I woke up and I didn’t know where I was. The light that filtered into my room through the sheers that covered the windows indicated that it was near dawn. The green glowing lights from the alarm clock indicated that my mind was still set to the wrong time zone. As the fog of sleep lifted, I could pick out details in the room. King sized bed. Strange sectional configuration in tan fabric and brown leather.
Hyatt Place. The questions was… where?
The interior of most Hyatt Place hotel rooms is identical. Their strategy is to make you feel like you’re coming home. To your other home, some strange work-apartment that happens to move around with you. It doesn’t feel that way to me. Rather, I spend time in the morning attempting to remember where in the country I am for the week.
At least with a Hampton Inn or Hilton, there is variation. Lobbies are decorated with regional flair, rooms equipped with standard amenities but accented with local color. The rooms all have the same matching white duvet covers and the adorable little post-it-notes that say “Duvet and sheets are clean for your arrival.” These post-its appear to be hand-written. Magically, every housekeeper in every Hampton Inn has the same EXACT handwriting.
Miraculous, I know.
It’s a different world on the road and not one that I expect people to understand. People hear about my travels and they comment on how “glamorous” it must be to travel as much as I do. How “exciting” it must be to be a jet setter. I get compared to rock stars and twenty-something socialites on a fairly regular basis.
Yes. I travel a lot. And please understand when I say “a lot” that I mean that I lost count of my plane tickets after fifty. I used to think it would be cute to keep a stack of my room keys as keepsakes from my travels and to commemorate my trip. I stopped that after 50 as well. Because they all look the same, too,
If you’re one of us, you understand. There is a level of camaraderie on the road. The frequent flyer miles, the member points. Comparing and contrasting the different reward programs. We have our own lane for check-in, because we just do it so often. We have learned how to pack our lives into suitcases that roll and are easy to carry on to the plane. We know the rules about liquids, we know better than to wear shoes that require work to take off. (We also know that other countries don’t make you do this- but we’re too tired to complain about it.) You learn not to stand behind old ladies because they never can figure out how to take off all of their metal and to avoid the small families because they will inevitably get detained because little Joey NEEDED to keep the bottle of water. (because, you know… it’s important).
If you’re on the road, you KNOW. There are experiences that people who travel occasionally just don’t understand.
- The horror you feel when you leave a building after a long day of work and are greeted with a filled parking lot and you have no idea which car you rented this week. You walk around the parking lot, hitting the “UNLOCK” button on your keys… hoping.
- Standing outside your hotel room after a long day, cursing because the key doesn’t work. Upon getting all the way back to the front desk, you realize that isn’t your room this week. (At some point, you start requesting the same room number.)
- You’ve made reservations for the wrong days because you have no idea what day it is. Mondays have no meaning if you work 11 days in a row.
- The perplexed feeling when you go to put your hotel into GPS and realize you weren’t the one who booked your hotel and you have no idea where you’re staying.
- Waking up and not knowing where you are. Even worse is waking up at home and not recognizing it.
- Cutting in line to check in for a flight or a hotel and having the front desk open you warmly. You wonder at times what your name looks like in the computer. The double take when they repeat back to you that you are staying for 17 nights, an edge of awe and curiosity to their voices.
- You learn how to eat dinner alone. You also suddenly become a sports fan, just because it gives you a reason to be at a bar by yourself staring up at a screen. If you aren’t an inherently social creature, this can help you feel less alone.
- Getting used to the lonely. It will creep up on you and eat you alive if you don’t keep it at bay. Instead you come up with things to fill the time. Like reality tv shows, going to the gym and the joys of ordering room service.
- You know the secrets of how to get out of a cancellation fee and how to get a nicer room.
- Taking a conference call under your desk or sitting in your car because there are no other outlets in the room.
- The hell that is hotel bandwidth.
- The moment you realize hotel laundry is cheaper than laundromats. However, there is nothing more fun than doing laundry at a Kentucky truck stop. Try it some time.
- Two words: International Roaming.
- You know why you don’t want to drink out of the glasses in the hotel room.
- You get so accustomed to first class upgrades that you forget what it’s like to fly in coach. (To be fair, this really only makes a difference on flights more than three hours.)
It’s not glamorous.
It’s not always fun.
And yet, despite how hard it is to be away from everything you love… you keep going. Because it’s one more trip, one more check in, one more in flight drink.
Bring on that horizon.