When I was a dirt-bag trek leader in Nepal, I thought a hotel was merely a place to sleep – a jumping-off point before heading into the wilderness to pitch a tent. Price was the main factor in decision making, but if a private bathroom with hot water was included, bonus. Done and done. It never mattered.
I’ve since come to learn that a hotel can be the cornerstone of a great trip. In my decades-long career, I’ve slept around a bit – in some remarkable places. From the Terrace Suite at the Four Seasons London at Park Lane to Arctic Kingdom’s mobile safari camp set on the floe edge where ice meets open ocean in the Canadian Territory of Nunavut. From Hyde Park to the High Arctic. One place boasts high thread count, a pillow menu, butler service, complimentary Wi-Fi, silk-padded hangers, twice-daily maid service with evening ice delivery, a 24-hour fitness center, and a spa. Compare that with pristine glacier water melted fresh-to-order, no Wi-Fi or cell service at any cost, two chefs, a generator to charge batteries, unlimited access to hand warmers, even a hot shower on demand.
Could I categorize both as luxury? Definitely. Sometimes it’s about opulence, elegance, being pampered and spoiled. Other times the luxury is the opportunity to be off the grid in a pristine location. All the comforts that most of us require, with or without the distractions that we think we need and want.
View from the 10th Floor – Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane
Arctic Kingdom Base Camp
Hotels can celebrate a sense of place, not just from their location but from the design, history, a signature cocktail, staff uniforms and décor. They have a certain sensibility. You know where you are. Other hotels can offer familiarity; everything’s where it should be. They provide insulation from the culture, the oddities, the unknowns – they’re a safe haven. It’s not until you step outside that you are reminded of where you are. I find merit in both.
As I continue to sleep around the world, I will post updates. When I’m not ‘bed-hopping’, I’ll go through my notes and highlight some of the memorable hotels, lodges, and camps where I’ve stayed.
Let’s be honest, it’s FUN to stay in a great hotel – in the heart of Central London or 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle.