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When I traveled cross-country, I stayed in hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts. My goal was to average less than $100/night on accommodations. Perhaps my favorite place— and certainly the most colorful— was the Livingston Inn in Livingston, MT.

I found Livingston on a map a couple of days before I left Seattle when I was trying to figure out a place to stay between Spokane and Bismarck. Livingston had several dog-friendly hotels, and that’s how I eventually found the Livingston Inn.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a long drive to get there that day, so I only got there after 10 p.m.

But I still got to interact with the owners. And I loved their obvious pride in the place. And I loved hearing about their story.

I couldn’t tell how old John and Tillie Lamey were, but they seemed like they could be in their fifties or sixties. They bought the Livingston Inn in April, 2004— one month before they got married. For them, the motel was a labor of love as well as a commitment to one another.

There were two things that I most appreciated about the Lameys.

One was their obvious affection for and enjoyment of one another. Tillie had obvious admiration for the ideas that John had injected into their running the motel. John spoke proudly of Tillie’s photography, which adorned the motel’s hallway walls.

The other was their enthusiasm and willingness to embrace those things that they just felt like doing.

At some point, they decided it would be good for the motel to organize an indoor photo shoot with a grizzly bear, so they brought Adam, a local trained grizzly bear, into the motel lobby to be photographed. They loved it, and photos of Adam are prominent in their promotional materials and branding of the hotel.

Tillie was so inspired by the experience that she resumed her own photography practice, and that is what led to one of the other most prominent decorative features of the motel: her photographs of the local wildlife and scenery.

John was excited by the idea of turning some of Tillie’s and Adam’s photographs into postcards with clever captions, and so many of these free postcards can be found in the motel’s guest rooms and lobby.

There is something to be said for knowing what you like and knowing what inspires you. That’s what keeps things interesting for yourself, over the long haul.

And I firmly believe that that’s a major wellspring of creativity for many of us.

The Lameys are unconventional, quirky, and distinctly individual in the best sort of way. They find a way to bring joy, passion, and creativity into running a motel, which is not only their baby— it is also the fabric of their daily lives.

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