It’s been over a year now since I walked the Camino Frances, and the changes that I experienced during the walk are still within me. Here’s an example:
My wife Jennifer and I are traveling through the US at the moment. It’s a massive road trip – already we’ve covered more than 3,000mls in ten days.
In the past, whenever I’ve traveled, I’ve always stayed in good digs. And by good, I don’t mean expensive good, I mean reasonably priced good.
One of the things that terrified me before I walked the Camino was staying in albergues. The notion of dorm styled accommodation didn’t sit well with me. I liked my privacy, my creature comforts, and my security. I liked my own bathroom. I knew I’d have none of these sleeping in an albergue.
My first night in St. Jean Pied de Port was spent in an albergue. And I continued to sleep in albergues for the majority of the walk. I liked the camaraderie, the friendships formed, the discussions over communal dinners – and I liked the feeling of stepping outside my normal pattern of behaviour. Doing something different. Challenging myself.
Yes I stayed in a Parador once – and I loved it. I was sore and exhausted, and I needed it. And I stayed in hotels now and again too, when I needed privacy and space.
I’m not one to extoll the virtues of albergues because I believe it makes the pilgrimage more pure. I think that’s a complete nonsense. Whether you sleep in Paradors or Church cloisters, it makes no difference. You’re still a pilgrim.
Cut back to: My US road trip.
A couple of nights ago Jennifer and I stayed in a forty buck a night motel in a small sleepy town in Mountain Home, Idaho. It was called the Highlander Motel, and I know I would not have stayed there if I hadn’t walked the Camino.
There was a Best Western a mile away – costing $129 a night. Before the Camino, I would have stayed there, no question.
But I drove in to the Highlander, walked into reception, and was given a boisterously warm welcome by the manager, an Indian fellow by the name of Jalan Patel. I asked him where in India he came from – he told me a village north of Bombay – and it turned out I’d once driven through that village.
It must have been very strange for him to be talking to an Australian in Idaho about his ancestral home in Bombay. For me, it was rewarding to be greeted so warmly, and to find a personal connection with the fellow.
I asked to see a room and he gave me a key.
The room was fine. There was no reason not to stay there, other than it was cheap. And that thought – that fear – defines one of my changes post Camino.
In my work as a filmmaker, I’ve had to stay in some dives, let me tell you. Early in my career when I was making documentaries, I traveled all around Australia, all around the world, and the work took me to some very remote places where there was little or no choice as to where I slept.
I remember once sleeping in shearers quarters in the Outback, with a huge red-belly black snake under the bed. It lived there. I had to be careful where I put my feet when I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I discovered the red-belly black snake often shifted to the cooler bathroom at night.
The other side of the coin is that in my life as a movie director, I’ve stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. For two months, Warner Bros put me up in a five star hotel on Park Avenue in New York. The suite had four bathrooms, all with marble floors and gold taps. And I was there by myself. Try as I might, I couldn’t use all four bathrooms at the same time.
The motel room in Mountain Home Idaho had everything I needed:
- Large bed with comfy mattress – CHECK
- Bedside tables with lamps – CHECK
- Power outlet by bed – CHECK
- Table and chairs – CHECK
- TV (not plasma screen, but hey…) – CHECK
- Clock on wall – CHECK
- Fridge and Microwave – CHECK
- Air-conditioner – CHECK
- Hanging space with hangers too – CHECK
- Eco-friendly lights – CHECK
- Washbasin with nice colours – CHECK
- Bath with nice colours – CHECK
- Shower with shower curtain – CHECK
- Additional toilet paper – CHECK
- Free wifi, that worked – CHECK
- Vending machine by front door – CHECK
- Free parking – CHECK
The swimming pool was not really suitable for swimming, unless you were a frog or a mosquito larva.
The grounds needed tending, admittedly –
But in a corner for some inexplicable reason there was a patch of green grass complete with sprinkler.
And I liked the signage out front.
As I was about to leave, I swapped cricket stories with Mr. Patel who was upstairs collecting the linen from the rooms that had checked out.
The Camino has taught me that there’s something wonderful in simplicity, and thrift.
The Highlander Motel didn’t have four bathrooms with marble floors. It didn’t have gold taps. But it had a firm bed with clean sheets, it had free wifi that worked and was fast, it had good bedside light and power outlets where I didn’t have to shift a bed to plug in my laptop.
And it was $41 for the night, including taxes.
The way I looked at it, It was way better than some of the albergues I’d stayed in. It had everything I needed for a good night’s rest.
If I hadn’t walked the Camino, I would have stayed in the Best Western. I wouldn’t have met Mr. Patel, I wouldn’t have talked cricket, and I wouldn’t have had nearly as good a time…
Absolutely my kind of place and my kind of price. We loved the tourist/caravan parks on road trips in Australia (but those are more than $41). All the comforts and independence one could want, with the bonus of meeting a variety of unpretentious people.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree Clare.
SO true and so hard to explain because it isn’t just about being cheap, but when you are on the move and barely in your room the needs are very simple. More doesn’t always equal more.( Just as long as you are not sharing with any bedbugs). But actually, I check for those at the finer hotels too. HAHA a little paranoid. Kathryn
Hi Kathryn, you’re right – it’s not about being cheap, it’s about practicality. What do you need from a hotel room? And you’re also right in that you get in late, you leave early the next morning. It’s not like you’re living there!
