I enjoy the life of a full-time writer. I crawl out of bed to my Mac, still in my pajamas, and write a few paragraphs that came to me in the dim twilight time between sleep and waking. I don’t have to answer to anyone, other than my agent and publisher, but I only hear from them at turning points in the publishing process. I also enjoy traveling to give workshops and lectures on the themes of my books, and since I write about the soul, I’m often aware of the many issues involved in the traveler’s soul.
I like hotels. In the early days of my writer’s life, when publishing had the flair a flush bank account can afford, I was put in very fine hotels. Quickly I got accustomed to smooth sheets, good food and superlative service. Today I have to look more carefully for hotels that suit me and situations that make travel a pleasure rather than a chore.
As I write this, I’m thinking of helping other travelers shape their journeys so their souls are not burned out by it all and they have at least moderate pleasure along the way.
I prefer big hotels, where I can sense the vitality of other travelers and not feel alone or segregated from normal life. I know that my hosts in various places assume I’d want a boutique hotel that is quaint and artful and more homey. It’s true that I have appreciated some small hotels, especially in Ireland and England, where I work frequently. But some small hotels are just too quiet and lifeless. I also enjoy anonymity available in larger hotels.
The trouble, of course, with a big hotel on a modest budget is that they are often ugly, cold, commercial and cookie-cutter in style. They do little for your sense of beauty and sensousness. If you’re an artist, like me, they can really offend your longing for simple quality and substance.
So I generally look for something between plush and standard. Plush is often too fussy, overwhelmingly ornate and too expensive. Standard often feels empty, thin, “plastic” and cheaply designed for the undiscriminating traveler. There is nothing worse than a breakfast made of eggs from apparently cardboard chickens, pastries made with too much sugar and some sort of flour substitute, served with paper cups and plastic cutlery.
You can find good food at chain hotels. My wife and I recently were treated to delicious omelets at a Marriott in Pasadena. Very recently I stayed at a Hilton in Salt Lake City where I had a spotless room with comfortable sheets, more than enough space and extraordinary care from the maid service. My favorite moderately priced hotel in New York (note: moderate for New York) is the Chandler. I learned the hard way not to have the over-priced and fussy breakfast there, but everything else about the hotel pleases my soul. I used to stay at The Mark, when the price of a room was $300 and my publisher was picking up the tab. It’s a lovely place in a perfect location, but today I’d have to take out a loan for more than a one-day stay.
As I like to preach, the first need of the soul is for home. When you’re traveling that often means a hotel. The sense of home is transferable; so when you’re away you need to find a temporary home. I like coziness, anonymity, beauty, and relaxation. If I can find a hotel that offers these soul benefits, I’ll give it a try.
Of course, it’s always good to be within walking distance of a place you want to visit. In London I usually stay at the Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone, near OK restaurants, a block away from Selfridge’s, a good walk to the British Museum and many other places on my list. The hotel is beautiful, warm, friendly and moderately priced. Don’t get the smallest room; it is really tiny.
I consider this a simple essay on the soul, because it likes to travel and wants to be home. The trick is satisfying both needs at the same time. People make many arrangements for their travel but sometimes forget that their soul is going along, too. Care of the Soul on the Road might be a good book to write. We’re not always at home literally, but we can be home wherever we are. To do so you just need to think it through and pay attention.