A couple months ago, a good friend who operates a very successful bed and breakfast here in the Arizona desert asked if we would be willing to accommodate guests when she wound up with double bookings. As a favor to her, we agreed. Then the wheels started turning and our mindset about our homestead changed a bit.
While our fairly frugal budget and our current income permit us to live simply and well, it is pretty much a no-frills operation here. We decided we could use some more consistent extra income here at the homestead to make visiting our kids and grandkids easier.
We really didn’t have much to do to make the Bear Cave attractive, in a rustic sort of way. We hoped to attract those who enjoy the outdoors, built-by-hand living, and good farm cooking. I trenched in some Ethernet cable from our straw bale house to provide internet access for those guests who wanted to maintain contact with the outside world. Stuff stored in the Bear Cave was moved and we relocated our computers to the main house.
Our little 320-square-foot Bear Cave, now referred to as the Dragoon Mountains Guest House, sleeps four with a double bed and by pulling out the trundle bed. We lived in the Bear Cave while we built our straw bale home and loved it. We believed our guests would feel the same.
A comfortable recliner, a wicker-seated rocking chair, and the trundle bed doubling as a couch with pillows and bolsters provide relaxed reading for those who just want some time to wind down.
Winding-down, serenity, and plenty of quiet are really some of the big attractions. Recently, I read and listened to two separate accounts on the importance of quiet. One was an article in the Dec 9, 2011, New York Times by Pico Iyer titled “The Joy of Quiet.” The other was an interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm program with Dr. P.M. Forni discussing his new book, The Thinking Life.
Pico Iyer, educated at Eton and Oxford, now lives in Japan. He refers to himself as a “global village on two legs.” Dr. Forni is a professor at Johns Hopkins and writes and teaches on Civility and Ethics and their role in our social world. Both articles are worth reading and listening to in their entirety.
In his article, Iyer suggests that we people are moving away from what has become a barrage of input. He says that the average American spends 8½ hours per day in front of a screen and that the average American teen sends or receives 75 messages per day. Think of the people you see in markets, cars, parks, or wherever with eyes or ears glued to a communication device.
Iyer contends that Americans are getting tired of the constant deluge of input. He cites an advertising CEO as saying that the upcoming market among young people will be for stillness. In the article, he mentions a California resort that offers lodging for over $2,000 per night and features no TV, WiFi, or telephone. There must be an easier and cheaper way to locate the ‘off’ button.
Dr Forni’s book title speaks for itself. The subtitle is “How to Survive in the Age of Distraction.” Forni warns of the perils of not taking time to just think. He writes, “If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it.”
We asked family and friends that had visited us as unpaying guests what they valued most about their stay at our homestead. Most said the combination of silence, serenity and scenery made them want to come back. The ability to sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and look across the valley at our many mini-mountain ranges, our Sky Islands, was very meaningful to them.
While many of our guests enjoy at least one meal prepared by us, most like to find their own rhythms for meals and choose their own diets. We stocked the guest house with basic kitchen utensils – plates, cups, glasses etc – and installed a propane range (a drop-in designed for RVs that I enclosed in a plywood box), an under-the-counter fridge, and a microwave. They’re good to go.
On the other hand, hiking, biking, and rock climbing around our homestead appeal to many. We have had competitive racing cyclists stay here for winter cycling and lots of birders and hikers.
Apart from the extra income, which we appreciate, there are other benefits. We have the opportunity to share the land we have come to love – its history, its scenery, its wildlife – with people unfamiliar with the beauty of the desert. We have made lots of new friends. People from England, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have been our guests during our first three months of operation.
If you would like to quit a “day job” and spend your time on your land, you might want to consider sharing the beauty of your place and making some money and some new friends. We even found a network of guest houses that manages the financial end of things for us. If you’re curious, take a look at this website for yourself (http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/281607) Or, if you feel you just have to come visit us to see what we’re doing, you can make arrangements there as well.