At the time, when I was a newlywed, I didn’t understand why I liked serving salads with pieces of lettuce too big for dinner guests to easily fork into their mouths. Though I was jokingly accused of serving oversized lettuce for the sadistic pleasure of watching people struggle, it wasn’t until today that I made the connection to the true source of my enjoyment.
While pondering my next steps forward in life and weighing my values against new opportunities, I reflected on the past 20+ years of co-creating and nurturing a boutique fly-fishing lodge in the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI). Our accommodations were unconventional in that, though clean and with arguably the best view in all TCI, they were sparse. The area around them was barren and run down. In contrast, our clients were of ample means and well-travelled. Luxury was their convention.
Most were a bit taken back at first sight and, like my former salad eating dinner guests, had to find a way to gracefully ingest a departure from their norm. In the early days, I felt I needed to make excuses to put them at ease, but with experience, I relaxed and enjoyed watching the inevitable transformation unfold, trusting they would soon settle into a state of deep appreciation for the experience that brought them here. Most of our clients return year after year.
There is something about meeting with unconventional scenarios and overcoming them in our own way that defines and fortifies us. On a very simple and unconscious level, I think it’s why I enjoyed serving too big of lettuce in my salads. I knew the salad tasted amazing, but a part of me knew not to just hand it over to my guests without them experiencing the satisfaction of earning their own gratification.
Similarly, our anglers were used to luxury, expected it as the norm, many thinking they couldn’t be happy without it. But we had something to offer that was unconventional–it was an experience with an undeniable contrast between nature and dilapidation, between poverty and abundance. This contrast somehow normalized and glorified the beauty that both had to offer. On a remote island with mostly local commercial fishermen and their families, skill and collaboration with nature are abundant. What seems to be duality transforms into a unified polarity and challenges you to come home to yourself from an experience no 5-star hotel can provide.
So next time you encounter an experience that falls short of your expectations, ask yourself, ‘What opportunity is here for me to embrace and learn something new about myself?’ Carpe omnia, my friends!