⏦ 001 — Non-hotels and passive consumption

writing goals, seeking out non-hotels, passive (social media) consumption guide

→ Welcome

Hello, or rather bona tarda since I’m pushing this dispatch as I get ready for a flight headed to Barcelona (BCN).

If you’re wondering what this is all about you can read more here, but essentially it is my personal newsletter experiment. I’d like to use it as a place to share what I’m thinking, working on, or doing when I’m somewhere interesting. If ever you want, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this email in a click.

Anyway, let’s get into it.

→ Writing

One of the goals I set out this year was to write more and publicly so I could get better at it. If I accomplish those things, I’d like to next build some sort of like-minded audience to hopefully open up opportunities later. When I was thinking about the format that could best serve me, I settled on the email newsletter because of its potential to reach a lot of people whilst keeping things personal with them. Blogging is kind of passé in 2019, and the manner in which Medium has gone about their platform doesn’t exactly inspire me either. You could make an argument against newsletters too but there’s something oddly special about them, or perhaps it’s because they’re as old as the internet itself. All things considered I decided to go with Substack, a less than two-year-old startup based out of San Francisco, because of unique features like audio, paid subscriptions and a minimal user interface. You can learn more about Substack here if you want.

→ Non-hotels

(4 minute read)

When you’re young, say early twenties, travel feels a lot different to travel when you’re older. When you’re twenty-something a vacation might look something like this: visit as many destinations in too short a time, attract last-minute flights or lodging, meet as many people (especially other travelers), and if it’s your caper: party at every stop along the way. Whilst I never fitted that description as a younger traveler, it was definitely some version of it.

As I move well into my thirties (I’m thirty-four), travel is an entirely different proposition to me now. In particular I value a good night’s sleep and a comfortable space to work. If those bases are covered, I then want an environment which affords me the ability to practice self-care: relaxation, meditation, exercise or yoga, and eating healthy meals.

It turns out that there are many travelers like me too, those seeking a home-away-from-home offering more than just a bed and clean sheets each night. The concept probably started in Seattle with Ace Hotel in 1999, where they began opening up their lobby to everyone outside of just overnight guests. They were first to realize that a hotel ought to be a place of many different things coming together communally. Some of those things were like teaming up with the coffee roasters Stumptown to offer good coffee or the fashion brand and retailer Opening Ceremony to offer traveler friendly wares. They’ve since gone global with the concept and are due to open their tenth hotel in Kyoto (Japan) next Spring.

This unbundling of hotel amenities and facilities for the public is turning hotels (including motels and hostels) into purveyors of life essentials, a “non-hotel” you could say. Now non-hotels come in all shapes, sizes, and diversification. Take the Paramount House Hotel in Sydney who open up their café, bar, gym (known as the ‘Rec Club’), and their very own 56-seat cinema showcasing classic and cult movies all to the public. Then there’s Casa Mãe in Lagos (Portugal) complete with their own farm, bringing the whole farm-to-table culinary concept within meters of each other — not to mention the workshops featuring local artisans too. Even Equinox the upscale gym wants to shake their image by opening a new hotel in the Hudson Yards precinct of New York City, so you can seamlessly transition from Kiehl’s in the gym to Kiehl’s in your hotel room.

The rise of non-hotels I think are a good thing for both travelers and locals alike. They may not represent the cheapest option for spending a night in a city, but if they’re offering these incremental amenities and facilities (usually in the price) I think it’s an enticing value proposition for someone like me — who definitely has found comfort in “slow travel” and avoidance of cookie-cutter accommodation. I haven’t had a chance to stay at too many of these non-hotels yet though, so if you can recommend any please let me know.

