Just as it takes 9 months to bring new human life into the world, I think nine months has been the time needed for us to truly form, nurture and deliver our new life in the country.
At the start of February I was still drowning in to do lists for the barn. The CBT my new doctor suggested to help me deal with the awful SAD I developed this Winter has really helped on that front. It turns out I had a Vitamin D deficiency (I blame the lack of foreign holidays, I’ve done very little travel for a ‘travel blogger’ this last 9 months – another post I should write, ‘how to be a travel blogger in your own back garden’ ). Anyway, the CBT helped to transform me back into my usual super organised self, with a new arsenal of anti-procrastination/anti- hibernation/happy tools.
A colour coded diary, lots of tick lists, apps and colouring pens. The ding as my phone notified me that we’d ticked another joint task off the Wunderlist app (fab app for managing things as a couple) became a really satisfying sound.
Then one night Mr A insisted we get the deed done. The barn must go on Airbnb. It was nearly half term, Valentine’s, Pancake Day, Shrovetide (Ashbourne’s mass football match, another post I need to write up). So we pressed the button on Airbnb and both shared it on Facebook. And then went to watch telly and forgot about it. This is the barn’s living room, by the way, not ours…
I had been expecting to twiddle my thumbs, for no one to book, to feel depressed about the thousands of pounds we invested in the hideaway, to have to work really hard at marketing it, another huge learning curve. But we woke to three bookings. Two from friends and one from someone we didn’t know.
I’ve been so overwhelmed by the encouragement and support of my friends and followers – thank you so much for all the shares and likes and even booking in.
There was another app noise to get used to, the ding of the Airbnb booking. We have 30 now, and they seemed to have slowed, but I think just because the next two months are pretty full.
Low mood brought about by SAD really zaps your confidence and inflates your anxieties like no one’s business, so it’s been a huge relief and confidence boost to see all our hard work pay off like this. Mr A and the kids are happy to see me back to normal too.
I had to dash back to Ikea because I realised my changeover calculations hadn’t quite factored in going from a 4 to a 4 person booking. I’d also arranged to run round Carsington reservoir, and ended up doing the full 13.5km loop, spurred on by a lovely local running buddy – so I was very sweaty and couldn’t take off my bobble hat in Ikea, but sometimes, to get it all done and live the life you love, you have to make a few style sacrifices. Getting away from desk work has done me the world of good too.
By the end of February, just two weeks after opening, we had welcomed five guests and received five 5 star reviews. Everyone who visited had been really lovely, interesting, respectful and appreciative of the space. I couldn’t believe how quickly it had all happened!
We weren’t sure how we would feel about sharing our space, but just as we’d felt when friends visited over the summer, it felt like the place came to life. I secretly love leaving guests treats, (like pancake ingredients), laying a fire, packing the guest book with ideas to make their holidays and their stay easier. It’s everything I’ve loved and learnt about travelling myself, reviewing holidays and trips here.
So far our poor guests have been baffled by my disappointment when they say they can’t think of anything that is missing. Only one came up with the idea of another mirror, which I bought that same afternoon in a charity shop.
We’ve picked up new local tips from guests who were out all day walking and exploring, we’ve said hello as we walked our dogs in the grounds. We’ve exchanged little messages over Airbnb checking they have everything they need. It is like having neighbours, neighbours that change each week.
With Airbnb people are looking to share exciting spaces, and have a great mindset about living alongside people. Generally people who want to try a country hideaway in nature are likeminded souls, we’ve had families with kids and teens, couples, dog lovers, writers, walkers come and stay.
I’m working on gearing the space up a notch, as a writing retreat, we even have our first writer in the midst of writing a book, ‘booked in’. I love the barn’s bureau, but I’m not sure it’s comfy enough if you are writing all day every day, and the kitchen table doesn’t make the most of the views, so I’m going to get down to my lovely local furniture recycling shop.
The guests that stayed longest, four days over half term, made us a delicious red velvet cake. I was quite emotional. They even left us cake tins – I knew I had forgotten something see!
Not everything has been plain sailing. The washing machine packed up to coincide with our first guests departing. We’ve become much more resourceful since we moved though and Mr A and I managed to fix it between us. Some days the kitchen looks likes Widow Twanky’s Laundry. I’v had to iron, something I never do. But I have found ironing and cleaning a welcome and mindful break from sitting at my desk all day writing.
We’ve had a couple of accidental breakages, more of a learning curve about the space for us. We’ve had frozen pipes during the freezing weather. Trying to defrost them in a blizzard sent by the Beast from the East was a losing battle, freezing out there even in my ski gear, with a hairdryer, and then kettle after kettle of boiling water.
We’d been planning a break before tackling the very vintage 1961 Bluebird Senator static caravan, but as the barn was going well, it felt silly to wait.
Our joiner/jack of all trades is back, singing along to Smooth FM and thoroughly enjoyed ripping out the woodwormed interior, panelling and insulation to find the timber structure remarkably dry. Mr A had a bonfire going all day, it felt good to be back having bonfires, as we did most of last summer. I burned loads of stuff that had been following me around for years and holding me back, it felt good (another post I should write).
At first we’d hoped to retain some of the van’s original features, but instead it is going to be reclad inside and will become a blank canvas. I’m filling a Pinterest board with ideas and feeling more confident, having decked out the barn in record time. There is nothing like a builder on a mission to force you to make tough decisions and get ordering! You can just see the sun coming through the caravan window, over the pond here.
We’ve also welcomed a new member to our family. The night we stayed in the barn ourselves (another post I need to write!) the kids did a killer powerpoint presentation, angling for a second dog. I love these determined/anxious facial expressions!
So (after a lot of trying to fight the urge to say yes) we found ourselves in our local dog rescue and before we knew it, had welcomed lovely Luna into our home. I will introduce her properly in another post, it’s been hectic settling a second dog fresh from the streets of Sarajevo (lots of tips to share!) but from one challenge to the next, but even out in a blizzard walking her round the garden I am still grinning from ear to ear.
This month has felt like a real turnaround. I’ve only had such a low mood once before in Winter and I don’t think I realised how much it had taken hold this time until I started to feel better. Medicine, vitamins and CBT has made the world of difference. My CBT therapist was amazing and as we wrapped up my final appointment with our first guests arriving, she congratulated me on all we had achieved and I kind of realised what a huge deal it has been launching our own holiday cottage.
Have a look around Mayfield Hideaway on Airbnb.
Thank you so much for all the lovely comments on these updates, it really does make my monthly writing as therapy feel extra worthwhile. It’s lovely to hear it has helped a few newly moved folk to feel better too. Loads of posts I should write up, let me know if you’d like to hear more on one of the ones above.
Hope you’ve stayed warm and enjoyed the snow!
You might also enjoy:
Country Living 8 months in – Hello From The Other Side