Karen - Roadmap to a Vacation and Wellness Village
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
What do you do for a living?
My partner Aaron and I run a small vacation rental village called Acadia Yurts in Southwest Harbor, Maine. We have 7 yurts, 2 tiny houses and a wellness center. In our wellness center we offer yoga, massage therapy, infrared sauna, and a sensory deprivation float tank.
What does a day at your job look like?
Part of the fun is that every single day is dramatically different! One day I spend time cleaning yurts, landscaping, answering emails, and folding laundry but the next day I'm with massage clients and teaching yoga. Most days are a mash up of all of the above. Added to the fun is that our business is seasonal, so April thru mid November are busy, busy, busy while the end of November thru April we move at a slower pace. During this time we take the majority of our reservations for the next season, go on vacation, read books and catch up on all the things we didn’t make time for over the summer. Our work is everyday but everyday is a little different.
What path did you take to get here?
Graduated high school-->
Got a Degree in Elementary & Special Education from a liberal arts college-->
Taught at a school for kids with special needs in Denver, CO-->
Left my teaching job and moved to Spain to be an au pair for a family with 2 young children-->
Moved to Bar Harbor Maine to live next to Acadia National Park and work in a restaurant-->
For two years I worked in restaurants during the summer months then returned to Colorado to substitute teach at my old school-->
Completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training in CO-->
Started traveling with Aaron during winter months, spending the first off-season in Austin, Texas-->
Spent our second winter in Maui volunteering on an organic farm that also had a retreat center-->
In 2015 we bought our land in Southwest Harbor and immediately began building the yurts-->
Acadia Yurts opened in June 2016 and we haven’t looked back since!
What are the challenges of your job?
1. Staying true to ourselves while staying competitive and offering clients what they want. We carefully examine every decision to make sure what we are offering is sustainable, authentic, and practical - you can’t imagine how long it took us to find pillows for the beds … months of time in discussions and spending money to test dozens of them! Every decision is methodical, but we know our preferences aren't going to match everyone’s preferences. When we encounter someone who’s preferences are different, we step back and ask: Is this something we overlooked or is this something unique to them? The underlying challenge is to know yourself, listen to your potential guest and make the most informed decision you can.
2. The other challenge of running this business is that Aaron and I do everything ourselves. We do divide the work up based on our individual strengths, but it's a lot of work that requires a variety of skills. When we encounter something we don’t know how to do, we learn about it quickly or look for an expert in the field to bring in for help. Knowing ourselves, what we are capable of, and what is a good use of our time is very important.
What are the blessings of your job?
1. My work brings with it abundant blessings; I feel grateful everyday! We get to share in someone’s journey to adventure, exploration, reconnection, relaxation, good health … the blessings go on and on. We also get to show people that there is more than one way to do things. Our yurts and tiny houses show how far you can go with less; how you don't have to buy more and spend more and accumulate more to be comfortable. Our units range in size from 160 sq feet to 700 sq feet and are furnished completely, but minimally (there are no microwaves or TV’s in our units by design). By owning less we free ourselves up financially and emotionally while making space for greater creativity at the same time.
2. We meet the most interesting people and they come from everywhere! We have guests that want to share their experience with us and we also have guests who prefer to go it alone. Acadia National Park has this great following of visitors who come back every year, so we often get to host the same guests multiple times. Seeing them year after year is really something special that we cherish.
What 3 characteristics do you have to possess or develop to do your job well?
1. Creativity! It's necessary for the development of your space, but also for looking at things differently. A yurt is a circular dwelling with canvas walls, so where do you hide the electrical wires and plumbing pipes? You have to be creative.
2. Patience! Patience for the process because it won’t happen overnight. Building this property took 6 years of careful planning, calculated risk, and daily work.
3. Strong communication! In hospitality you are mostly there to listen, be kind and be resourceful.
What are 3 concrete things you’d tell someone on their journey to doing your job?
1. Assemble a strong team. Work with people who possess skills you don’t have and be willing to pay for their expertise
2. Figure out what lights you up inside and do that. They say it doesn’t feel like work when you love it. I agree about 50% with that - it’s still work but it’s work you love doing.
3. Keep your day job until you feel secure in your new endeavor. Aaron and I worked on the yurts full time and supported ourselves with outside work for the first 4 years to make sure that we could provide for ourselves while also nourishing our business to grow to it’s fullest potential.