• Residency

Our Story

My name is Ismael Chang Ghalimi.
I am a frequent flyer with United Airlines (200K+ miles/year).
I am also a high-frequency guest with Hyatt (150+ nights/year).
One day, I decided to become a resident of my most-visited places.
This is the story of the move to my new home(s).

Do not remain a visitor. Become a resident.

Home

Change your mindset

Become a resident to belong to a place.
Start discovering everything it has to offer.

Simplify your travels

Leave a fully-loaded suitcase in residence.
Travel with nothing more than a shoulder bag.

Find luxury

Reward yourself with what luxury means to you.
No matter where you are in the world.

Enjoy life

Use every trip to discover new favorite spots.
Enjoy every single moment that life has to offer.

Select your style

Following my less.best philosophy, I do not own any dwelling today. Instead, I rent the place where I spend most of my time (in Palo Alto), and I stay at hotels the rest of the year.

In order to make these places my home-away-from-home, I use a single hospitality brand for all my stays. Depending on your regular destinations and personal preferences, you might want to select one brand or another. Mine is Hyatt, because it manages great properties everywhere I go, and because nothing gets Lost In Translation.

Pick your home

Once you have selected your hospitality brand and joined their loyalty program (if they have one), you can pick the properties where you will stay at your most frequent destinations.

Sometimes, you do not have a choice. For example, most of my business in London is done with large financial institutions, which have their main offices in The City. Therefore, I always stay at the Andaz Liverpool Street, rather than the Hyatt Regency London.

But in New York, I have plenty of options, since my customers are split between the Financial District and Midtown. In such a case, I try the most promising properties a few times, during separate stays, at different seasons of the year. Then, I select the one that I will soon call home. In Midtown, I really like the Andaz 5th Avenue.

Share your plan

Before actually moving into a new residence, you will want to share your plan with some hotel manager, who will introduce you to the right people at your selected hospitality brand. My experience with Hyatt Gold Passport has been nothing short of phenomenal, but I am sure that other brands can be quite supportive as well.

200K

Miles / Year

150

Nights / Year

5

Residences

Move in

After you have picked your home, it is time to move in. Of all the things that I have ever tried, none can turn a hotel room into your home-away-from-home like an in-residence suitcase left at the front desk when you check out, then picked-up next time you check back in.

In the early days of my globetrotting lifestyle, I even went as far as designing my own trunk, which drew inspiration from the classical Louis Vuitton Trunk. But the Monolab Trunk was too large and too heavy to be practical. Today, I settle for a Rimowa 98l, which has a huge capacity, yet is very light. In it, I store the following:

Clothes for seven days folded in Tumi packing cubes
A complete swimming outfit (swim trunk, goggles, cap)
A complete workout outfit (running shoes, shorts, t-shirt)
A pair of slippers by Monocle (more comfortable than hotel ones)
An aroma diffuser by Monocle (to have the same scent at every place)
Dental care and cosmetics supplies in a toiletry bag
Shaver and toothbrush chargers
Lens wipes for my glasses
Organic snacks
Coffee cups
Bottle of wine
Business cards
Power strip
Phone charger
Apple 27-inch 5K iMac computer

Most hotels will allow you to leave a piece of luggage between stays, but only if you have a forward reservation. Nevertheless, after discussions with some Hyatt executives and the General Managers of the hotels that I have selected, I can now leave a suitcase in my four primary locations (New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo).

Having such a setup at every residence, I can afford to carry nothing more than a messenger bag (ONA Brixton), which contains my laptop, my camera, a single change of underwear (just in case), and a toiletry bag with some supplies, an electric shaver, and an electric toothbrush. This allows me to pack in less than 5 minutes, and reduce the amount of luggage that I have to carry at the airport.

Make it easy

No more checked-in luggages, so a few logistical tips are in order:

First, you can outfit your in-residence suitcase with items bought online and shipped to the hotel, or items bought on site. To make it even easier, I standardize most of my in-residence belongings and supplies with items that can be bought from virtually any country, using global brands like Apple or Uniqlo (great for underwear).

