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Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to send here.
When globetrotters talk about the joys of travel, they often wax poetic about historic ruins, grand hotels, over-the-edge adventures, and once-in-a-lifetime meals. The humble world we live in has trained us to think of travel as a never-ending cycle of discovery.
Every day should be filled with doing something you can’t do at home. If you’re looking to take it easy for a few hours of your hourly planned grand tour insert-cool-of-the-moment-destination-here? Well, that relaxing moment better be contextualized locally and experientially.
All-inclusives want you to forget their cheesy reputation
This is especially true of the way we eat on our travels. The pressure to make every meal feel like an episode of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” is immense. Why else do we often hear criticism of “tourists” fisting Big Macs in Paris?
But we all hit that wall, when our taste buds ask for a break from culinary tourism. And that’s when you’ll find me in my hotel room ordering room service fries.
The joys of room service are rarely celebrated. No one tells you about the ways that eating comfort food alone can enhance your journey by simply putting it on pause. That’s why I never regret all the meals I chose to have in my hotel rooms. I’m in my robe, in my own space, not picking apart a menu in an attempt to figure out which dish will best represent the country.
For that one meal, I don’t have to make an effort; I order spaghetti bolognese, Caesar salad, or a burger, dishes that most hotels know how to do well, dishes that go very well with a bowl of fries. It’s hard to miss anything that might seem like it sprung from an ambitious chef’s imagination, like something foamy. The goal of room service is to revel in comfort. A serving of flavored cloud is not.
The long, slow death of the hotel minibar
To be considered a serious traveler, many would have us believe that we should be maniacally scheduling “foodie” moments so as not to “waste a meal.” Now, before you get it wrong, I believe that local food is a fundamental part of an unforgettable trip. I love and support being a fearless eater. balut me in the Philippines, tagine me in Morocco, pajata me in Italy. But too many of those in a row, and I’m going to start to feel like every meal is one for exploring. In the spirit of #self-care, I’m taking a break.
The hottest new hotel service? To sleep.
I’m not telling you to give up your sense of wonder and curiosity, especially when it comes to food. But I suggest you give yourself permission to wallow in comfort, in French fries, chicken nuggets, and grilled cheese, if you get to the part of your trip that desperately requires it. You serve no one by force-feeding yourself a local delicacy you don’t want. Often, the nights spent satisfying our human desire for the familiar is what encourages us to be more adventurous the next day.
Does feeling like this make me bored? It’s hard to care when you’re in a climate-controlled room, listening to Toni Braxton’s soothing vocal prowess, wrapped in a snow-white towel, and staring at a juicy burger and fried potato sticks topped with dollops of ketchup. But please, enjoy that grilled snake on a stick. I’ve been there, done that. Now, I’m going to call for a dessert sundae.
Chadner Navarro is a Manila-born, New Jersey-based writer covering travel, food and design.