During one of the many long conversations we have with our guests, one of them asked, “What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?” The question really got us thinking. Everything had been happening so fast that it left us little time to reflect on how the whole process of opening our little boutique Bed and Breakfast had been for us.
The question surrounding the most challenging part of our job is easy to answer: The Construction & Renovation! Messy floors and a cluttered garden. Hundreds of construction workers and none of which seems to understand what you really want (Are we the only ones with these problems? Please tell us we are not alone here!). It was our first time working with such a major and close-to-our-heart project like this and we want everything to be perfect in the (many) ways that we have envisioned. And with our self-imposed deadline of 1 month to finish everything, we certainly put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our construction staff. It was definitely worthwhile in the end, however, when we were able to welcome guests in our home and hear about how they love the way things are put together.
And on par with the stress of making sure the construction workers do not skip a step, electrocute themselves, or just burn down our house with their cigarettes butts (can we squeeze in more complain time please!), the paper work required by the government is another part of the job that we have come to utterly dread. Having moved multiple times in the last few years and somewhat managed to live off the grid for the most part, we realize that with such a business, we have to follow the local laws closely, especially in this small town where we are not familiar with the system. And let’s just say, it would have made life so much easier for us if all the local offices could agree on the process (or at least pick up the phone to check with the other offices on said process). We ended up spending a large part of June in the middle of a heat wave running around town and hoping that THIS would be the final stop (Well silly, of course it wasn’t!)
Okay, enough venting for the month of July! Now on to the exciting part! We have thought long and hard about the most exciting part of this new job. And we realize that the thing that we love most about our job is something that we do not think of as a job at all! It is just spending time getting to know our guests, who we always come to consider as our friends. It is having long conversations over drinks to learn about all the exciting journeys our friends have taken to be here. It is sharing our own story, our dreams and visions since the day that we met. It is telling our guests about our own secret corners of Hoi An, the duck farm around the corner with the most beautiful late afternoon light, the short cut through endless seas of rice fields to get to the beach. It is seeing our guests taking off their shoes and running around barefoot for their entire stay (something that we always dreamed of for our place). It is the many late nights and early mornings filled with laughter and excited conversations. When you come to Heron House, you are not Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you are just Rachel, and Linh, and Justin, and Vinh and little Malo and many more, and our house always feels so empty when you leave.
We spent one year studying Hospitality at a Master’s level. And after all those textbooks and essays and dissertations, the secret in the end is just so simple. It is just the true meaning of the word ‘hospitality.’ With the fast-paced life in the city, most of us long for a human touch when we travel. We want to be valued, to be treated well, to connect, to learn a story and then to share our own. We have also traveled ourselves to some of the most amazing parts of the world, and when we try to remember a vacation once upon a time, it is always the faces and stories that we remember the most.
Whether that was how a Swiss guy and his girlfriend built an amazing quirky hotel in the most remote part of the Philippines. The Kotsou family from Moutsouna who sends us a Christmas message every year. The manager at a beautiful retreat in the jungle of Sri Lanka with amazing stories of protecting the elephants. The warm-hearted chef in La Marche who sent us a bottle of wine to bring back for our parents because he ‘just loved’ our family. Our tour leader from Tao Philippines who invited us into her home and now we cannot wait to welcome her to ours. They, more than any of our teachers, have inspired and taught us the lesson that passion and love will open all the doors.
In some of the late nights when we sunk into the couch and exchanged stories of our guests on that day, Loic and I would wonder if the business keeps growing, would we still manage to remember all the names, and all the stories, and all the late night drinks we have had with our guests. Would we be able to spend this much time with our guests once we have kids? Would we still be full of passion and energy as we are today? We fell asleep in each other’s arms with so many questions hanging in our dreams. That would be tomorrow’s thoughts, as for today, we are just content with the company we have in our home.
So here come a few happy shots at Heron House! And many more memories to make!
One thought on “Friends of Heron House”
Van Anh, what you write about memorable stays rings so true to me. Be it Antico Borgo in Le Marque, the boutique hotels in Astypalea, Moutsouna, Leros, Patmos, Bequia or elsewhere, what they all share is a great interaction with warm & friendly owners. That is “the secret sauce”.
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