Before we embarked on our long trip, a friend suggested that we should get a TripReward card as it can accumulate points for a free stay in the future each time we stay at a participating hotel. We got one because we thought we would have a lot of opportunities to use it as we were anticipating staying at least a couple of times per week in motels. Of course, because the lure of free stays, every time we needed to stay in a motel, we would take our time to look for one of the participating hotels. The one we used the most was Days Inn. Although we didn’t stay in Days Inn or motels often (less than once per week), Kadia was able to recognize its logo and shouted out its name every time she saw it.

When we were in Missoula, Montana, we were looking for a motel to stay. We checked out Days Inn and Super 8. One of them was full and the other one had a vacancy but it was on the 3rd floor and was about $90 plus taxes. And because its underground parking was being painted, we also had to park on the street. I didn’t like the idea of a 3rd floor unit and had to park on the street, given our van was vandalized before. We decided to try another place.

We called another Super 8 motel on the outskirt of the town; it had a second floor unit for about the same price but with parking. As we drove toward it, we passed by a motel we had never heard of it, Brooks St Motor Inn. It looked deserted as we only saw a couple of cars. On a whim, I made a U-turn and decided to check out the place. Based on the name, we figured it must be an independently owned motel. I didn’t have much of expectation but was surprised to find the reception area clean and the hostess friendly. The price was only $50 and we could park right in front of our motel room. Whenever we arrived in a motel, we typically needed to do laundry, repack luggage, clean things, etc. This required us to move a lot of things between the van and the motel room. One thing I didn’t understand was why some of the motels were more like a hotel than a motel now. Instead of being able to park right in front of the room, we had to go through a lobby and an inside hallway to get to the room. I despised that. So we decided to stay in this motel.

Although the motel only provided one tiny soap bar (no shampoos or other amenities like in Days Inn), it was clean and quiet. We didn’t need any of the amenities as we had them anyway. There weren’t many customers there so it could seem to be spooky for people from out of town but we had a pleasant and convenient stay there. I felt bad that it didn’t have many customers as most of people nowadays stayed in motels belonging to some chains like we had previously as well. It was unfortunate. Just like the Wal-Mart Superstores driving the local grocery stores out of business, motel chains are driving independently owned motels out as well.

I knew one reason for us to stay with a motel chain is the sense of security as we figured it probably would be safer than an independently owned but unknown motel. But sometimes I think that is just a false sense of security. The part of getting a free stay didn’t justify staying at a motel chain because it charged more so even with a free stay we would ended up paying more per stay anyway. We decided to try local motels more in the future and used our own judgment on the safety. Although a motel belonging to a motel chain is also a local business, we feel more of a kinship with an independently owned motel, its character, free spirit, and courage to be different. We don’t need more cookie cutter establishments.

Human are creatures of habits. I was great that we broke out of our habits of staying in chain motels and tried out something different. It felt strange at first but it provided us an opportunity to learn something new, a different way of traveling and staying. We should always keep open-minded in trying new things, breaking out ruts so we can experience new things and perhaps be rewarded with somewhat memorable if not better things. Sometimes there isn’t anything wrong or bad with the old habits but trying new things can energize our existence to live more fully.