I have a confession to make: I like staying at motels and hostels.
I don’t love it. But I like it.
Even though I am a thirty-something media professional who’s been privileged enough to stay in palatial suites at Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons — places I absolutely adore — these options are not practical for a road trip. Nor are they even options in most of the tiny towns I’ve so far encountered on my way down the coasts of Oregon and California.
More importantly, unless you are Paris Hilton, Donald Trump or Trust Fund Baby making a month-long road trip across America — which, ahem, I am currently in the midst of doing — then you are on a budget.
I am on a budget.
Definitely on a budget.
Most certainly on a budget.
With my hotel points and airline miles pretty much exhausted after four months of traveling and about three more weeks of road tripping to go, I have been moteling and hosteling it since Portland, Ore. (This excludes several nights in San Francisco where a high school friend insisted that I stay with her. Thank you, Bonnie!)
The anticipation of having to take this motel/hostel route concerned me a tiny bit at first. Just a tiny bit. Motels and hostels conjure up a certain imagine, after all, and usually not a nice one. We’ve all seen the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece “Psycho.” Perhaps some of us also have seen the Quentin Tarantino-produced “Hostel.” Both are horror films. Key word: horror.
I’d also written enough true-crime story lines as a producer for “Cold Case Files” to recall that many of those crimes centered around bad things that happened at a … you guessed it … motel. Oh, and the victim was usually a white woman.
But, I’d like to go on the record: Motels and hostels aren’t all bad. I’d actually put some in the category of three-star.
For instance, take a look at my motel room for tonight in San Simeon, Calif.
Hardwood floors. Clean sheets. A hot shower, with a shower head that is taller than me. Plus, a follow-up phone call from the front desk attendant asking if there is anything else I need. All for $50 per night. This a steal, especially when other hotels in the area cost $100 or more.
No need for pomp and circumstance when I simply need a place to rest the head for a night. As long as I have a warm bed and a hot shower, at $50 or less, I am happy. This is a road trip journey, after all, not a five-star vacation.
Perhaps my nights in the unheated tea houses of Nepal this winter have made me less picky and lowered my bar when it comes to accommodations. But I don’t think so. I think it’s just practicality, and viewing these stops in a utilitarian fashion versus an oasis of some extended-stay holiday. When I have been driving all day and plan to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to hit the road again, I only have time for a shower and sleep. Motels and hostels fit the bill.
Would I love to stay at a Ritz-Carlton right now? Sure. But am I happy at this Motel 6? Absolutely.
Nevertheless, I am still shoving my suitcase against the door for added security, something I also do when staying at five-star hotels. After all, it is really tough to erase all of my memories from “Cold Case Files” …