It doesn’t matter where you go or what the reason, you can always find a way to enjoy the journey.
Make Enjoyment a Priority
It was just a short overnight trip to Houston. There would be no time for museums. I wouldn’t make it as far as Galveston. The two meals we’d share with friends would be inside the hotel. I wouldn’t even make it to the Galleria.
If you think I’d let that keep me from enjoying the journey, you’re wrong. To begin with, it’s spring in Texas. That means the roadside is blanketed in wildflowers. Folks usually think of bluebonnets when someone says wildflowers in Texas, but the striking state flower is only the beginning of the array of roadside flora. I’m not an expert on the names of flowers, but there were blooms in bright yellow, florescent orange, pretty purple and deep red.
Wildflowers growing on the side of the road might not qualify as tourist attraction to you, but it’s all a matter of mindset. I watched carefully for the first good batch of bluebonnets. Then, as we drove further south, I noticed the ratio of bluebonnets to other flowers shifted, so that their deep blue hue merely punctuated fields of orange or yellow flowers. When pine trees replaced their leafy counterparts along the roadway, wildflowers became more and more infrequent. Then suddenly we were in Houston and I’d enjoyed the whole trip without wasting any time or spending a dime.
Check Out the Amenities
On this particular trip our accommodations were a little more upscale than usual. We got warm chocolate chip cookies as a welcome treat and the pool was lovely. However, competition is stiff and even the no-frill chains are getting into the act. The worst hotel I’ve stayed in recently had a bowl of fresh fruit in the lobby. I would have been happier with a little more pristine room, but hey, fresh fruit is better than a poke in the eye.
The trick is to find things to enjoy – even if it’s laughing at the way the maid has folded the toilet paper or how thin the bedspread is. I review hotels for my blog and for Yahoo, I need to weigh the pros and cons of what’s offered and what’s available, but that doesn’t mean I get extra points for finding the most problems. In fact, I’ll enjoy my stay and you’ll enjoy my review if I focus on what’s good – not ignoring the fact the that wi-fi is iffy, but also not making a federal case out of it.
Hotels and motels are upping their amenity factor because in this electronics-driven, green-leaning, health-conscious world, four walls and a bed are not going to cut it. You’re paying for it, so use what’s available, even if it’s just taking a break to walk around the small pool or to have a cup of free coffee.
Make Every Pit-Stop Count
Whether it’s grabbing a pre-flight snack or making a potty stop, a little creativity can go a long way. I always try to avoid the well-known chains and opt for something outlandish when I’m grabbing airport food. I can get Starbucks and Burger King at home. Why eat them at the airport if there’s something else to try. And why rush down to the gate with a brown paper bag. Splurge on a sit-down restaurant where someone will wait on you. You can always find ways to make your trip more enjoyable if you look for them.
Take this last trip between Dallas and Houston. We made a brief stop in Huntsville to see the gigantic statue of Sam Houston. We weren’t there long. We stretched our legs a little, took a few snapshots and used the restroom. I even got a soda out of a vending machine. We could have done the same sort of thing at a gas station or a rest area in just about the same length of time, but instead of smelling fumes from eighteen-wheelers, I strolled down a shaded path smelling of pine needles, appreciated a little art and chatted with the nice volunteers in the visitor center.
I wrote about it for Yahoo Voices: Big Sam Greets Travelers on I-45. Don’t you agree that’s preferable to Love’s Fuel Center?