Second, you can get your clothes washed by the hotel between two consecutive stays. To do so, make an arrangement with your hotel, then leave a washbag in your bedroom before check-out. And if you are a high-frequency guest and only need to get your underwear washed and folded (no dry cleaning nor ironing), you can usually negotiate a much better rate with the hotel's laundry service.

Make it familiar

Many of the items that I leave in my in-residence suitcases are there to make my hotel rooms as familiar as possible, by being the same in every residence, and by taking advantage of all five senses:

Hearing: My Spotify tunes playing on the iMac.
Sight: Pictures of my beloved ones displayed on the iMac.
Smell: Hinoki scent diffused from a flameless diffuser.
Taste: Sip from a bottle of my favorite red wine.
Touch: Warm and soft slippers wrapped around my feet.

In my room, I could close my eyes, and forget that I am 10,000 miles away from home. In fact, this is my home. It just so happens that I found a way to clone it in several places around the world.

Another trick is to book the same room whenever you come back to the same property. And as you become more familiar with a property, you will discover which room is the best for you. For example, my favorite room at the legendary Park Hyatt Tokyo is a corner room with a view on Fuji-san. At sunset, it is breathtaking.

Unfortunately, most hotel reservation websites do not let you select your hotel room like you can select any given seat on an airplane. Nevertheless, you can usually request a particular room by adding a comment to your reservation. And if you are a high-frequency guest, you can work with your loyalty program manager to develop a very detailed profile that will be used in the background to select the best possible room when making a reservation.

Make it comfortable

Now that you have settled in your new abode, you can think of making it as comfortable as possible. For me, that means sitting on a real office chair when working from my room. Often, I will spend 12 to 14 hours a day in front of my computer, and chairs are usually selected by hotel designers for best look rather than proper ergonomics. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to replicate the stand up desk that I have in Palo Alto, but most hotel managers are kind enough to outfit my room with a proper office chair during my stays.

Another way to increase the comfort of your residence is to stream music or videos from your laptop or smartphone to the TV set usually installed in your room. Some hotels, like the Hyatt Paris Madeleine, made it really easy by adding an Apple TV to every TV. Others do not, but you can usually connect your own Apple TV or Chromecast.

With such a setup, I can now use the TV to listen to my Spotify tunes, or watch the 900 movies of the Criterion Collection on Hulu. And let me tell you this: watching your favorite Akira Kurosawa movie from the 45th floor of the best hotel in Shinjuku is quite special. Only thing to remember: subscribe to a good VPN service in order to circumvent streaming limitations from foreign countries.

As an audiophile, one thing I miss on the road is a good sound system. Today, I leave a Grain Audio PWS portable wireless speaker in one of my suitcases. It offers excellent value for the money, but it can hardly qualify as an audiophile piece of equipment, and sound coming out of it is a modest improvement over the iMac's. In the future, I will most likely leave an audiophile headset and preamplifier in every suitcase. The Audeze LCD-3 and HiFiMAN HE1000 are on top of my list.

After a good night of sleep, you might want a nice cup of coffee to give your day a proper start. More and more, prime Hyatt properties outfit their rooms with Nespresso machines, which make the absolute best brew from recyclable capsules. Unfortunately, other properties like the Andaz Liverpool Street provide these in suites only. As a result, my very first in-residence suitcase was home to a marvellous candy red apple Nespresso by KitchenAid machine. But the good folks at Hyatt have decided to make my life even easier, and are now providing a Nespresso machine in all four residences, whether I am staying in a suite or not. Bliss!

Finally, I travel a lot because I like meeting customers and coworkers face-to-face, the old-fashioned way. And because my team is scattered around the world with offices in Palo Alto, New York, London, Paris, and Singapore, my trips usually cross seven timezones or more. As a result, I try to keep them as short as practically possible (like a single-day roundtrip from San Francisco to Sydney), or to make them as long as possible (one week at least, two to three sometimes), but nothing in between (jet lag kicks in after two or three days).

