I have always loved staying in hotels. Not all hotels all the time of course. But when they are done right I love just about everything about them. Business travel was always a regular feature of my working life and between that and our personal travels, over the years I’ve stayed in a lot of them. Often I sleep better in hotels, even now with my wonderful Tuft & Needle mattress.
My guess is this is because staying in hotels is so completely stress free. Strange expensive sounding noise? Not something I have to worry about fixing. Loud neighbors move in next door? A call to management gets results or a move to a new room, usually with a free upgrade. Violent storm outside? I can relax and enjoy the show.
Every now and again I’d come across a movie where some character or another actually lives in a hotel. This always seemed the height of sophistication as they prepared to sally forth on some grand adventure.
But it also seemed something unobtainable, the stuff of fantasy. Too expensive, for starters.
At one point early in my career I was traveling so much around the US I considered buying and living full time in an RV. But those are cumbersome, require upkeep and are not cheap. Plus the enabling technology of laptops and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. Keeping my apartment and returning to it each weekend was just easier. And living in hotels felt out of reach.
I failed to challenge my assumptions and continued living in the conventional way.
Here was a guy living a life I’d dreamed about. He travels the world. He speaks three languages. His contacts are such that each day he has lunch and/or dinner with some intriguing acquaintance; be they a business associate, world leader, artist or author.
After living the typical billionaire life—owning multiple lavishly furnished homes, an art collection and a private island—he sold it all. He concluded:
“I am not that attached to material things. I have very few possessions…you don’t need much… a few papers, a couple of books, and a few shirts, jackets, sweaters.
“It fits in a little thing, in a paper bag, so it’s very easy.”
Everything he now owns fits in a suitcase or two: A couple of suits, some jeans and handmade shirts—monogrammed with his initials that he then wears “until they fall apart.” My guess is, as the shirts wear, he demotes them to casual service with his jeans. Just like I used to do in my business days with my not-handmade dress shirts. It’s like we’re brothers.
Other than the Gulfstream IV private jet he kept to get from hotel to hotel and a couple billion dollars. Sadly, I am not a billionaire.
Still, here was a model of what my ideal life might look like if I were.
Again, I failed to challenge my assumptions and continued living in the conventional way.
But my mind was slowly being pried open.
In late August we returned from our summer of wandering around the midwest visiting old friends, exploring new spots and a delightful three week stretch at Shamba, the beach house on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin owned by my in-laws who graciously make it available to us.
We even had JD Roth and his lovely companion Kim join us for a few days.
It was our own experiment in hotel living homelessness.
We’d been in and had enjoyed our loft apartment for the last two years. We’d always wanted to live in a loft. High ceilings, brick walls, exposed ductwork: The whole chic industrial vibe. But when the lease expired, we were ready for a change.
Not only has renting proved to be far less expensive and far less hassle for us than owning our house, it provides far more flexibility. That’s one of the beauties of renting: It facilitates our restless spirits.
On June 30th the movers came, loaded up our worldly goods and packed them into storage. Homeless, we hit the road and gave them not a thought. Until August 24th, eight weeks later.
That morning the movers retrieved our stuff and delivered it to our new apartment where the furniture is now in roughly the right places and the boxes are stacked up in mostly the right rooms.
We certainly have far less now than when we owned the house and this move was much easier than the last. Plus as we settle in, still more stuff will be jettisoned making the next move easier still.
We are thrilled with our new place and the view out our 8th floor windows across the river to the setting sun is spectacular. But we are faced with the prospect of settling in.
As I wade through and toss the accumulated junk mail, I reflect on our hotel living summer experience. It was pretty sweet. There are few hassles, everything is made up and ready when you check in, settling in is a breeze, and you stay as long as you like and move on without a second thought.
In trading emails with my pal Akaisha of Retire Early Lifestyle she wrote:
“If people knew how great it is to live in a place like one of the above—why own a home? Why own a car? I realize some people want their own places, their gardens, workshops, music rooms and pets and such… but these places are super and they are basically stress free.”
She is exactly right. Both on how great this life can be, and how completely unappealing it will be to many. That’s fine. Roots v. Wings.
But is it affordable? Well Akaisha and her husband Billy have found it so, and they’ve been doing it over 20 years.
Jeremy and Winnie of Go Curry Cracker have been on the move for the last few years, most recently in a furnished apartment in Taiwan for 18 months or so. Of course, they just had a baby and as you’d expect things are going to change for them. They’ll be back on the road soon and plan more frequent stops and shorter stays at each. They spend no more each month than we do.
Meanwhile, the Mad Fientist is out wandering the world implementing his 3-6-3 plan.
And here’s what I wish I had read back when I was doing all that business travel on the company dime: Save Money Living in Hotels (Even though author Libby very likely wasn’t born yet)
What I’m beginning to understand is that, as Libby explains, so many costs fall away when you jettison most of your possessions what looks expensive ($100 per night over a month is $3000 after all) isn’t quite that bad.
Several modern things enable this. The key ones it seems to me are:
1. Laptops. Never before has it been easier to be location independent and yet connected.
2. Cell Phones. Same as with laptops. And if you choose right, incredibly inexpensive.
Here’s an example. Our daughter is in South East Asia with the Peace Corp. We talk on the phone often. Mostly it is as clear as if she’s in the room with us. Her monthly charge: $5. I pay $10.
Her $5 a month buys unlimited phone, text and data; provided she has wifi. With wifi she can call any US-based phone number from anywhere in the world.
My $10 a month gives me that and a seamless transfer to cell service when wifi isn’t available. When we were on the road, I stepped it up to the $25 plan for 3G and GPS. Now back, I dropped it down again. I can change like this twice a month. And (with wifi) I can receive her call anywhere in the world even if I’m in, say, Ecuador.
For someone old enough to remember when international long distance cost $10 a minute, this remains a little stunning.
3. Rewards programs. Our longest stay at any one hotel this trip was 10 days. It was free. We used rewards points from various credit card, airline and hotel rewards programs. (Here are my recommended travel rewards credit cards.) Of course our biggest annual expense, rent, gets paid by check and earns no (horror!) points. But if instead of rent, we had only hotel bills each charged to our current favorite rewards card, imagine the points. And the free nights!
Still, my guess is hotel living would prove more expensive. Since I obsessively track costs and spending, after a year or two I’ll know for sure. (YNAB has great tools for this and is maybe The Best Place to Work Ever. Plus since employees there are location independent, you can live in hotels!)
If it proves too expensive, or should we just get bored with it, change is as easy as checking out.
For now, we’ll continue unpacking and settling in to the new place. But a year, or two, passes quickly. As I look around at our stuff, we’ve mostly pared it down to only those things we really enjoy having around. Still, never once in all my travels have I ever missed any of it. Or even thought about it.
Past Post Update, January 20, 2016:
Last October I did a post on: Stockchoker.com (not an affiliate, just cool)
Todd just added two cool new features:
- Stock Wars: A tool that allows you to compare the performance of two stocks and/or funds.
- Quizzes: I took both. I’m a “goat” in the first and a “coyote” in the second. You can do better. I dare ya!
Unrelated, but here’s what I’m currently or have just finished reading and enjoyed:
If you are interested in income inequality, this poorly titled (should have been Unfettered Capitalism—more accurate and more descriptive) is a great discussion of the pros and cons of our current system. Luttwak clearly has his own biases, but is remarkable evenhanded in presenting both sides.
Written in the late 1990s, it is a bit of a time capsule and fun to see how the past 20 years have actually unfolded.