Once upon a time, I was a medium-big traveler.
I never did it as much as my friends Shane or Chris, and certainly not as much as my father (o, he of the fabled American AAirpass!), but for a goodly stretch of my life, say, 22 - 32, I got around, and when I got there, I parked it in hotels.
I am a big fan of hotel-staying over couch-surfing, even when the couch is a lovely guest room with private bath or a beautiful detached guest house all to oneself on Mt. Tamalpais. (Yes, really. Another lifetime, and of course, friends of my father's.) Unless my generous hosts are nowhere near the premises, I have problems with staying in someone else's space.* Real, serious, physical problems.** Travel is hard enough on non-hardy introverts; throw a lot of activities into the mix, even activities you really, really enjoy, like hanging out with beloved friends, and you have a recipe for fried circuits and an exhausted nervous system, especially when you're talking Virgos with Cancer rising.
What I am not a big fan of is overpaying for comfort. I'm down with comfort, but when it edges into what I call luxury, I get uncomfortable. I like parking my own car, hauling my own luggage, brewing my own espresso. If I had my way, I'd either rent houses or have my own everywhere I went (which is a lot of houses, probably even Oprah wouldn't want to do that.) And yeah, I know that makes me just as much of a Wussy McWusserton, first-world person of privilege as any fatcat who stays at the Four Seasons on expense account. I guess my style is more "do whatever you can to fly under the radar while still protecting your soft, chewy center." If there's a tag like that.
So what I do now when I travel, especially right now, when I'm feeling a little bit tender and I need to travel, is find a great place with the right kind of "luxury" that doesn't break the bank. This means such critical stuff as clean, safe, sleepy-bye bedding and (premium) cable, basically, somewhere that is at least as nice as my humble little rent-stabilized one-bedroom in an undisclosed area of Los Angeles. (Which, now that I think of it, is exactly what I've always wanted from a home-away-from-home, which is why some of those places seemed Saudi-prince-level-luxurious back when I lived with drafts and vermin in my Brooklyn shithole.)
Enter the Hotel Vertigo in just-a-little-too-beautiful-for-me San Francisco.
Named after the legendary Hitchcock classic, the Vertigo is one of a fambly of charming San Francisco hotels, each of which seem to be hipster-rehabbed properties which might have fallen on hard times. It's beautifully decorated, loads of hipster color combo orange-'n'-brown, furry scatter pillows, and Vertigo art, with wonderful attention to Colleen-crucial details: kickass bed/bedding, non-chintzy bathroom and bath accessories, adequate setup for on-the-road computing. The wise folk who run it are exceptionally blogger-savvy: like the Roger Smith in New York (a place you can bet your ass I'll check out next chance I get, and similarly tout if it's great), they go out of their way to accommodate nerds, and as a nerd, I say, It's about fucking time this got me something!***
But they're nice to everyone, or at least, they were as far as I could see. Can I tell you what a relief it is to find service that is great without being obsequious or otherwise creepy? Because it is. Like my recent world-changing experience with Virgin America, I now believe that there is some way to staff up with normal, nice, smart human beings, and then empower and treat said staff well enough that they continue to act like nice, normal, smart human beings whose job happens to be helping you deal with life on the road.
Because then, not only do your customers get their reservations sorted out by an actual friendly human when they stupidly screw up their flight plans; not only do they get their airport transfers handled with something bordering on elegance; you get wild, crazy evangelists to go forth and do all your promoting for you for FREE. ZOMFG, the world may end, it's such a radical business plan!
In my perfect world, there would be a wonderful little hotel like the Vertigo in San Francisco, or the Camas Hotel in picturesque Camas, WA, or the Jupiter in Portland, OR (only maybe a little quieter, for us fogeys), in every town I ever stepped foot in as a traveler: affordable, enjoyable, accommodating, non-icky.
Maybe there is. But I won't know about them unless we all start telling each other. How about it, nerds? Give 'em up in the comments?
*In case you're curious, I actually have a few outrageously generous and well-to-do friends who offer up their cush cribs to me while they're on the road, for which privilege I happily run out and buy them all manner of shit for their houses, from coffee machines to designer toilet brushes to wireless routers.
**There were times when The Chief Atheist or The Youngster and I stayed with his parents where I would not poop for a week. A WEEK. Thankfully, The BF was 100% fine with not staying on the family property; that he shared my convictions of "camping" meaning "staying at a motel without premium cable" was one of many reasons we lasted as long as we did.
***Seriously, they could not have been more delightful and accommodating at every turn
Image by karen.tkr via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.