During these long stays, I usually spend many days working from my hotel room for extended periods of time. In such cases, having a large computer monitor increases my productivity dramatically, and with a declining eyesight, a retina display is a godsend. For all these reasons, I now pack a 27-inch 5K iMac computer in every in-residence suitcase. It is a significant investment, but the productivity gains after a few stays make up for it manyfold.

Make it your office

From time to time, I need to host some coworkers or partners. I could rent a meeting room at the hotel or in some coworking facility like Regus or WeWork, but I usually prefer to hold such meetings from my hotel room, which saves me time and money.

To do so, I try to get an upgrade to an executive suite, using either my status or a suite upgrade voucher. In fact, this is the only instance when I really need a suite upgrade (beside vacations with my family), and I shared that fact with Hyatt executives and hotel managers, allowing them to use their limited pool of available suites for guests who really want them, in a pay-it-forward kind of way.

Before requesting a suite upgrade for holding a business meeting or a long working session, I usually try to visit a few suites at the hotel beforehand, looking for one suitable for the function that I will host. In some cases, the room manager will be kind enough to add a few chairs to my suite to accomodate all my guests. Sometimes, I can request a paperboard or a whiteboard. And I use the room's TV set or my 27-inch iMac to project slides or share a screen. Finally, having a nice Nespresso machine supplied with plenty of coffee capsules is a great way to keep my guests happy and sharp.

Questions

Which is your favorite hotel?

The Park Hyatt Tokyo.

What is your favorite hotel ammenity?

A sauna with a cold plunge.

Which hotel should Hyatt open next?

A Park Hyatt in The City of London.

Where will your next residence be?

I would love to spend more time in Hong Kong.

How should I pronounce your name?

Anyway you like. And first name is fine with me.

What is your diet?

I am a flexitarian. And I eat beef only in Japan.

Taxi or Uber?

Taxi in London and Japan. Uber everywhere else.

Aisle or Window?

Window, on the upper deck of a 747-400 if available.

Know your neighbourhood

Once your mindset switches from guest to resident, opening up to the world around you gets a lot easier. Instantly, you will want to discover your new city of residence in more depth, starting with your hotel's neighbourhood. For that purpose, I usually try to locate a few places of interest at walking distance from my hotel (15 minutes or less):

Favorite restaurant (for entertaining customers)
Favorite bar (for entertaining friends)
Favorite sushi place (I love sushi!)
Favorite wine bar (with cold cuts and good cheese)
Favorite chocolatier (dark chocolate is de rigueur)
Favorite park (for a morning run or an evening stroll)
Apple store (for most of my electronic needs)
Leica store (to try out new lenses)
Monocle store (to get some inspiration and meet like-minded people)
Kiosk (to buy the latest copy of Monocle if no store is in town)
Grocery store (for Kombucha tea)
Pharmacy (for various supplies)

In order to keep a tab on all these places, I have put together a small online spreadsheet with addresses, contacts, and links to websites. Then, I annotate a Google map with all the streets that I have visited, going through larger and larger concentric circles around my hotel. This allows me to practice my street photography, while increasing the odds of discovering some unique spots along the way.

Last but not least, I use the fabulous Monocle Archive to discover some local artisans that I should meet, allowing me to refine my small inventory of earthly possessions, and to learn more about old crafts. One day, I hope to retire at a relatively young age, and become an apprentice with some of these masters, one to three months at a time. On my list: grinding tea leaves with a matcha master, sanding wood for a goban maker, or preparing rice for a sushi chef.

Know your landlord

I like to know who I am doing business with, and now that I am a resident rather than a guest, the hotel's General Manager is like my landlord or landlady. But she is one who shares my lifestyle to quite a large extent, since she spends most of her life in a hotel, and usually moves to a new property every four or five years. In such a context, I can rely on this person to provide good recommendations for some of the hotel's features, services, and nearby places of interest.

Therefore, I usually try to have breakfast with the General Manager of every property that I stay at. Through that meeting, I collect some useful contact information (reservation manager in particular), identify the rooms that are likely to suit me the most, and learn about local customs, like whether or not you should tip in Japan (don't).

