I was talking to one of my guests this morning and he articulated something really critical to our success here at the B&B. He said that he finds our place to be authentic to its location (the Italian wine country), but that it provides the traveller with the comfort needed to feel comfortable and connected. This might seem like a no-brainer, but anyone who travels regularly in rural Italy knows that it's not. You can often get one or the other. You can be in an off-the-radar inn somewhere in the hills, but you can forget about things like international satellite TV and wifi in every corner, beautifully crafted furniture, comfy robes, slippers and luxury organic bath products. Or you can be in a more urban setting, have most of those things, and not the nest-like atmosphere tucked into hillsides, where only the birds can be heard, seemingly light years away from civilization. It's hard to find both under one roof. We set out to create a haven for people craving Italian authenticity but wanting comfort, and it makes me happy to think that we've succeeded.
It's been journey to get this place humming as it does. Building it, crafting it, loving it, fighting it, learning from it, growing with it. A very long, emotionally charged journey as an expatriate and as an entrepreneur. Lessons have been learned. Many of them. Perhaps the most poignant was learning how to stop resisting and start accepting things as they are.
It's one thing to make things beautiful. It's another to make them work. Making it beautiful is a task. To make something beautiful you have to sacrifice your fingernails, yell at your spouse, fall asleep in your dinner, feel insecure when you look at design magazines, learn the difference between all things water based and all things oil based, become friends with sandpaper, and understand that cement and human skin are not great friends.
To make things work you have to go from emotional resistance to acceptance. And that is a whole other thing. It means accepting the place you are geographically for what it is. And it means accepting yourself for who you are.
There are many things that rural Italy is. Scenic. Bucolic. Rich in art and culture. Warm hearted. Human. Delicious. And there are a few things that rural Italy decidedly is not. Convenient. Forward thinking. Entrepreneurial. Connected. Easy. And the sooner you realize to take that all exactly as it is and not try to change it, the easier your life will be.
There are many things that I am. I care. I'm compassionate and I have a certain propensity to be creative. There are things that I decidedly am not. Patient. Highly organized. I am most certainly not a visionary or a risk taker by nature. Which puts me at odd ends with myself as both an expatriate and an entrepreneur. And caused me to resist, for years, the reality of what I had actually done by taking on this life here in Italy.
You can't force acceptance. Sometimes, you just have to reject things and feel miserable long enough that there are no other options.
It took me awhile. A very long, uncomfortable, frustrating while. All of that resistence made the bucolic beauty and great food and warmth and art seem insignificant. Until I had resisted long enough and finally came to the point where I realized that Italy was never going to be able to give me everything that I wanted. It was never going to be easy and convenient here. And Italy was not going to change for me. I was never going to feel one hundred percent comfortable with the amount of risk and uncertainty I had invited into my life by taking on this lifestyle. At some point, though, it was either accept all of this or risk losing it.
And it was then, when I moved from a cloud of resistance to hands-open-look-at-the-sky-please-help-me-just-accept-Italy-and-me-and-how-things-are-now acceptance when this project and this life change started to work for me in a big way.
I have a very specific memory. I was scrubbing mold off of the back wall of the house. I looked down and realized I had bleached my favorite black sweat pants white right where my knees touched the floor (note: never wear your favorite black sweats and use bleach at the same time). It was at a point where the veneer patching my soul together had worn too thin and the mere sight of my white knees made me roll up in a corner and rock back and forth, wondering how I could be reduced to be so small by some bleach and some mold. In my old life, I would have chucked them and bought new and forgotten the whole thing in a couple of minutes. Here, I felt personally attacked and hurt by every tiny thing that didn't go my way.
Being a pioneer or different or an expatriate or an entrepreneur can do that to you. It can make you feel small at the strangest moments. Things that should not matter become magnified and injurious. You can get knocked over when you least expect it. I remember thinking, exactly right then, with my bleached out black sweat pants that this is never, ever going to work, how could I have been so stupid to believe that I was capable of doing something like this? I'm so small and this task is so large.
And then, things change. Something happens and if you are not too busy resisting, if you are just open enough to let the Universe shine its light in, you catch a bit of wind at your back that will propel you forward. Like a guest tells you that you've done a fantastic job as a host. Like the bread rises perfectly, the fruit is sweet and the sun hits the mountains in such a way that it only can in Italy.
And you think about what it would take to stop resisting and start accepting.
It's not easy, choosing an individual path, but it can force you into a struggle with your soul that is altogether good and important. One that will unleash the true potential inside of you. For me it was this, this very special thing that I can share with other people on this particular hill in this particular place. For you it might be entirely different. But taking on change means confronting resistance inside that has been residing for a good long time. Giving the resistance (and all of its fears and insecurities) voice until it surrenders to acceptance-- now that's a beautiful thing.
And to get reviews like this about how our guests feel just reinforces that it's all good. Really good.
Have a wonderful week.