The other kind of big adventure that Alan and I repeatedly have is the one that involves sinking our life savings into a really old building, fixing it up and running a business out of it. So far, we’ve owned two bed and breakfasts, a food shop and a few different rental properties.
There are all sorts of how-to’s out there for this sort of thing. And I would never advise you to jump in with no understanding of what you’re doing. But I would encourage you to jump in. There will be surprises, catastrophes, even. You’ll have to make enormous sacrifices just to keep the thing afloat. And it may never pay off big.
But the things you’ll learn! The people you’ll meet! The adventures you’ll have!!! Some of my best memories are of moments of complete exhaustion, in the middle of a really big project, when Alan and I felt like we were in waaaay over our heads. But we were in it together and we were putting our dreams to the test.
So much better than taking the safe route. And truly, one of the peak experiences on the life adventure scale.
What are the essentials for taking on this kind of project?
Flexibility. It will never go according to plan and if you can’t change the plan in response to conditions, you’re sunk. A sense of humour is critical, too. You have to be able to laugh your way through construction disasters, and endless dinners of nothing but pasta (because, of course, the food budget’s been spent repairing the construction disaster).
Imagination, too. You will look at your run-down property and see the glories to come, while your friends and family will only see that, clearly, you have lost your mind.
You have to be comfortable with financial instability, with risk.
But not as comfortable as you might think. Because, when it’s your project, when you’re the boss, you can make all kinds of adjustments, try whatever you need to do to make the thing work. You have so much more control in this process. ( Just remember that pulling the plug is one of your options. Sell up and move on, if you have to. You’ll have gathered some valuable lessons and a lot of great memories.)
This was brought home to me yet again as I waited for my last job to end. I saw it coming for months beforehand, but I had no power to make any kind of change, to do anything to save the situation. All I could do was look after my own personal budget and wait for it. I never want to be in that position again, no matter how pretty my office may be!