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Bad Smells and Other Hotel Non-Negotiables

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

In the opening of Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, an innocent British couple describes how they booked a vacation package to LA. In the photos, the hotel lobby was beautiful, but as soon as they walked in their hotel room, they described the carpet as sticky and said they were afraid to walk on it barefoot.

That's how I felt in the hotel I stayed at during my recent Monterey Writing Retreat. The carpet looked older than me. The worn wood on the hotel room door had a one-inch gap underneath it and I kept wondering what could crawl in under it. The unadjustable shower head pointed to the shower wall so I had to do acrobatics to actually get under the water.

A Duraflame log sat in a fireplace that I was pretty sure would snuff me out if I dared to light it. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as bad as the Cecil Hotel, after all, they didn't find a dead girl in a water tower on the roof and I'm pretty sure The Night Stalker wasn't sleeping there, but damn, it was awful. The good news was it didn't smell. An unexpected gift of Chronic Lyme Disease is my now supersonic sniffer. I can smell perfumes, citrus, anything burning, molds, farts, and just about anything else from really far away. And if it's a bad smell, it's impossible for me to stay around it. I get headaches, irritated, maybe even a tad bit crazy.

So, even though the hotel was a shabby flashback to the 60's (and not the funky cool 60's) it was clean and it did not smell. A smelly hotel room is my hotel non-negotiable. This room was prepaid and non-refundable, so I managed to stay there two nights before I finally had to move. A sensitive snout can be a tuffy when you're a digital nomad. It definitely adds a degree of difficulty to traveling. After staying in two fabulous Airbnb's during my first few weeks in Bonaire, my last apartment in Bonaire had a horrible smell and I when I couldn't find another place to move to, it was clear it was time to go.

In Dublin, the first hotel room looked lovely, but it smelled like something was rotting in it. Thankfully, I was moved to a fabulously fresh room from there. In the Dominican Republic, my sister and I were given a room that smelled so badly of mold, I had to turn around as soon as I walked in. A kind staff member took me from room to room until one with a cedar ceiling actually passed the sniff test. Thankfully, my sister graciously agreed to share a king-sized bed with me for a week just to keep my nose happy.

As annoying as it can be to not be able to tolerate smells, sensitivities can also be a huge gift. If I were unable to smell mold, or something burning, or something rotten, who knows what kind of crap I'd breathe in? I'd rather have a human alarm system and be willing to speak up and move around than ingest something that might be bad for my health. So, what about you? How's your nose? Do you have a strong sense of smell? And when it comes to staying in hotels, what's your hotel non-negotiable? What is the one thing that will make you find another room?

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