After looking at over sixty properties in four years, we finally signed the papers for the dilapidated pile of rocks on a hill in Italy. It had taken us so long to get to this point. My husband had left his executive job and I my language consultancy business. I had been gearing up in my ceramics studio, making cups and plates for breakfast service, and art for the walls. What had it taken to get this far? Countless hours doing research and dozens of flights from Northern Germany. Sleepless nights. Worry. Self doubt. Endless hours in front of the calculator. Are we doing the right thing? Will it all work out ok? And then, all of a sudden, there we were. Not only at the end of some long, meaningful process, but at the beginning of the vast unknown.
All of the hypothesizing, all of the planning and all of the dreaming cannot prepare you for the moment that you completely commit. I will never forget the temperature of the water when I dove into the "no going back" pond. It was like ice swimming. In Sweden. In the winter.
We had to get busy making the next step become reality. The time of big talk and touring the Italian countryside looking at vistas was over. It was time to put apprehension and fear and "what-if" scenarios aside - and make the hill we just bought in the Piemontese countryside our own.
We realized, almost immediately after signing the papers, that we had created a monster. We had to make something where there was nothing. To do this, we had to get started. After overcoming the panic-induced inertia of the first few hours we worked every day on some aspect of our project, whether it was the renovation, the marketing, the decorating, or learning more about the area around our B&B. It gave us a sense of control over our future.
learn from people who do what you want to do
I learned in the subsequent days the importance of putting myself in the position of being the student. I started researching other people who had endeavored on similar journeys - and had succeeded - to open beautiful, small inns in Italy and France. I not only learned from their designs and their websites, I let their success inspire me to be successful.
fight for your inspiration from the very beginning
In the pre-design-blog days of 2002, I tore into every current country design magazine I could find for photos that had the feel I wanted to emanate in my inn. I solicited the help of my friend, an expert seamstress, on how to make the curtains I was envisioning. A local furniture restorer stayed on the lookout for reasonably priced antique closets and dressers from Northern Europe. Before we moved, I had a clear idea in mind for the ambience of the first two rooms, and the furnishings to make it happen.
obstacles will hone your skill set
Restoring an old house in the Italian country side will teach you many things. Black mould climbing the stone walls? That will show you the importance of ventilation, insulation and chlorine bleach. Holes in the brickwork? Keep a spray bottle of hornet killer around just in case. The original electrician left masses of unidentifed wires in a hole in the wall that look like multi-colored spaghetti? Ah, the value of doing the job right - the first time. The propane bill from the first winter was almost more than the entire heating system? Wood and wood pellets are cheaper, more sustainable, and can do a great job of supporting solar panels. With every setback you learn. You become more savvy. More knowledgeable. More fit to do the task you so bravely set out to do.
enjoy your accomplishments
My first year of marketing the B&B ended up with a fully booked second season. I did a great job with the limited internet knowledge that I had at the time. I found good websites to advertise on and good forums to contribute to. All of our bookings came from those efforts. My hard work that first year secured our future.
It doesn't really matter if your accomplishments are huge or small. Celebrate your successes. Give yourself some credit. Life is too short not to pat yourself on the back when things go right.
So, begin to create yourself a dream - and once you get moving, keep working and fighting. The rewards are simply too wonderful, too surprising, too rewarding not to try.