The streets are packed. Bustling with men, women and children, street vendors each attempting to lure customers to their products/food with the branding, “The Best…” and that beautiful girl in between the commotion with a face that stops time like the circus tent scene in the movie “Big Fish.” Bodies are encapsulating me in the narrow space reserved for my family’s walk to our destination. Some of those going about their daily ‘dance of life’ are questioning my families’ very presence. Existing in their bubble of reality can sometimes require an escape in the literal sense (to be more incognito) as well as the metaphorical sense.
How will this chaos stop and change into a friendly place to mingle and get a little lost in? Most times it can be alleviated in just a few predetermined steps. In some cases though, it may require an athletic hop, skip and a jump (as was the case in downtown Cairo).
Whether enduring the camel two-step on the way to the awe-inspiring ancient Pyramids of Egypt or the economic metropolis of Hong Kong with its towering presence, each cannot be fully seen without a proper entrance. Sights of the mythical desert Sphinx, a pristine beach on the Seychelles Islands and the ceiling of a Norwegian barn were crisper, sounds of giant flies in the Australian Outback, crashing waves off the Sydney Harbour and the swoosh of snow while the snowmobile ahead of me is trying to avoid hitting an adult buffalo in Montana were heard with tremendously clear acoustics and smells of spices, fish and heat itself shocked my nose because of how and where I arrived at each of these various locations.
A reservation and simple entrance, made after an exhausted day of traveling in planes, trains and automobiles, can make all the difference in establishing a destiny of an exciting journey or tour bus boredom. It’s the contrast between television’s regular definition and high definition. Quite literally, there is no comparison.
Walking into the right hotel lobby in cities and countries all around the world has repeatedly solidified incredible enjoyment of countless vacations and trips (A quick shout-out and “Thank You” to my parents as I have been very blessed to travel and stay in the places I have). A busy European downtown, Swedish countryside or Canadian ski town can open up and reveal itself in ways so spectacular that they are nearly impossible to observe otherwise. You no longer feel like a visitor or tourist, but as one of the locals. You see small shops on the corner and quickly scurry in to take a gander at the delicious treats. Disguised restaurants down alleyways are discovered and result in being a wonderful adventure in more ways than one. You transform into an unrestrained explorer.
A grand, uniquely original, expensive and inexpensive hotel alike can take your trip and turn it 180 degrees into a once in a lifetime vacation.
My family’s vacation’s have taken me to: the original Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, a Stabbur in Norway, the unforgettable Club SA (Salvation Army) in Reykjavik, Iceland, a hotel next to a prison in Chiang-Rai, a gorgeous beach side resort in Bali, the stunning resort in the Seychelles off the east coast of Africa, a hotel in the jungles of Costa Rica, a hotel literally in the shape of a crocodile in Kakadu National Park in Australia, a hotel in Berlin, Germany where we, no joke, slept in the floor (each room was different & one had coffins…), a castle in Dublin, Ireland, an ultra-modern and high-tech tower of a hotel in Cardiff, Wales (best beds on the planet!), in the middle of the Wahiba Sands desert in Oman in a black and white tent with no electricity and in a room in the docked Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, to name only a few.
Rooms that are cramped with bunk beds are not viewed with a heavy sigh, but instead laughed at with amusement. A hidden and ‘experienced’ (code word for old) hotel in the less populated and less glamorous area of the old town can be viewed as a once in a lifetime moment off the beaten track of every other traveler (FYI-Old Dubai and New Dubai are correctly distinguished as such).
But now, I have a much wider view and appreciation of Dubai than most because of the unconventional choice made in regard to the hotel that night.
The decision to stay at a luxurious hotel for a night in Hamburg, Germany during the 2006 World Cup proved to be a sound decision. As luck would have it, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team was staying at this hotel! It became clear on the drive up that there was something going on or somebody special was staying there because the surrounding area was blocked off with heavy security. Not only was it special to see the players casually walking around, but the room was magnificent. It is without question one of the moments from that trip I will never forget.
Those same jam-packed streets that are reminiscent of episodes of “The Amazing Race” were soon seen as a charming means of visually capturing the culture on the way to a museum with ancient artifacts and treasures. Hotels are vital to not only a night’s sleep, but is directly related to the experience and consequential memories that greatly define our perspectives. They are an important ‘first step’ during trips/vacations.
Perhaps most importantly, the right hotel will grant you a temporary resident’s visa with a uniquely special suspended outlook of the grand nature of a city, town or village. Your acclimation to your new surroundings gin up an adrenaline rush that is both exciting and full of curiosity. There is this freedom of knowing that you are just visiting and that there are very few (if any) consequences to your decisions while staying inside the boundaries of common decency and respect.
It sparks a renaissance within yourself about life and the world.
Even domestically, choosing a hotel is paramount. It was only a few months ago I was in a familiar city: New York. I picked the hotel for its surprisingly affordable price and because of its proximity to Central Park for a concert the next day. Hotel wise, I was staying in a new area and decided to take a stroll on that Friday in the early evening. As a result of the hotel I picked, I happened to walk past (& ultimately returned to) this gentleman on the street who I recognized standing in front of his hotel.
Once again, it was an amazing pleasure to meet you Dave Grohl.