• Sam Machell

home ≠ hotel

- a short study of hotels by Gustave Gusty -

(a tongue-in-cheek, fictional essay outlining some ideas I've had about hotels as transitional/limbo spaces, and defining the term Ghuest)

A hotel is defined as an establishment providing accommodation, (sometimes, not always) meals, and other services for travellers and tourists.









Does a hotel want to be home or does it want to be something else?

At a basic level a hotel’s purest goal is to provide shelter, a function that home also fulfils. But when you investigate further, this is the point at which it becomes trickier than it first seems. What does a hotel provide? Shelter, security, warmth, comfort? To provide a place for lodging is not just to provide a space, a room, a bed, it is more. Shelter is not enough on its own. Comfort is hand in hand with sleep, and hand in hand with home. Home is, more than just a house, a place where you feel comfort, comfortable, able to feel at ease, at peace. Comfort is perhaps the thing which hotels attempt to provide most of all. Temporary comfort.

Every hotel room everywhere in the world might as well be the same place, this has been touched upon as an idea before [1], but even if we bring it back from the conceptual, all hotel rooms essentially contain the same things – the bare necessities of comfort. A bed, sheets and pillows, light, bathroom facilities – there are of course more than this but these are the main things. We are provided with the ingredients to construct a cocoon, a temporary shell of soft protection to sleep within. The physical comfort of a hotel room is variable, of course, and many will be very minimal. The physical comfort is almost directly tied to the money, comfort is a commodity… this concept I will touch on later, but the key idea here is that despite the variations of physical comfort found in different hotels, this is essentially what a hotel room provides the patron.

physical comfort

mental comfort

A new proposed term – Ghuest.

A passing through with a ghostly presence. Arrival, settling (but not really), and leaving. Unfinished business? The presence of a ghuest is different from the presence of a ghost. Ghosts are uncertain, lingering… a ghost may never leave a place that it has decided to haunt, but a ghuest will always leave. A ghuest has to be alive; the life of a ghuest is directly proportional to the length of a ghuest’s stay at a hotel. A ghost is dead. A ghost is someone who has lived before, a ghuest is someone who has lived-in before. [2]

Every person who has ever stayed at a hotel is a ghuest. We stay in a room, which for the period of this metaphorical life becomes ours, and to some extent becomes us. The room and ghuest becomes one organism… a creature that exists with a short and constantly restarting life cycle. When we look down a corridor and see closed doors we are aware that behind each of these is a life that is temporarily located here. Each door becomes an entrance to a life, gaining far more significance in this context than a door would in any other. But as soon as we end our stay, as soon as we leave, our rooms are reset and our trace is removed. We are aware that we are staying in a place that has previously been lived in, in a husk that previously had a soul, but this is hidden behind a shiny illusion of newness. In this sense we are ghosts occupying empty vessels, providing a soul for a set duration, but I propose that there is a distinct enough difference between this and a ghost.

For example, one could also compare the workers of a hotel to a ghost. After all, they like us are finite; their stay at the hotel is not infinite. It may be as short as a day, or they may even live at the hotel, but they do not haunt in the same way a ghuest does. When we are away from our rooms, and we return, a person has been here. Our space has been compromised, traces left, chocolates dropped on pillows, towels washed, slippers rearranged. A ghost leaves traces, a ghuest does not. Where an employee acts almost like a poltergeist, a ghuest is far less physical. The impression left by a ghuest is almost invisible.

This distinction, however, does not reduce the impact of the haunting by the employees. The feeling of an unseen presence, of noticeable traces, provides a feeling of unease, discomfort, fear? You may be asking yourself, “Gustave, this is all well and good, but what does this have to do with anything?” To which I reply, everything!

The space between physical and mental comfort is more apparent when we have defined these concepts. The ghuest is aware, as soon as they arrive at their hotel, that they will eventually leave. They acknowledge within themselves that they are ghuests that will not settle, that their stay is temporary. This will be a shadow over the ghuests head for their entire time at the hotel. There will be space within the room for unpacking, wardrobes, drawers, but they will almost certainly go unused… or if they are used, there will be a strange sense of unease about this. The ghuest will never achieve mental comfort.

Not only this, the ghosts come back too, it is impossible for a ghuest to achieve mental comfort when they know that despite the illusion of safety and privacy, their room is haunted when they are not present. They are reminded by this everyday so that no matter the length of the stay, the transitory nature is a constant concern.




Now, is a hotel really trying to be home? Does a hotel want to hide the ghuests from the truth? I propose that it does not. A hotel has rules, politely policed, sure, but rules nonetheless. Ghuests are prohibited from certain things; some things are locked behind paywalls. The reminder that you are part of a system of transfer of wealth is constant. A hotel room will often have a kettle, but next to this will be a drinks menu. There are physical comforts provided, but these will seem almost inadequate with what you could be having instead. There is a constant reminder of possible upgrades, additional services, products, memberships, facilities. This sense of constant inadequacy further separates the physical comfort from the mental comfort, but in a way also connects the two. Although a hotel may be more luxurious, superficially, than home, the absence of a reminder of something better in many ways makes home a more comfortable place.

What do these ghuests use hotels for?

This differs greatly with location and market, but can generally be divided into three functions: holiday (leisure), business, events. Events actually prove to be a problematic element of the theory.

It is possible that a hotel can be used to its full, fulfil its purpose, without producing a ghuest. A wedding for example will produce a great deal of ghuests, as people find themselves too drunk to go home so settle for a temporary space… but people will also leave the event and go home, thus not becoming ghuests, but remaining, simply, as guests.

However, despite this at first seeming like an issue, it is not so. An event is, like a stay in a hotel room, a temporary thing. Guests will arrive, stay, and then leave. The state of transition is not lost. There may be no element of spiritual obligation, but the action and process remains the same. In fact this creates an even more extreme example of a space in transition. Big halls and ballrooms and conference rooms, even corridors, in hotels become hollow shells for almost their whole life, but with no real chance of gaining a temporary soul. A limbo forever, a space in transition, and a space for transition.

Misc spare thoughts -

A hotel room is more than just a room - a hotel room is a living organism.


ghuest and room are totally dependent on each other, although they can exist without one another, they are only alive in tandem.

a life requires both a body, and a soul. a room without a ghuest is merely a shell, an empty vessel, reset and cleaned, waiting for a new entity to arrive.


A guest is generally considered to be welcome. Our welcome guest! Or at least, our paying guest! Guest generally suggests the party who are hosting were aware of the stay prior, and are accepting of it. A ghost is mostly not welcome. A haunting, an uncomfortable lingering of a presence, an unwanted force/being.

A ghuest is between these two. A presence which was at first welcome, but creates a lingering, a haunting, a sense of unease. A ghuest begs the question, how welcome is a standard guest in the first place, how aware are we that we are producing ghosts.



Further Reading -


2: Walsh, Joanna. Hotel. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. Print.

Afterward -

I’d like to just say as an after note, that I am aware of a very important hotel project that began recently. I am confident that this project will not only profoundly change the hotel landscape, both academically and practically, but will also change the entire way life exists as we know it. Everything will change… science, culture, philosophy, art. We live in very exciting times. I am sure that once this project is complete my entire thesis thus far will be redundant, and when this project is complete you can be sure I will research and explore it myself, and create an entirely new paper. Until then, thank you.

A note on the author

Gustave Gusty studied Philosophy of Space at North Tundra University, where he then taught for many years after. He has since then become a leading expert in all branches of Hotel Academia, the first man to sleep for over 8 years, and a lover of cats.

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