My experience in Normandie-Basse was really challenging. Mentally. Emotionally. Professionally. “Shoved up so hard against someone else’s life makes you rethink who you are.” This couldn’t better summarize my time at the bed & breakfast in Le Luot, France.
After 27 days, I’m just exhausted. I feel like I’ve been carrying this big weight on my chest. And although I’ve left the bed & breakfast now, I still have this heavy feeling of unfinished business, re-opened wounds, and insecurities. I must have been out of my mind. Why did I think this would be easy?
When I was in high school, one of my best friends and I used to go to a café, The EyeOpener, for lunch. Bonnie and Carol were always working. Bonnie was a super sweet, quirky, bubbly, 20 something. Carol was laid-back, honest, and a bit older, maybe 30s? I loved going to this café; we went almost every other day and even helped out after school to just hang out. We went so often that we even had our own off-the-menu bagel special named after us. It was this closeness and sense of comfort that made me want to own a café of my own one day. I wanted to have a place where people could come and relax, make friends, and just…feel at home.
Fast forward to my post-grad life of project management, 46 business trips a year and 120+ nights in cold hotel rooms. I read a book, The Wednesday Letters, that centered around a couple who owned a bed & breakfast. And while the book focused on something entirely different, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to have a bed & breakfast instead. [One hundred and twenty nights in a hotel room…you’d think I’d know a little something about hospitality, eh?] And so began my dream of one day owning my own bed & breakfast.
I love the whole principle of bed & breakfasts in that they serve as a home away from home. It’s so much more personal than staying in a hotel. I don’t need glass elevators and 200 rooms with random strangers I’ll never say “Hi” to at breakfast. I want quirkiness and charm, not standardized, institutional, identical rooms. I want real restaurant recommendations, not just a place the concierge gets commission for. I want to break fast with other guests and hear their stories. I want intimacy.
What I know about hospitality and tourism is based 55% off my own experiences, 35% assumptions, and 10% common sense. I needed to learn more. So, it was an easy decision for me to pick my final volunteer destination. I would learn the ins & outs of a bed & breakfast first hand. In Normandy.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I had come to the wrong place for inspiration. Instead, I was greeted with crumb-crusted countertops, mismatched décor, stained sheets, crooked doors, and closets full of mice droppings and pillows. This isn’t what I signed up for. I was working alongside an English man who has spent the last 8 years in France and refuses to learn French. A man who made more excuses than beds. A man who gives up before he even tries. What was I supposed to learn from him?
I can normally find the good in everyone. But I couldn’t. Not with him. I tried so hard. So so hard to understand him. I can normally look on the bright side. But I couldn’t see it. It was so so cloudy.
And, you know, it’s exhausting. Not just mentally and emotionally, but physically exhausting to be so negative. To be so beat down. And frustrated.
It reminded me of my old job. It reminded me of all the things and people I hated when I left. Of all the hate and bitterness in my heart. That I still have.
Twenty seven days. Shoved up so hard against this man’s lifestyle and my dream. I had a lot of time to think.