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A Visit From a Friend.

A guest blog post from a dear friend, Lesley Fullerton.

On a sad day in the summer of 2020, my friend Cheryl shared the news with me that she’d resigned from her position at the company we both worked for. We’d worked together for less than a year but had become fast friends and hearing this news was disappointing. We were only a handful of months into the first lockdown, so my spirits were already a bit low. Setting my disappointment to the side, I asked what company she’d be going to and what her role would be. This is when she revealed that she, along with her husband Neil, would be taking an entirely different direction. If you’re familiar with their story you know where this is going. If you’re not, the quickest way to sum it up is this- they sold their Toronto suburb home, bought a home and MOTEL on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, and intended to move their family there, and well…. hope for the best! It was surprising news, but while many may have thought the notion to be, well a little crazy, I knew immediately that they had everything needed to make their venture a success- a strong work ethic, experience (Neil in hospitality, Cheryl in marketing), and most importantly, one another.

While I was sad to see her go, I wished her well and we promised to stay in touch. Time flies by quickly and a year and a half later, we’d finally found a spot on the calendar for my first stay at her and Neil’s motel and an opportunity to witness firsthand the results of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (For more on that take a read through some previous blog posts!)

When I arrived, I asked Cheryl and Neil how they’d been received in the small community where the motel is situated. I’d always heard about the kind-natured and hospitable people out east, but being a self-aware Torontonian, I understood that we sometimes have a reputation in other parts of the country for being self-centered and perhaps a bit stuck-up. They both agreed that settling in had gone pretty well and felt that they’d been welcomed rather enthusiastically. The region is working hard to strengthen its tourism industry so, that Cheryl and Neil had come to give new life to a long-established local business was reason enough for locals to get behind them and show their support. (They left out the part that they are an incredibly humble and likeable couple which I have no doubt made the road smoother than it might have been for others)

A few weeks before my scheduled visit, Cheryl had sent me a text to tell me that she would need to spend some time getting ready for a trade show while I was there visiting. She went on to apologize unnecessarily for “dragging me into her world”, explaining that the one thing she didn’t have anymore was balance, and asking me to promise not to cancel my trip. I reassured her that of course, I wasn’t going to cancel, that I was there to spend time together and we could just as easily spend some of that in a convention center!

So, after spending two nights at the motel being spoiled by the MacLean’s, I made the trip with Cheryl to Halifax to get ready for the show. On our drive there she explained that a handful of local businesses, including the marmalade motel would be pooling resources and sharing a booth. This collaboration would not only help to minimize expenses for the small business owners, but it would also be a great way to showcase all that the Eastern Shore region could offer to travellers.

Upon arriving at the convention center, I met the group that Cheryl had given me the rundown on, and they were hard at work getting the booth ready for the show that would begin the next day.

The spirit of community support that Cheryl and Neil had mentioned was on full display. I watched as they worked (and reworked) the layout and flow of the booth, vented over the cost to hang a kayak from the rafters ($500!), and finally how to best merchandise some apparel- find a mannequin on Kijiji and have Neil pick it up on his way to the show the next day of course!

It became obvious to me quickly that one of the reasons why things had worked out so well for Cheryl and Neil was that the community they’d found themselves in recognized that if one thrived, they all did and so they were invested in one another’s success and ready to help each other in any way possible. The “risk” that Cheryl and Neil had taken was made a little less risky by the support of those around them.

But of course, they owe themselves the most credit. The decision they made took COURAGE and they have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (did I mention that before?).

During my tour of their home on the day of my arrival, I asked Cheryl how she was feeling about their adventurous decision, and gesturing to the ocean view from her terrace, she smiled and said, “I get to wake up to this every morning!”

So let me leave you with this…. It’s sometimes hard to know where to go or what to do next but making a leap or taking a risk might be easier than you think. You just need to find the right view.

Lesley is an experienced leader in the health and wellness industry. She lives in Toronto and enjoys creative writing and travel.

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