Are you back home yet? How did the trip up north go?
What a delicious way of starting my day work , reading your blog before going oput at 8 h am. I smiled a lot , you are an incredible guy, making of a roll of toilet paper un good picture. Hey you could report for Tripadvisor better than anybody.
And in the same time you remind me how much the Camino leave prints in our spirit and heart and that its most important teaching is that simplicity is the key of happiness.
thand you for making my day.
Bises to you and jennifer.
> Message du 07/06/14 06:00 > De : “PGS – The Way” > A : email@example.com > Copie à : > Objet : [New post] Camino changes – hotels… > >WordPress.com
Bill Bennett posted: “It’s been over a year now since I walked the Camino Frances, and the changes that I experienced during the walk are still within me. Here’s an example: My wife Jennifer and I are traveling through the US at the moment. It’s a massive road trip – alread”
Dear Marie, that is so SWEET of you, thank you! And you have a keen enough sense of humour to get my toilet roll shot! I hope work is going well for you. And Jennifer and I are so looking forward to next we meet!
I would have stayed there like you, and I would not have even asked to see the room. I try to live a very inexpensive lifestyle today. What’s the point in spending more for a bit of “luxury”.
I have flown the Concord, owned my own jet, but today, I fly the least expensive seat I can find, whether a short haul or traveling to Europe. I find that without exception, the cheap seats arrive at the destination at exactly the same time as the first class seats.
Like you, I have stayed at some of the finest hotels in the world. The Carlton in Canne, France (during the film festival, no less), the Plaza Athena in Paris, the Intercontinental in London, and the Plaza in New York, but today, I always stay in the lesser expensive hotels. I find that the next day after a nights sleep, whatever I spent is gone with nothing to show for it other than making it through the night.
I used to eat at the finest restaurants. Now, I don’t. I have no need to. I no longer like the scene, and have no need to see and be seen. I find that whether I ate the finest and most expensive steak or a humble taco, the next day, they both turn to poop.
But, I have to admit, that while walking the Camino, I eventually migrated to hotel rooms over albergues. I could say that I find the next day the experience was the same, but it was not. If I slept in the hotel room, I slept. If I slept in the albergues, I didn’t. I guess we all have our extravagances.
Welcome to travel through the small towns of the western United States.
Your mate, Steve
You’re right, all you say. Sometimes though in he film industry, you have to stay in the right places because your status is based on perception. When you go to meetings in Hollywood, first thing they ask you is: where are you staying? Then you’re judged on that. I used to buy into that, I don’t anymore. I now just say: Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica – or on this trip, Venice Beach. Venice is considered super cool. And the place where we’re staying is nice, but not fancy. But it’s in a very cool location, which suits us. And meets the “status” factor, which sadly is very real in Hollywood.
As for travel, I haven’t ever had my own private jet, like you – but I’ve flown up the pointy end more times than I could count – but I don’t do that anymore. Like you, I’ve had this epiphany that you get to where you’re going at the same time as if you were paying eight times as much – and it’s a fallacy that you don’t get jet lag in first class. You do. I’d prefer to spend that money at my destination, rather than getting to my destination.
Your Camino buddy,
Sounds like we traveled different Caminos to the same Santiago. And they said all roads lead to Rome. . . . .
LikeLiked by 1 person
Well, Steve, if you choose to walk the Assisi Way with the PGS crew, you COULD end up in Rome!! 🙂 Britta
Venice is super cool. Boardwalk is fill of crazies. Or perhaps just eccentrics.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Enjoyed this post, Bill! Back home from my Alaska trip now. While in Anchorage, I stayed at a hostel which cost $30 a night, including taxes. I would never have done this before the Camino. It was the perfect choice. Had all the creature comforts I needed, plus some extraordinary people from all over the world. Built in companions for those, like me, traveling alone. On my future trips, I will be looking for the “Highlanders” of the world. Marie is right on target, the simplicity of it all. Continued soul awakening travels to you and Jen! Julie
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hey, Julie – and Bill, I’ve actually mostly, in my nearly 50 odd years of travel, chosen to stay at the cheaper places. Often you do get to meet lovely and interesting people, often because they have to work at getting where they want to go and have something to contribute and besides, I’ve always said that ‘who cares, how important can it be just for the one night!” 🙂
Bill, just love the series of photos of the very mundane. How the hell you also get time to drive 3000 km in 10 days, is beyond me!!
Hi Britta, it’s not only the driving but the meetings, the dinners with potential investors, etc. it’s pretty exhausting. And now in Las Vegas, it saps your soul. I want to get out of here fast. Bill
Wonderful Julie! The Camino continues to influence in the subtlest of ways, doesn’t it. Your hostel sounds great. And yes, it’s the people you meet, that add to your greater understanding of the world, and human nature. Bill
So, the reply I just left for you and Julie was eaten up in the spam filter?? 🙂
This is great — I love it. I stayed in some private rooms on the Camino that weren’t as classy as this one. Good for you for supporting local — and having fun with it.
Hi Jennifer – I hadn’t actually thought about it that way – supporting the local businesses, rather than the big corporate chains like Best Western. You’re right! Thank you!