Commentary: Would you pay top dollar for a staycation in an upcycled bus or shipping


But if pop-up hotels are all about minimal living – and when they are built from upcycled materials – why pay such a high price to stay in them?

Escaping from it all is a rare enough commodity in Singapore that may well be worth the premium. Whether or not it’s a worthwhile investment, at least we have the option. As the meme goes, it’s “cheaper than therapy”.

Twenty-five years ago, I road-tripped the iconic Route 66 spanning half the US with my mum. We spent our nights at historic stops like Arizona’s Wigwam Motel (each room is a tepee with ingeniously designed interiors) and Oklahoma’s Trade Winds Inn where Elvis Presley had his own suite.

These no-frills highway stops didn’t cost much and still exuded the pre-1950s ambiance of their heyday. But their novelty soothed any squabbles and proverbial road bumps bound to pop up after days and thousands of kilometres together in a car running on its last fumes.

Without smartphone and social media distractions, we spent evenings recounting the kitschy Americana, gorgeous sights and diner nosh encountered each day. We learned new things about each other, and forgot and forgave old grudges.

The film-developed photos from that trip are somewhere in some closet, and no one has looked at them in years. But every time we talk about that trip, we remember every detail in technicolor, and our archives of anecdotes enliven dinner parties and connect us with new friends on other travels.

The privilege of a few days in a repurposed bus, an upcycled shipping container or a tiny house can create exactly the same kind of rich, vibrant encounters and memories. They’re aesthetically gorgeous and the surroundings are stunning, but magically, you may not feel the rush to Instagram every moment.

The best part is, no need for a plane ticket to arrive at these hopeful havens. Just an open mind and an adventurous spirit.

Desiree Koh is a freelance writer based in Singapore.

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