I travel enough to know that I am glad my job does not have me on the road all the time. I travel enough to keep life interesting. I like going other places. Sometimes it is only the neighboring state. But if I have to be there two days, it means an overnight. And that means a night in a hotel. Sometimes I go abroad. It might be Europe or England where I have been so many times, that it does not feel foreign. But the hotels are different there. Occasionally, I go to India or China where the culture and customs are very different. A hotel stay there can be an adventure.
I have never thought much about hotels. And I never thought about them in any spiritual kind of way. But as I was drawn to ponder hotels in this fashion, I was surprised at what began to emerge. It turned out to be fascinating and instructive.
We all know that hotels are places to stay when we are away from our homes or apartments. A couple of my friends spend so much time on the road I imagine they spend at least as much time in hotels as they do their own houses. But I know neither one of them would claim the hotels remotely resemble their houses. In fact, most of us don’t talk about our houses. We prefer to talk about our homes. There is a difference.
No one I know would ever talk about their hotel as their house, much less, their home. Even if they were to be there for a few days or, even, a few weeks, no one would talk about it as home. Of course, they might joke around and say it is their “temporary home.” But everyone knows they are not serious. And it probably is an indication of how much they miss their own home. I know I have been there!
So what do we get when we go to the hotel. Typically, we ask for a room for the night. It might be for a few nights, but it also has the sense that this is temporary. Hence the hotel is temporary. Only the most rare person would move into a hotel and say, “I hope to live here the rest of my life!” Even though I have occasionally been so relieved to find a hotel, I never thought about it in any other terms than temporary.
I know when I get a hotel room, I am going to get a bed. In fact, that is likely the real reason to get a hotel. I am not getting the room for the tv, liquor cabinet or shower. All of these I could manage without having. But if I am to be gone all night, a bed is nice---not necessary, but surely nice. However, when I hop in bed, I am very aware it is not my own bed. I have never been in a hotel that has a bed I like more than my own bed---even though sometimes the hotel bed is much newer and fancier than my own.
As I write this, I realize it is not my own bed in my own home that is so special. I could take out my bed or buy a new one and it would not affect how I feel about my home. The same is true for the rest of the furniture. Of course, I get furniture in a hotel room. I sit in a chair and know immediately it is not the same as the old chair that I claim every night at home.
And I get a television in the hotel room. Often I have more channels to watch there than I buy in my own tv plan at home. I appreciate the tv for the news and some sports. But it is not special any more than my tv at home is special. I know I can happily live without tv. My tv is not what makes my home special.
I suppose one of the biggest differences my home offers that the hotel does not is space. I don't think I have ever been in a hotel room that has as much space as my home. And my home is very modest---having downsized since the kids have gone. But big spaces have never been of much interest to me. I figure I can only occupy so much space, regardless of how big the room or house is.
So what has this musing on a hotel room taught me spiritually speaking? It has taught me to appreciate simplicity, solitude and satisfaction. A hotel room---even a fancy one---is fairly simple. I value simplicity---little baggage to carry, literally or figuratively. Ultimately, life is temporary. I don’t need much to carry through life. And if I keep it simple, life is going to be easier.
I also appreciate solitude. I value being alone and having alone time to think, meditate and pray. To be in solitude is also a form of simplicity. It erases demands and complications from life. In Thoreau’s words, it allows me to “front” my life and face things honestly. To be alone means we have to cope with ourselves.
I also appreciate the ability to be satisfied. Most people I know want to be happy. I am good with happiness, too. It is better than sadness. But I would much rather be satisfied. To be satisfied literally means to be full---satiated is the fancy word. Of course, since we are human we know that being full does not last. That is why we have to eat again and pray again. But I do this to be satisfied. I don’t need extravagance. To be satisfied is to be content and at peace. That seems very spiritual.
Ultimately, I can have all this at home. However, it is when I travel and stay in a hotel I get to see whether I really can live life the way I want: simply, in solitude and satisfied. A hotel room is a good place to practice being spiritual.