A source of unexpected joy

Like most Hosts, when I first considered setting up a short term rental apartment (aka airbnb), things like furnishings, advertising, cleaning and safety were prime considerations. What I hadn’t anticipated was the joy this decision would bring to my life once the apartment opened for business.

Joy, plus mountains of sheets and towels to wash! ūüôā But seriously – laundry aside – the reason for my happiness was the people. My guests proved to be unique and special. Many left me with a warm heart and memories to treasure.

What follows is a selection stories about Ferny Hill Retreat guests. There were lots of special tales to choose from, these are just a few. The events are factual but the names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Each brought me joy in very different ways.

Brian and Kate

This couple arrived at Ferny Hill Retreat, holding hands and grinning.

“You look happy,” I said.

“I am,”said Brian. “How could I not be with this lovely girl at my side?”

Kate giggled.

As I showed them around it became obvious that this pair were soul mates. Their public displays of affection came across as natural, even beautiful, rather than cheesy. If one didn’t have their arm around the other, they were holding hands.

They were also so kind in ways they spoke to and about each other. There were frequent glances and smiles in each other’s direction. There¬†was love.¬†

“Here for Valentine’s Day?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Kate,”we always do something special.”

“Have done for years,” said Brian.

The affection alone that this couple shared would have been enough to bring me joy, but I need to add one more important fact. Brian and Kate were in their late 70’s.

My heart just melted.


Marika and her children

This was a last-minute reservation. Marika booked at 6.00pm and she and her two little children were here by 6.45.¬† They didn’t live far away.

Marika looked frazzled when she arrived. Something wasn’t right. After getting the kids occupied with toys and books, I showed her around.¬†When the short tour was over I found myself asking if she was okay.¬†

“We just had to get out of the house,” Marika said. “Hubby and I … aren’t getting along.”

Over a cuppa she explained that they were all in the house together – mum, dad and the two small kids. Due to Coronavirus restrictions they couldn’t leave except to shop or take a solo hour of exercise. It had been that way for weeks and weeks.¬†If that’s not enough, they were in the middle of a major (albeit stalled) home renovation and there were tools, nails, screws and building materials all over the house. And to top it all off, both mum and dad were trying to hold down their jobs from home.

It was a recipe for disaster and, not suprisingly, the young couple’s tempers eventually flared. Nothing violent, but to prevent the possibily of things escalating, Marika found Ferny Hill Retreat online and made the booking.

I explained that this was a perfect place to unwind and chill out. It was safe and there was a big garden for the kids to play in, so they’d be fine. I suggested that, although they’d probably chat on the phone, it might be best if hubby not visit while the family was here. She agreed.

They stayed for 3 nights and during that time Marika continued to work remotely. By the time they left she and the kids were beaming. Marika and hubby had talked things over and everyone was looking forward to being reunited. They’d just needed a break; time to defuse.

“Thank you for everything,” Marika said as they were departing.

I hadn’t done anything other than listen, but it was gratifying that Ferny Hill Retreat had proved to be a calming and healing space for this little family.

Ted and John

This lovely couple travelled from regional Victoria for their stay. Their plan was to take is as many of the Dandenong Range’s sights as they could over 5 days.

“Haven’t been down this way in a long time,” said Ted. “Time to revisit some childhood memories.”

I didn’t see much of Ted and John while they were here. They were up and out early and usually back around dinner time.¬†On their last afternoon here they asked me over for a glass of wine.¬†We sat outside beside the waterfall and John started to brag about Ted’s sculptures. He worked mainly in wood I was told.

“He’s really good. Very talented.”

“Can I see any of your pieces?” I asked.¬†

I was handed an iPad and shown a gallery of photos. I started swiping through the images. 

Ted’s pieces were astounding! He had a mostly realistic style but his choices of subject matter made them feel¬† surreal. Crumpled pieces of paper; an old boat; various animals and insects, some abstract forms and many more. All carved from wood, all very detailed.¬† Ted a was a craftsman, a true artist.¬†

I sat with them for some time enthusing over the artworks and asking Ted about his processes. I was astounded to discover that none of his works had ever been exhibited. Ted was humble and claimed that he was an amateur and that woodwork was a hobby. He and John also told me how much they liked the Ferny Hill Retreat, particularly the decor and the art in the living room. I have to admit I was quite chuffed. 

At dusk Ted excused himself, saying he was tired.

“Probably having trouble seeing,” said John after Ted had left.

“Sight problems?”

“Sadly so,”sighed John.

It was then he revealed Ted’s secret. He’d been diagnosed with inoperable¬†macular degeneration and would soon be blind.

Now I’d be saddened hearing this news about anyone, but it felt a particularly cruel fate for this talented craftman. Dexterity and skill were needed to create his sculptures, but even more important was sight.

“We travel as much as we can these days,” John went on to say. “Sometimes to areas Ted and I have always wanted to go and other places he wants to revisit before … before … well you know. We’re topping up his memory with pictures of places, people and things that he can look back on.”

I thought this was a beautiful idea and was touched that Ted and John had chosen Ferny Hill Retreat as their temporary home in the Dandenongs.

And, knowing what lay ahead for him, I consider Ted a very brave man.

So now you can see how you can gain so much from hosting people in your home. It’s far more than money alone; hosting is a job that impacts the heart. My guests have gifted me with joy and memorable moments to cherish.

And it’s early days yet – I’m sure there are many more to come.¬†¬†