On Paul Carr’s website, his bio starts like this: “My name is Paul Carr, and I’m a writer. A writer who lives permanently in hotels.”
It’s true. Carr, a British journalist, has spent the past five years living in hotels across the world after leaving his far-too-expensive London apartment and ridding himself of nearly all his possessions. The book he wrote about his experiences, The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations, comes out in Europe this month (W&N, $13), but before he could deal with the whirlwind of a book tour, Carr decided to spend a month in Las Vegas. And he did it as only Paul Carr could do it—by spending a night in every hotel on the Strip.
The formerly often-drunk Carr has been to Las Vegas before, but this was his first extended stay and only second time in the city sober. He chronicled his stay with daily updates on The Huffington Post, and we caught him on his last night in town to see how, if any, his perspective on our city had changed.
What has surprised you most about this city?
The small-town aspect is what has surprised me. I knew that the Strip wasn’t the end all and be all of Vegas, and I knew that if I went off the Strip I would meet some interesting people. What I didn’t expect was to see so clearly the community aspect of it and the fact that there are people who love the town and feel very protective of it. They hang out in the coffee shops and do the cultural scene. I really didn’t expect it to be such a tight local community as it is. It is obviously really transient, but I expected it to be way more, and I expected not to feel the sense of community and civic pride that I’ve felt. Someone commented that there are other cities that claim to be the biggest small town in America, but actually Vegas probably has a better claim on it than Reno. It is a small town, but because of the money that pours into it, it’s kind of forced to pretend to be a big one.
In your blog posts, you named your other trips to Vegas, one being “Tequila Suicide.” What would the name of this one be?
I think probably “The Monthlong Trip.” That’s the nice thing about this trip, I don’t have one easy narrative. I’ve seen some of the subtlety of the town, and I can’t sum it up in one sentence. Maybe it’s “The Indefinable Trip.” “The Too-Complex-to-Sum-Up-in-a-Handy-Phrase Trip.”
What was the most enjoyable hotel experience?
The not-cheating answer would probably be Caesars Palace. It’s an old hotel and it’s famous and they don’t need to try that hard, and I expected that maybe they wouldn’t try that hard. It was probably the best service and the cleanest and most well-kept room I’ve stayed in without someone knowing there was a journalist there. It was the nicest standard room and the best service that I’ve had.
What have you learned from being so nomadic?
What I discovered is that the less stuff I have the more personal relationships and friendships mattered to me. I suddenly realized how unimportant your surroundings are compared to the people you’re surrounded by. Wherever I go I’m always suggesting people come out. I think people nest and they start to hang out with only their wife and kids and a couple of friends and they lose out on the richness of being surrounded by a bunch of people and out of searching out adventure. By not having any roots if someone calls up and says, “Hey, you want to go to Iceland, Vegas, Greece or Spain,” you can just say yes. I think people should say yes to things more often without thinking how it’s going to affect their job or whatever. I think the biggest thing is don’t get stuck in a rut, surround yourself with interesting people and say yes to opportunities, and you can do all of those things even if you own a house and have kids. I’ve taken it to a ridiculous extreme where, literally from one day to the next I don’t know where I’ll be, and I don’t own any stuff.
So you won’t be owning a dog anytime soon?
I like the sound of them, but it seems like a pain in the ass, quite frankly. I’m not like an anti-pet extremist, but for me it’s the antithesis of everything I stand for. I like the company of people and I like freedom to move around and be quite selfish, to be honest, and I think animals stop that.
Will you be back to Las Vegas?
Yes, definitely. I was saying that to friends a bit earlier. I love it here. I think it’s such a more interesting town than I expected it to be, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I’ve started to get a sense of how it fits together, and I feel like I haven’t been here anywhere near long enough. I’ve crossed over the threshold from I’m not a tourist anymore but I’m certainly nowhere near being a local, more like a knowledgeable outsider. I really want to still hang out with the people I’ve met here, so yeah, I’ll be back. I already feel that sense of I’m going to miss the place—maybe not the Strip, but the rest of it.
You wrote haikus about some of the hotels on the Strip. Can you give us one about the entire trip?
Too many contrasts
To sum up in a haiku.
Miss it already.