Celebrating the heritage of former Paramount Pictures headquarters where the hotel resides; you'll find accents of the original building brightened by the new throughout. Paramount House Hotel: a permanent vacation.
Photo by @tomross.xyz
#paramounthousehotel #sydneyhotel #sydney #surryhills
May 29, 2018

A non-exhaustive list of non-hotels around the world (bold = guest or visited)

New York City - Equinox Hotel, Sister City, Ace Hotel

Los Angeles - The Line

Barcelona, Spain - Casa Bonay

Lagos, Portugal - Casa Mãe

Australia - Paramount House Hotel (Sydney), The Calile (Brisbane)

→ Passive consumption

(5 minute read)

When I first posted to this thing called Instagram in 2011 - a grainy photo of my then dog - I did so without even thinking for a moment who’d see it, much less how it would perform. Unfortunately for a lot of people nowadays that script is flipped, but despite this it does makes sense at the same time. Instagram, Twitter, et al. aren’t just social media apps anymore and instead virtual shopping malls and media conglomerates tussling for our discretionary income and news consumption.

With all of the perks social media so generously offers society like addiction or anxiety, I’ve developed a non-scientific system over the years to help me use these services responsibly without having to give them up too.

Unlike radio or television where you’re force fed content and advertisements without a say, social media services somewhat share input with you in the form of opt-out features like ‘unfollow’, ‘back’, or ‘hide or report ad’. So when I login to Twitter I know I’m there to read my news for the day because that’s what I signed up and filtered for. Similarly with Instagram I login to see what friends are up to, occasionally message them, but mostly I’m there to use the app’s ‘save’ feature to bookmark and categorize things like: places to visit, foods to try, architecture or art.

For each service, I reluctantly accept their terms of service, mechanically scroll through advertisements, unfollow or mute accounts if they provide minimal value, and crucially I try to engage very, very, seldom.

I’m what you’d call a passive user, someone who clocks-in on their terms and is usually not there to ask questions. For these services if they were to analyze their users, I’m unlikely to be amongst the “top users” based on a relevant metric (impressions, reach, profile_views, engagement) nor am I likely to represent a “bottom user” (inactive or non-user) because I still use the service. I’m like an annoying window shopper or grocery customer loitering near the free samples with little intent of ever purchasing.

I’ve finally come to peace with this style of social media usage though, and no longer feel the urge throw shade or to applaud these services when they launch features like ‘stories’ designed to increase user engagement (i.e. addiction) or hide public self-worth metrics in ‘likes’ which is a healthy step (more here about Instagram’s rollout). Regardless, whatever these companies have on their product roadmaps means little to me as I’ll continue to sample the next meat-free burger patty. Perhaps I’ll tweak this, but as history has shown there will always be another app to download so I don’t see the point of getting too attached to top-friends lists or internet hearts as they translate to negligible social capital in the real-world for most.

An incomplete guide to passive (social media) consumption:

Unfollow any non-essential accounts or those that provide minimal value to you, irrespective if they follow you — mute if you must

Engage (likes or comments) with posts infrequently and randomly

Use encrypted messaging services like Whatsapp (or Telegram if anti-Facebook) for communication instead of in-built direct messaging

Use ‘SMS’ or the ‘Call’ function on your phone more

Use third-party services to track device usage

Try the cumbersome approach of installing an application when you need to use it then deleting it again

Use services like Instagram on your desktop since it has (intentionally) deprecated features (e.g. no direct messaging)

Deactivate applications for long periods

Complement social media usage with an equal or greater amount of mindfulness

That marks the end of dispatch 001 of The Considered. What did you think? I’d love any feedback or thoughts (or topic suggestions) as I find my voice here.

I’m not overly partial to the whole “please share, please subscribe, tweet about it etc.”, but since it’s early days any love (or hate), I consider as support. Whether it’s word of mouth, forwarding this to someone, or quoting me somewhere — thank you, thank you.

Enjoy your weekend,

— Arj

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The Considered is a dispatch of personal notes, useful information, and passed down tips on how to ‘live better’, through the lens of the mind, body, and the things which intersect them (figuratively). The Considered is by Arj Selvam.