So I’m starting to look at our next trip and am poking around online and have already encountered the exchange I hear over and over. Person A on a travel forum asks: “what do you know about this [nice] hotel?” and person B responds, “Well, I’ve never stayed there. I prefer more authenticity.”
This theme pops up over and over among travelers, the idea that the cheaper your room, the more cred you have as a real traveller. It’s more authentic, people say, closer to real life, a truer experience, not so sterile.
Well, I’ve stayed in my share of hostels, guesthouses with concrete beds and paper walls, and other budget lodgings lacking anything from hot water to AC to heat. And I’ve stayed (via Hotwire, points, or any other means I can rummage up) in posh hotels. And I have to say. When I’m far from home, figuring out my way around a foreign city, feet aching, and brain a bit tired at the end of a day, there is nothing like returning to a cushy bed, soft towels, and a shower with hot water and good pressure. And sound-proof windows. Without a halfway decent night’s sleep while traveling, nothing else matters. All the sights I came thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to see will blur together into a foggy string of places where I look for a place to sit down.
Yes, the guest house owners of some places we’ve stayed have been among the highlights of our travels. But others were just as anonymous as the concierge behind the desk in the sparkling lobby of the name brand hotel. Either way, I’m paying to stay in a lodging full of other people from elsewhere, staffed by locals paid to tend to me.
Unless you’re staying with friends or family (which we’ve also done!), you’re a customer. And customers in a fancy hotel who step out the door and plunge into adventure are no less of a traveller than those who toss and turn in a budget inn, kept awake all night by fire alarms and banging doors (like our stay at the Leinster Inn hostel in London nine years ago).
In the end, I’m not in a city for the room. I’m there for the full experience – to see, taste, smell and otherwise immerse myself in the life of another world. A robe and slippers at the end of the day is just icing.