A couple of years back I found myself working overseas and living in a hotel. It was one of those fancy places in the Middle East where everything is made of gold, you can smoke cigars in the lobby, and the staff greet you by name.
Truth be told, the hotel was one of the reasons I took the job. The chance to live it up in a 5 Star Hotel on the other side of the world seemed like a wonderful dream. And for the first month or two it was. My laundry would be waiting for me when I arrived home in the afternoons, I had free run of the buffet, and was chauffeured to work.
But hotel life can get real old, real fast, especially if you travel for work. So if you find yourself jetting off for foreign cities and strange hotels on a regular basis, you're going to need some copying mechanism. We asked the experts for their tips.
Get to know the concierge
The concierge is your new best friend. They're also your personal assistant, tour guide, and sometimes moral compass. As Nico, a twenty year hotel veteran from Paris explains, "I had one elderly guest who was forever getting arrested. He was a Marxist burdened by inherited wealth, and it drove him to drink. I had to bail him out of jail on several occasions, but he had great stories."
Take advantage of the perks
Depending on the hotel, and how generous your employer is, you may suddenly find yourself with an in-house barber, a private members lounge, and a yacht club at your disposal. You don't have to start lighting cigars with $100 bills, but you may as well embrace the fantasy.
"We once made the hotel send a driver across town for soft shell crab on New Year's day," explains David, a project manager based in Dubai.
"At the time, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do."
Give the room a personal touch
While nailing paintings to the walls and moving the furniture around is frowned upon, small additions can make a big difference. Something as simple as a favourite book can add personality to a room. For longer stays you can get more ambitious, like the guy in Abu Dhabi who purchased a parrot. We'll let Khalid, the hotel manager, tell the story: "The guy bought the bird at the markets, kept it in the room, and taught it to swear at the cleaners. It was named Eric and was real mean. All the staff were terrified of it."
Watch your diet
Room service, in-house dinning, mini bars and buffets can quickly sneak up on your waist. But they're no substitute for a homemade sandwich, or the convenience of your favourite breakfast cereal. This is where the hotel kitchen comes in. As Margot, a hostess with a private airline notes, "I make the kitchen store my Froot Loops and lactose free milk, so when I come down for breakfast they're waiting for me."
Find your own routines and schedules
Hotels have their own unique ebbs and flows, knowing how they work means you can avoid the crowds. "I was staying at a boutique hotel in Zurich for work and it was like something out of Wes Anderson film," says Laura, "The daily routines were timed to the minute. When you're on the other side of the world, and everything is foreign, knowing that the fresh muffins are left in the lobby at 8:15am exactly can be a real life saver."
Use the gym and other services
As boring and obvious as it sounds, there's a lot to be said for a nice gym on the hotel premises. If motivation is an issue you can ask the hotel to organise a trainer, or write you motivational notes. "I was staying in Switzerland, at this amazing hotel, and every morning the hotel would slip a handwritten motivational note under my door to help me get out of bed," says Louis, who obviously stays at better establishments than the rest of us.
Find a place to work
While most business hotels have in-room facilities, you don't have to confine yourself to the desk. "I was living at the Sheraton Noosa three nights a week," explains Melissa, "and every evening I'd head out to the patio bar with my laptop, talk to the barista about the new arrivals, order a couple of coffees, and smoke cigarettes while I caught up on emails. Then they banned smoking, but that's another story…"
Embrace the minimalism
Staying in a hotel forces you to pair things back and dump the excess baggage, both literally and metaphorically. According to Kristina, who works as an art consultant and travels for work, "There's something liberating about adopting a minimal hotel life. When it's just you, a laptop, and a change of clothes it frees you up to think big picture. There's none of the distractions you get back in the real world."
Meet new friends
A hotel provides a new cast of characters on a daily basis. Folks on holidays, travelling for work, or conducting illicit affairs. And if there's a big conference in town they might be doing all three. According to Peter, a bar manager at the Gold Coast, hotel lounges are all about 'casual encounters'. "There are always couples meeting people for threesomes in the bar. They'll usually have a drink with someone they've contacted online, and if that goes well they'll all go upstairs together." Make of that what you will.
Consider yourself lucky
Hotel life can get tedious, but you could certainly be doing worse. And as
Gerard, a concierge with 40 years experience points out, "A hotel is a living, breathing thing. Treat it well, and it'll do the same for you." And if all else fails, empty the mini bar and claim it was like that when you arrived…
What are your tricks to making the most out of a hotel? Let us know in the comments section below.