obsession and how does one go about feeding that habit?

Like foodies, there are tell-tale signs you are a travel addict: you talk about your next distant fix while you are already in an exotic destination; you book another trip as soon as you return from one; your Bucket List keeps getting longer instead of shorter; you only date international airlines flight attendants (Okay maybe just me?); you visibly shake at the sight of a map; you always carry your passport — even at home; your Skype contacts list looks like the UN’s phone book; your idea of art on your walls is thumb-tacking postcards; you can give tourists directions in places you are actually visiting; and finally, you know you are a travel addict when you accept the need for an intervention — as long as rehab on another continent is the first-step!

Everyone is different when it comes to their drugs of choice — be it tea, coffee, tobacco yoga, marathons, tequila, love, marijuana or chocolate — so too in travel. Over the holidays I began sharing that question along with my own point of view with scores of other passionate fellow travelers. And I think I now have a good sense of how fellow travelers get hooked, deal with their dependencies and alleviate their constant cravings.

The results I have assembled below are rather subjective, but extremely interesting and thought-provoking. As a novel way to present these data points — it is a work in progress to be sure, but one that presents as a simple barometer of sorts that for the first time presents an escalating ladder of travel experiences illustrating the progression of types of trips, travels and adventurous experiences. From humble beginnings in origin, you can see how quickly the journey travelers undergo quickly climbs them up the travel addiction ladder in order to achieve higher and higher travel experiences.

I readily admit it is a work in progress. I know that unique personal experiences or specific destinations are both unquantifiable and endless in nature. And no doubt, jaded travelers, over-intellectualizing critics and sanctimonious pooh-poohers, will all make the usual arguments, complaining that: roughing it is all that matters; that trips are different than personal journeys; that tourists are different than travelers; that travelers are different than wanderers; that you have to spend X amount of time to truly know the authenticity of a place; that there is a right and wrong way to travel; and that unless you are risking your life you aren’t taking a truly daring adventure; whatever… bring it on!

Let’s call this a budding thought experiment that I front and center stipulate immediately that travel is indeed a highly personal endeavor and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to it.

That said, on a scale of 0-to-10 (10 being really elusively high!), what all travel junkies want to know — how can I get my next travel high?

The Traveler’s Addiction Index 2.0
(Bold designates significant gateway travel addiction thresholds):

.1 – Armchair traveler watching TV travel & food shows
.2 – Reading newspaper travel sections weekly
.3 – A quick trip to neighboring Colorado to, well, you know…
.4 – Two-week family summer vacation
.5 – Taking a student spring break trip
.7 – Visiting Disneyland, Las Vegas, Branson or Orlando
1.0 – Subscribing to a travel-related magazine
2.0 – Taking a cross-country/multi-state road trip
2.2 – Visiting Canada
2.4 – Visiting Mexico
2.5 – Taking a weekend cruise
3.0 – Reading a famous travel memoir
3.5 – Obtaining your first passport (with the intent to use it)
3.6 – Buying a guidebook (with the dream of using it)
3.7 – Taking an extended international cruise
3.8 – Attending an overseas conference/convention
4.0 – Studying a semester abroad
4.1 – Taking a travel agent FAM trip
4.2 – Taking an exotic honeymoon
4.3 – Visiting a Club Med/all-inclusive-type resort
4.4 – Being a business road warrior (domestic)
4.5 – Taking a Medical Tourism excursion
4.6 – Applying for The Amazing Race
5.0 – Visiting a non-English speaking country
5.5 – Backpacking through Europe
5.6 – Doing the classic London, Paris, Rome trip
5.7 – Being a business road warrior (international)
6.0 – Obtaining a visa for a foreign nation
6.7 – Taking a Gap year traveling
6.8 – Becoming a paid travel writer (not a travel blogger)
6.9 – Competing in The Amazing Race
7.0 – Having lived in more than 2 countries
7.5 – Having visited more than 4 continents
7.7 – Seen these Seven Wonders: Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Petra, Tikal.
8.0 – Visiting India
8.1 – Attended these Global Happenings: Rio Carnival, Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, World Cup, Holi, Burning Man, Fiesta de San Fermin.
8.2 – Seen these Natural Wonders: Himalayas, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, Mt. Fuji, Amazon.
9.0 – Circumnavigating the globe in one trip
9.3 – Taking an extended around the world (RTW) trip
9.4 – Reaching the 50+ countries threshold
9.5 – Reaching the 100+ countries threshold
9.6 – Competing in The Global Scavenger Hunt annual travel adventure competition
9.7 – Being considered one of The World’s Greatest Travelers
9.8 – Travel rapture
9.9 – Travel nirvana
10.0 – Hmmm?

So, where are you at on the travel addict’s ladder?

By William D. Chalmers – Copyright 2000-2016, GEA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(Reprinted from Huffington Post January 2014)

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