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Hotel Melancholia

Hotel Melancholia

There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms. It was normal to skit from Shanghai to Dublin via Vilnius and Rome in a month, and then begin the loop all over again: Athens, Novosibirsk, Kuala Lumpur. I travelled alone to these cities and when I got there I was required to stand on stages, sit on panels and talk endlessly. At the end of each jet-lagged and scrambled day, I would go back to my hotel room where sometimes the mini-bar was stocked, sometimes not. The aircon would rattle, or not work, or be set too high or low with a fixed dial, and I would attempt to relax on an oversized bed with stiff pillows, listening to the TV from next door or to strangers whispering in the corridor.

I lived in a hotel in Moscow called the Cricket for a month. In European countries, I stayed in compact three-star rooms, while in the Middle East it was always big chains: the Sheraton, the Radisson or the Hilton Nile. Here and there, depending on local deals and the nature of my stay, I’d take a room in one of the iconic, colonial-style hotels from the novels of Graham Greene or Agatha Christie: the American Colony in Jerusalem, the Pera Palace in Istanbul or the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. I travelled like this from my mid-20s for a decade. Sometimes I was single, other times in a relationship, and the eternal transience suited me at the start. It was fun, for a few years, until suddenly it wasn’t.

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This article was originally published in Aeon Magazine.

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