Most importantly, I try to reciprocate by providing constructive feedback on my guest experience, at the current hotel, but also other hotels that I reside at, and which might provide some unique services. Then, I never forget to promote the use of Nespresso machines and TOTO washlets, or the installation of a dry sauna (a must).

Show courtesy

Now that I am a resident, I keep in mind what my parents taught me: do to others as you would have them do to you. Because I am paying for a service does not mean that I am entitled to treating the hotel staff like servants. Showing courtesy and gratitude will make everybody happy, and will ensure a good experience at every stay.

When something is wrong by accident, like having two bottles of conditioner and no shampoo, I usually do not report the problem, and try to think about backup solutions, like stocking shampoo and soap in my in-residence suitcase.

But if I can think of a way to improve the overall guest experience, I try to share it with the most relevant manager, escalading to the General Manager only when absolutely necessary.

Join the family

After a while, your favorite hospitality brand becomes a really important part of your life, and you want to make it family. Some hotel managers become friends, and you start developing more regular interactions with brand executives. In such a context, this little website is not only a way to share tips with fellow travelers, but also a way to introduce myself to my new family. Nice to meet you!

Greetings

Get there

Whenever I can, I always fly non-stop to my destination in order to avoid missing a connection. As a result, most of my outbound flights from San Francisco to Europe tend to arrive very early in the morning. In such cases, my room might not be ready at check-in time, but good hotels can accomodate my wait in two ways: first, some hotels have a spa with a shower that I can use in order to refresh myself before an important meeting; second, the best hotels will make a temporary room available so that I can take a quick nap before my room is ready.

Fly around

Ever since I flew an air safari in Namibia, I have known that the best way to really know a place is to visit it both from the ground (hiking) and from the air (aviating). Overflying a city or a countryside is a fantastic way to acquire a better sense of its geography.

With that in mind, I always try to visit my new places of residence from the air, either by taking a flying lesson at a local flight school (I'm an instrument-rated private pilot), or by hiring a small rotorcraft with friends (New-York and Honolulu are great for that). With proper planning, it is a lot cheaper than most people might think, and it creates some of the best memories that money can buy.

Take a break

Most of my traveling is done for business, but I also like to travel with my family for vacations. Then, I take advantage of the massive amounts of points that I accrued over the years to treat ourselves at some exceptional properties. Next year, we are planning to stay at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek for skiing, and the Andaz Maui for diving. And during the Summer, we will travel through Western Europe, visiting cities like Zurich, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, and Cannes.

There, I become a guest again in most properties, but I am thinking of ways that I could transform some of them into secondary residences. For example, I might leave my snowboard, boots, and outfit at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, where we could go skiing two or three times a year. Or some diving gear at the Grand Hyatt Kauai or the Andaz Maui (Molokini Crater is a blast).

Sometimes, I travel for business, but I need a break. In that case, I will take one or two days off, making up for all the week-ends that were spent working. For example, if I stay for a week in Tokyo, I usually try to spend a night at the excellent Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which is a short bullet train ride from Shinjuku, or at the Hyatt Regency Hakone. The latter takes a bit longer to reach, but the new Berce restaurant is definitely worth the trip, and the hotel itself is quite special.

And if I am short on time, I will just leave the Park Hyatt Tokyo for a night, and stay at the Andaz Tokyo, making sure to get a reservation at The Sushi, which can only accomodate eight guests, and where you get your dedicated chef for the entire dinner. It is quite a treat...

Remain curious

Once in-residence suitcases have been placed at all regular hotels, and these have been turned into sweet homes-away-from-home, remember that the world is vast and is waiting to be explored.

Then, pack a small bag, find a pair of good hiking shoes, do not make any hotel reservations, and hit the trail, sleeping at some obscure ryokan, in your tent, or under the milky way.

Remain curious, and enjoy every instant!

Home is where the heart is.

Love every place

Contact

@ResidencyOne

info at residency dot one