My most recent guests just told me they found my name from the Trip Advisor Top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in Ottawa list! This is fantastic news that I have worked so hard to achieve and what a long process it has been. After I worked out most of the kinks of the job, I realized it’s mostly about attitude.
I am at a time in my life where I am over 50, nearing 60 and can pretty much do what I darned well feel like, say whatever I want kindly and wear whatever the hell inspires me. It pains my younger daughter and the other smiles and cheers me on. I like to think I am living my life as an inspiration to others. I know that sounds self-serving but after 25 years of marriage and now on my own for 6, I have learned stuff, tried stuff and been there, done than, much more than the average middle aged housewife has ever dreamed of.
There was the year of trying everything once and I am ever so glad that year is over with. I’ve been a voyeur to some pretty outrageous stuff out there on Meetup. There was the 6 month solo trip where I learned to be alone and lonely. I’ve rappelled down waterfalls, 7 to be exact, racked up 25,000 km in one trip, hiked Thailand, driven a tiny camper van on the wrong side of the road, thru Australia, lived in the jungle in a rainforest in the rainy season with spiders the size of small dinner plates and lived to tell about it.
I run my business the same way. I jumped in with both feet and did the business plan and started to renovate. I’ve added workshops and paint classes, meditations, retreats and energy healing events, music and sexuality workshops; I know, I’m really out there but I love life.
I joined a quiet coffee group for mostly divorced people and they were quietly staring at each other like “waiting for paint to dry”. Before I knew it, we were talking about one of my favourite topics, sex after divorce. I realized then how shut down, reserved, and scared most people are to move on. They live in fear about what most people will think of what they do, like sign up for the adult sex classes. Who cares? This is your life. You think people are talking about you? Maybe they are, but most likely, they aren’t. Most people are just so involved in their own lives, they might raise an eyebrow about what daring thing you have said or tried to do, but then they think, I could never do that and they move on. I even catch myself telling people I could never do what they have just done when it is really outrageous, and then I have to remind myself that I have done that and much more.
Most of my adventures come with a colourful story and end with “it was the worst experience of my life and never again” …and then I forget and do it again. But I know the stories inspire others, even if they are humorous and wicked. I especially love to shock people. I love to see their eyebrows raise and the judgment in their eyes…and sometimes, the wistful yearning for a life more exciting.
When I said most of the time, people aren’t even giving your actions another thought, there is the opposite. People are talking about you and that is great. You have become memorable. People will come to your funeral and talk about you. I have house loads of people coming by for workshops and they are high energy and focused. Unless you are dynamic, I probably won’t be able to remember who you are when we meet on the street and I apologize for that. I think it’s important to stand out and do things that people will remember and talk about.
Once, I went to a friend’s meditation music event and as we went around the room to introduce ourselves, I said, “Hi I’m Cathy and I have a bed and breakfast called Spoiled Rotten.” Suddenly, one of the younger ladies there whispered in awe, “Are you that lady, the workshop lady?” I was indeed, but I had no idea my reputation preceded me. How funny to see yourself through others eyes. I’d never seen her at my place (which means nothing with my memory) but I had made an impact on her and that made my week.
A fellow student on my government Entrepreneurial course met with me recently and while reminiscing, told me, “I think except for one other person on the course who was well on his way to a business in progress, you are running the most successful business in the group. Wow, that’s awesome to hear. I must remember to tell someone something like that to uplift them too.
I hosted a racy book club at my place and met a number of new people and continued to be the story teller of the group to draw out the members from their shyness and become actively involved and tell their stories. When the topic is risqué, you have to learn to step out of your comfort zone or it’ll be one very long quiet afternoon watching grass grow. Weeks later, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and join a midnight snowshoe event in Gatineau with Couchsurfers. The emails were flying back and forth and one young lady told me when she saw my name, she asked her mother, ‘isn’t that the lady with the B&B you were telling me about with all the stories and has done all those interesting things?’ Her mom signed up.
The snowshoeing was tough and while the three of us lagged behind all the other 20 somethings running their late night marathon and leaving us in their snow dust, I could feel the frustrations of her being alone in the wood, struggling to keep up and hearing sounds that seemed like wolves. She was nervous so I told stories to the daughter, shocking stories to liven up the night, stories an old grandmother with Alzheimer’s would casually reminisce to her grown children in her waning years and have them raise their eyebrows in shock. She even laughed and said, “Mom, you should do that” but her mom said, “no way”. Oh, I wish I could take her scared mom on one of my adventures.
I loved trying to inspire the daughter to do some of the same stuff I’ve done. I firmly believe it is the birthright and obligation of every single youth to travel the world and learn about themselves before they settle down to grow up and get a real job. When my older daughter told me in tears, “mom, I just quit my job, got rid of my apartment, put all my stuff in storage to move with my boyfriend and we were supposed to go tomorrow but he just dumped me, what am I going to do,” I told her this. “You have just won the lottery. You have absolutely nothing tying you down. Pack your suitcase and get your butt to the airport and just travel, see the world,” and she did. She travelled the Far East and Australia for 2 years until she met someone and she’s delivering twins in mere days. I’d say that’s a pretty awesome story to tell your kids, but I digress.
Most of these adventures that I truly don’t enjoy except for the storytelling aspect are there to challenge me, push me out of my comfort zone, to show to the 20 somethings that an old lady can do it too, (because in my mind, I am still 30ish) and I do it especially for bragging rights.
I can tell people I stayed in a rathole of a youth hostel in the filthy belly of Bangkok in the dead heat of summer with feral cats running thru my room. I slept in a satin, sweat inducing tube to avoid bed bugs from an ugly stained mattress with no sheets, to shock, both myself and others, and say but I did it and survived and to remind me to keep doing crazy stuff like that. It keeps us interesting.
I survived the Cranbrook flooding and almost being killed driving on a road that was closed and a river of mud washed out right behind me. I survived two months in the jungle in the rainy season. I survived the awkwardness of painting nude on the beach in a clothing optional retreat. I survived swimming back after the tide left so I had to do the very long walk of shame to the shore without a stitch of clothing or water to hide me. I held my head high and walked back like I owned this. Inside, I was dying from terror that people would stare and talk but really, no one cared and if they stared, it was probably to say, I could never do that. I want to be an inspiration but it doesn’t come without overcoming fears, barriers of the mind and self-recriminations and of course, the negative self-talk we all do.
Sometimes, these adventures feed your soul, sometimes they inspire others and sometimes they are just great for business. Recently, after sharing travel stories, a happy couple staying for a romance package told me they found Spoiled Rotten when they searched the Top 10 Bed & Breakfasts in Ottawa and I showed up on the list. I never actually made it to the top 10 of the list but they kept reading and there I was, #12. I’ll happily take that endorsement. I don’t believe I could be doing as well as I am without all my past experiences. Shortly after I opened my doors to strangers, I remember two young men listening to all my stories and studying my wall map of all the places I’d been and they wrote in my Guest Book. “Cathy, you are the coolest woman we have ever met. Erin Brockovich and the ‘Eat, Pray Love’ ladies got nothing on you.”
For each of these crazy adventures, I pick my favourite, most outrageous events and frame it for my map wall of fame; of places I have been in the world. This is one of my most favourite parts of my travelling. Everyone in my family has the same 3’x4’ map and it’s a fabulous reminder of where I have been and where I want to go next and let’s be honest; it’s a great conversation opener for my B&B guests who have never taken a chance and say, I could never do that! At close to 60, I am living proof, you can!
|My map of the world and where I have traveled.|
|Rapelling the 7 waterfalls in Costa Rica|