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Or Why I Never Have Ordered Room Service. And Never Will.
There are some people who consider ordering in from a hotel’s room service to be the ultimate decadence. I, on the other hand, have never had room service, and hope I never will. Sure, if you’re unfortunate enough to be sick when you’re traveling away from home, there are some advantages.
But if you’re healthy, no offense intended, it seems to me that having dinner in your room is the ultimate in boring. Sure, you can do it in your comfy jammies, but by doing so, you’re missing out on all the adventures that await outside the confines of your room.
And don’t think that just because you’re traveling alone, that gives you some excuse to stay in.
As a woman in business, there have been many, many times I’ve found myself in a strange city, traveling alone. I’ve frequently flown out of town to attend training courses, scouted out cities for customer events, or set up trade show exhibits as a one-person advance “team.” I’ve had the amazing good fortune to be invited to international sales meetings and took the opportunity to tack on vacation days at the beginning or end, so as to take full advantage of the fact that I was on another continent with the bulk of the travel expense (flights anyway) on my boss’ dime.
Did it matter that my husband couldn’t or didn’t want to join me? Not in the least. In fact, much as I enjoy my husband’s company (and vacations with him are the best), I sometimes much prefer traveling without him. Why?
Eat When I Want. Shop Till I Drop.
When I’m alone, I do exactly as I please. I see and do what I’m interested in, without worrying that anyone else is bored, tired, or hungry. I eat when I’m hungry, and search out whatever I feel like eating that day … whether it’s Egyptian, Thai or Indian fare, or just going for a simple vanilla ice cream cone. I decide.
If I’ve got any spare time, I can roam down an interesting-looking side street. Explore a cute little boutique. Cruise a museum till I decide I’ve had enough. Book an escorted walk around town or a trip to some nearby locale. Hop a train and visit the countryside. Shop till I drop, or maybe not shop at all. It’s my call.
Meet Interesting People.
When you’re alone, you’re far more likely to talk to strangers, and have them stop to talk to you. If they see you partnered up, they may not approach. But travel alone, and things change. You might meet other business travelers, vacationers or the locals. I can’t tell you how many fascinating, friendly and helpful people I’ve met that way.
On a related note, I’m always particularly amazed by the conversations I’ve had on airplanes. Complete strangers open up to you and tell you intimate details of their lives that they wouldn’t consider sharing with even their long-time co-workers or friends, and then they “disappear into the night,” in a manner of speaking, never to be seen again.
Of course, that has nothing much to do with getting out of your hotel room for dinner. But, you never know exactly where these conversations will lead. Last year, I met a graphics designer on a flight headed back to his hometown in Hamburg, Germany. He told me that, as luck would have it, there was a huge Seaport Festival being celebrated on the waterfront, that weekend. Amazingly, when he heard I was alone, he offered to trade phone numbers and actually called to invite me to meet up with him and his friends later that day, to enjoy the goings on. I actually never got my company-provided cell phone working in Germany, and unfortunately completely missed his voice mail message till after I got back home. But, because he’d told me about the event, I (and about a half million other celebrants) made it over to the seaport and had a wonderful time seeing the sites, enjoying the wide variety of modern and old-fashioned sailing vessels, listening to great live bands, and eating all sorts of curry wurst and other local delicacies. (See slideshow below.)
So … Now That You’ve Decided To Go Out Too,
How Do You Decide Where to Go?
A few notes of advice:
– Don’t listen to the concierge. No offense meant to these hard-working people. But when I’m in a new town, I want to explore. Take in the local culture. Go where the locals go; not to the overpriced, sanitized restaurants that the hotel usually wants to send me to. I’ve tried asking, in no uncertain terms, for recommendations to local hangouts, but invariably get pointed in the direction of just another expensive, made-for-the-tourists restaurant. So, if you can, do some research on the web. Whip out your smartphone and consult Yelp, or any number of similar apps. Ask someone you meet, who looks like they live or work in that city, for their recommendation. Or just get out and walk around. Who knows where it will lead? (For fun reading, look for upcoming blogs on “My Vietnamese Octopus Adventure” and “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Food in New Orleans, Even in the Divey-est of Dives.”)
– Even if you’re stuck at an airport hotel with no place within walking distance and no car, (or like me, have absolutely no sense of direction and prefer not to rent a car, as getting lost is a virtual certainty), you can, at least, get out of your room and over to the hotel’s restaurant, downstairs. Plan on people watching for the night. Maybe you’ll meet another solo traveler. Maybe not. Just in case, pick up a magazine about area happenings, available for free in most hotel lobbies, so if people watching isn’t enough, you’ll have something to keep you occupied between courses.
– Be careful. Obviously, if you do get out, stay in well-lit, well-traveled areas. Don’t take stupid chances. Don’t get in unmarked cabs or “limos” that stop to pick you up, even if you flagged the cab down. Try to dress like the locals. (In Europe, yes, that still means wearing black. And add a scarf, if you’re a woman. Or even a man.) And, on a legal note – I take no responsibility whatsoever for any misfortune that may occur based on you following any of these suggestions. You’re on your own. But, in all the years I’ve traveled, knock on wood, I’ve had wonderful adventures, eaten fabulous foods, met interesting people, saw and did things I would never have experienced if I’d stayed in with a room-service menu order and never once have I gotten into any trouble.
So. Next time you get an opportunity to travel, skip the room-service menu and get out on the town. It doesn’t have to be expensive … and very likely may cost less than the in-room service, anyway. Whatever you do, make it an adventure. You never know what you’re missing if you don’t, at least, try.
Have you any great experiences to share from your business travels?