Hotel Etiquette for Meeting Travelers: Talk to everybody
SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- I have rented out a good room in a good hotel in the south of Mexico. I have been here for a couple of months, further developing Vagabond Journey and chasing the goal of turning this project into a full time living. I am comfortable in this hotel, I treat it like my home. Sometimes I become annoyed at the presence of other guests when they clog the kitchen or take over my working area or do drugs out on the balcony — the notion of home often brings out an inherent defensive reaction.
I am a traveler: I do not visit hotels, I live in hotels.
Though I have met many travelers here, when I am working I go into a hermit cave. I don’t come out again until my daily work is completed.
There was this backpacker who stayed in the hotel for a few days. We did not speak one word to each other, we would not greet each other as we passed, we would use the kitchen in turn, he would cook shrimp three times a day. We treated each other with cold indifference.
I record the words of others, I take what other people say as a crowbar into sealed chests of new knowledge, new topics to write about. Having conversation with strangers is a part of my job. For some reason I did not want to talk to this guy, I did not even feel the urge to grunt in his direction. My wife referred to him as a douche.
He left the hotel this morning, but before doing so he greeted me in the kitchen:
“Do you speak English?” he asked.
I confirmed that I did, in fact, speak English.
“I am leaving today, and I am wondering if you would like this bag of vegetables?”
He pointed to a giant shopping bag full of fresh veggies that were sitting on a counter top. He was giving me a lot of food.
Of course, I accepted; of course, I felt like an ass.
I started a conversation and realized that I had missed an opportunity to hear a traveler tale or two, to find out about where someone came from, to make a friend.
When in hotels, talk to everyone as a rule — this is good travel etiquette, this is the true joy of traveling. In point, I can never know when I am on the cusps of making a friend, I will never know when someone identifiable only as a douche is going to turn upon me, smile, and give me a big bag of vegetables — an offering of friendship.
Travel tips are often born out of travel mistakes.