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Of Home, Hearth and Hotels

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“When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.” Thornton Wilder

I wrote an article a while back about how much I love my home. And I do. But I also love to travel. In fact, I could live quite happily in a hotel for at least part of the year. Not just any hotel, of course, but a luxury hotel with a concierge, gift shops, a spa and good restaurants. A pool would be nice, too, although I can’t even dog paddle and get sunburned from light reflected by my toaster. I do enjoy, however, setting up camp on a chaise lounge beneath a giant umbrella, and spending the afternoon reading a mindless romance novel and people watching, with the option of ordering a virgin piña colada if I’m so inclined.

Unfortunately, I’d need a much larger bank account than the one I currently possess in order to live this way for very long. While writing poetry is my passion and my books have so far sold well, a few trips to the spa and a week’s worth of expensive meals would clean me out pretty thoroughly.

What I most love about hotel life, aside from all the amenities, is meeting new people and listening to their stories. This penchant of mine for striking up conversations while I’m “on the road” drives my mother crazy. It doesn’t matter that I’m more than half a century old and she is, well, the age she is (I’m forbidden to discuss it…)—she still cautions me not to “talk to strangers” before my husband and I go “wandering.” And while I usually heed my mother’s advice, which is mostly right on, this particular admonition falls on deaf ears.

For example, we just got back from spending a week at a resort hotel in Orlando, Florida, a business trip for my husband and a vacation for me. As usual, I had a grand time talking to folks from the lady who took care of the morning breakfast buffet to the wives of various men who were attending the same conference as my husband. The woman in the restaurant is from Croatia, and she told me that she’d been in this country for fourteen years and had only been able to go “home” twice in all that time.

I could tell it was painful for her to talk about her homesickness, but it’s good to be able to say what is true to someone, even if it’s just a passing poet, checking out the scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon. And I hope she could tell that I cared, because I do. I also care about my new friend Dorothy, originally from Poland, with whom I spent the most time while we were away. We met by the pool and went out to dinner together, husbands in tow, on our last night in Florida.

And I had many other interesting tête-à-têtes during our stay, with the housekeeping staff, women who worked in the gift shop, people in elevators, in restaurants around town, and just about anyone, really, with whom I found myself in proximity—and I adored every minute of it.

Now that I’m back home in the “country” with nothing but squirrels, a cute little chipmunk, and a male cardinal that keeps pecking at his reflection in my bedroom window, I’m more lonesome for company than I was before I left. Thankfully, aside from the “wild life,” I have a wonderful family and great friends who live nearby. But I do miss getting up in the morning and walking out the door into a ready-made world of interesting people that ordinarily, I’d never get the chance to meet.

So if you’re in staying in a hotel and see me coming, I suggest you make a run for it if you’re not in the mood to chat. Otherwise, we might end up being friends or at least, have a friendly moment or two. Connecting with others keeps my mind and heart engaged, and I know it keeps me young. In fact, if you ever have a story to tell and I’m not willing to listen to it, somebody better take me to the hospital for a CT scan.

And I must admit, sipping virgin piña coladas around a pool isn’t half-bad, either!

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of three collections of poetry, including her latest book, In the Palms of Angels (Press 53), which won a 2012 Nautilus Silver Award for Poetry and the Gold Medal for Poetry in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Her work has been widely published and has won numerous awards.

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