As a child I loved to stay at hotels. The thrill of a new place was exhilarating. I’d push past my parents and run into the room, scoping out the better bed, and then rush into the bathroom to inspect the collection of complimentary toiletries. Finally, I’d turn on the TV and surf through the channels, looking for shows I wasn’t usually allowed to watch at home. Hotels meant later bedtimes and glamorous room service. What more could you want?
As an adult, we are less ecstatic about staying in a hotel. Sure, you might get HBO for the evening, and it’s always nice to have someone else do the cleaning, but the price alone is a turn off. Who wants to pay for a bed when you have a perfectly nice one at home, or order room service that is heinously overpriced? And bed bugs? No thank you! I now have a new ritual when I first enter a hotel. I make my husband stay outside with the luggage, and then carefully inspect all four corners of every mattress in the room for signs of the little parasites before moving in for the night. Anal? Perhaps… but better safe than sorry.
However, living in a hotel, as I am currently, is a whole other matter entirely. We have been at the Navy Lodge in Yokosuka for nearly a month, and will likely reside there for at least another. It’s all part of the move-in process, and we expected it. But that doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Between us we flew with four checked bags and four “carry-ons.” (Not sure a 65lb bag should really qualify!). And now we live in a 10’x20’ room with two double beds, a tiny table, and a miniature “kitchen.”
What’s the hardest part, you might ask. The answer: having a husband. Now ladies, I don’t know if you found a newer model, but my man is not known for his cleanliness. Love him to bits, but organization is not his thing. Alex’s routine is as follows: he walks into the house/hotel room and immediately throws the keycard onto the bed, followed by his coat (which now hides the card and means we can never find it when it’s time to leave). Then, rather than walking to the chair to take off his shoes like a civilized human being, he sheds his boots within two feet of the door. He subsequently leaves them right there, directly in front of the bathroom with no thought of putting them away. (I have many stubbed toes). And then come the socks! He wears thick black socks under his boots, which love to shed all over the room. So as he strolls from the door to the bed, he leaves behind a trail of black lint. It looks like a mouse came through the room and pooped all over the carpet. And, of course, his feet are cold, so he leaves these lovely socks on and puts them under the covers of the bed, so when I wake up the next morning, the black fuzz now clings to me. Gross!
Now, I can’t offer any advice about how to fix a messy husband. My mom told me long ago that you can’t change a man, and I guess she’s right – though a girl can dream! But I have managed to make the hotel more livable in spite of him. Sharing a small space is trying, but it can also be a little adventure. It’s almost like we are participating in the tiny house movement that’s taking HGTV by storm. Of course, I’d never do that in real life – those people are crazy! One of us wouldn’t survive. But for a couple months, it’s a fun challenge. So without further ado, here are my top five tips for lengthy lodgers.
- Organization is key! You cannot live in a small space without it. When we first moved into the hotel, I took the time to unpack everything I thought we’d use. (There’s still one bag that’s completely full of things we decided we wouldn’t need for now). I dedicated separate drawers for sweaters, pants, and tops, and another for important paperwork, safely hidden below our undergarments. Then I hung up the suits and dresses, layering them four or five to a hanger to save space. And when everything was put away, I nestled the suitcases, one within another, and placed them next to our bed as a makeshift second nightstand for books, phone chargers, etc. Finally, I packed a collapsible hamper to hold all of our dirty clothes. That’s a lifesaver with so little square footage.
- Avoid the fast food fifteen… No one can afford room service every night (and who would want bad burgers for each meal?). Here on base our options are limited to Chili’s, Sbarro, McDonalds, and the bowling alley nachos. We can, of course, go out and explore Japanese cuisine, but that includes a mile walk from the hotel. While it’s fun to do frequently, when you are in a rush, it’s just not an option. Furthermore, eating out every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is costly both in cents and calories. So we devised a number of healthy options that are easy to make in an enclosed space. We frequently buy the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and add it to different salads. Or with some terryaki sauce, microwavable rice, and assorted vegetables it makes a hearty “stir-fry.” We keep some 100-calorie popcorn packs for snacks and bought microwavable oatmeal for breakfast. Lunches are usually soups or sandwiches, and when we are feeling especially homesick for the US, we might make a grilled cheese (thanks to Top Chef, I know that an iron is the perfect tool for this culinary delight)! *Note: don’t be afraid to cook in the hotel “kitchen.” It can easily be done, but don’t forget the salt and pepper!
- Make it your home. It’s obviously been an emotional struggle to move across the world, especially around the holidays. This is my first Christmas away from my parents, and my first without a tree or presents. This year we had other things preoccupying us, and no address to send relatives, so we had to make do. But I try to make the hotel feel like home. My mother gave me a disposable vase that’s a clear plastic bag with a blue floral motif, which unfolds into a foot-tall urn. It was easy to pack in our luggage, and we love shopping at the local flower markets, finding new and exotic flowers to bring life into our otherwise drab room. I also packed a few pictures of family and friends, visual reminders of all the people who love us. And, of course, Alex’s messes, while annoying, make it feel like home!
- Leave! Go! Get out! Just because you have to sleep there, doesn’t make it a prison. If you are staying at a luxury resort in Tahiti, please feel free to never leave your private pool and beach. Enjoy, relax, and have some more wine. But if you live in an uninspired extended-stay hotel, fill your days with other places. Alex is working and gone frequently, leaving me with lots of time to kill. Until we move into our home, it’s hard to teach voice lessons, so I am using this period to explore. I walk everywhere (cardio ✓) and find hole-in-the-wall antique stores, artisanal bakeries, and unfamiliar clothing stores to peruse. I’ve gotten very familiar with the transit system and love the freedom of jumping on and off the train to adventure about the city.
- Patience isn’t a virtue. It’s a necessity. We’ve all heard the old adage, but moving here has really brought it home. Alex and I are living in very tight quarters, and that can be… frustrating. But we both realize that if we let the claustrophobia get to us, it could be disastrous. We decided to make this move for the chance to spend more time together, to travel the world together. So while we are now always together, that was the intention! After all, we’re married; we are supposed to like each other! So we try our best to be patient. If his shoe/sock routine drives me crazy, I’m sure that my habit of drinking half a diet coke and then leaving the depleted can sitting there indefinitely isn’t exactly his cup of tea. It’s a give and take. And each night we pleasantly, through gritted teeth, request the other cease and desist their obnoxious tendencies, only to stumble over steel-toed combat boots in the middle of night, while searching for the restroom. But, c’est la vie!