Finding the right holiday accommodation for you

Finding the Right Holiday Accommodation for You ( Or Always Brush Your Teeth After Eating Wasabi)

 So let me ask you a personal question.  Do you like wasabi?  No, seriously, tell me the truth – I can take it.  I won’t judge you as a wasabi wuss if you don’t. 

Personally, I can’t stand it.  One sniff from 50 paces and I feel like someone has poured Draino up my nose, while the idea of voluntarily ingesting it activates my involuntary gag reflex.  I think the strength of my reaction may be linked to my first wasabi experience.  I was having dinner at a local food hall, teriyaki chicken and salad.  About half way through the salad I thought ‘Gee, look at that!  They’ve given me a little bit of avocado – yum’.  Being somewhat partial to avos, I scoffed it down.  Need I say more?  I haven’t been able to look a blob of wasabi in the eye since. 

My girlfriend, on the other hand, absolutely loves it. For her teriyaki anything wouldn’t be complete without a blast of nasal rheeming green gloop. 

So that’s how it is.  She loves it.  I hate it.  A mixed marriage, if you will. 

Apart from a strict half hour break between eating at the food hall and smooching, we get along famously.  As I said, it’s quite a personal question.  You might love it or hate it.  There’s no telling.

 Can we move to a more pertinent example? 

Read the following two passages:

Him -What an awesome place. Very resourceful to convert an old carriage into what it is now. We spent two remarkable nights here. The shower is fantastic. Tim’s work on the bed and shower are noteworthy. Really special place! Keep up the excellent work. It was most entertaining to read your folder on what you have done to the place – kept me interested until the last page. Good luck and we shall be sure to stop here again on our travels. Her – We loved our stay in your gorgeous carriage, serenaded by frogs, lullabied by water features, luxuriated by the pebbles in the outdoor shower. The Painted Fish is truly divine. Thank you for sharing your vision.

We stayed in the Carriage. I cannot comment on the other 2 accommodation styles the Painted Fish offers. The (Railway) Carriage is actually a Cattle Cart with sliding doors that a very fit person would have trouble opening and closing – a health and safety risk. The furniture was so old I wouldn’t even offer it to a charity. The owners are eco-friendly but so are many other people. They have mis-represented the Carriage on their web site to be something that it isn’t. It was simply disgusting.

Now believe it or not these two marvelously expressive passages are two different responses to almost exactly the same experience ie a couple of days staying at the accommodation place run by partner, Shani (the wasabi lover) and myself.

Our accommodation is called the Painted Fish.  It’s eclectic, quirky and run with as much of a sustainability bent as we can manage.  It was even recently described by Josh Byrne as one of the most innovative sustainable retrofits in Western Australia.

I came up with the wasabi analogy because I’ve been fishing around for some way of understanding how our humble holiday offering can elicit such powerfully different responses.  When you run any business, particularly one which reflects you personality and beliefs, then I think any honest and constructive feed back should be treasured.  How else are you going to know how to improve your product or know whether what you are offering has a place in the market?

If you’ll forgive me another digression. . . .

Remember way back when (and it’s been a long time since I watched commercials on TV!) there was an advertisement for toothpaste that started with a blonde beautiful couple paddling romantically along a river.   He leans towards her and whispers something gently in her ear.  She jumps out of the canoe, slamming down the paddle and storms off screaming  ‘Next time you can paddle your own canoe!  He says I’ve got bad breath!’ 

Now as a business owner I’d love to reshoot that ad.  When he leans forward and whispers sweetly in her ear she turns around and hugs him saying something like Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t realise.  Thanks for having the courage to tell me.  When I get home I can do something about it.  I know you love me and you’re giving me honest feedback to save me embarrassing myself in public.’  (I mean, who knows she might just have been eating some wasabi).

And after a passionate embrace they paddle off into the setting sun. As I said honest and constructive feedback is rare and precious.

 But what do you do with feedback that contradicts the very things you hold dear?  (I’m sorry, Mr Schwarzenegger, but your biceps are just too big OR Yes, Mr Flannery, I can see you are passionate about climate change but it hardly makes cheery reading now does it?  Have you thought about trying romantic comedy?)

 Again, seeking a more pertinent example, let’s go back to The Painted Fish (if you are brave enough after reading the quoted Trip Advisor review!). 

It’s actually really quite upsetting to Shani and myself to get really negative responses.  We put a lot of time and effort into our business and one of our biggest rewards is looking at the lovely comments, poetry and pictures that people leave in our guest book.

The vast majority of the feedback we get is really fantastic (see website for examples if you are currently underemployed or on holidays and don’t have a good novel).

When we excitedly flip the guest book open and get one of the two or three “hate mail” entries we have had in the last four years, it really is like a mouthful of wasabi. 

It is really just a question of people with different tastes and expectations?

 Let me give you another example

We had one guest who sent us quite an extensive list of our transgressions (which I probably would have listed as special features) including:

 The carriage was just an old cattle truck with no charm or character. Well, he’s absolutely right in that it is an old cattle truck.  A marvellous reuse of existing materials I would have thought.  Through my eyes the wave bed I had made from recycled steel, the dry stone rubble walls (collected from roadside earth works, inside/outside courtyard water feature, pirate ship entry gates and collection of prints and paintings from local artists make it a charming and character full setting. But then that’s just me and I also hate wasabi . . .

The shower was outside. Again, absolutely true.  The al fresco shower in the carriage is one which I sculptured from copper to look like a vine or sunflower is one of my favourite features of the carriage.  It has featured in quite a few magazine and newspaper articles and there’s a bit of a nudie shot of me showering in it on one episode of Gardening Australia.  However, obviously not for everyone.

 The furniture was made out of old boxes . . . .Absolutely true.  I love old wooden boxes

 . . . . or looked like it came from the side of the road. Yes, in fact most of it did, or from garage sales or else I made it.  I think the only new furniture at The Painted Fish are the red lounges in the studio.  We bought them from Ikea and I swear I’d never go there again . .  but then again while that’s my opinion  I hear the traffic in the car park is increasing faster than the Great Sandy Desert.

 That we claim to be sustainable but he also recycled his scraps and grew vegies. Wonderful – good on ya.  There should be more of it.

 That the crockery was all second hand and some of it was chipped. Absolutely true.  I love old tea pots and crockery.  So much so that I will often keep them in use even if they get a few chips.  Ironically, the day we received this guest’s list of grievances another guest who was really enjoying our colourful and eclectic crockery collection had come across some great pieces in an op shop and brought them back as a gift for us.

 I don’t believe the other guests comments were authentic. So you see, this poor fellow has come across exactly the same dilemma I’m talking about.  The disparity between what he perceives and what other people have written is so great that it is simply incomprehensible.  In this case, he has decided (if I interpret him correctly) that I must be making them all up. I’m flattered by his suggestion that I have such a wide range of literacy and artistic skills (not to mention different languages and hand writing styles. Unfortunately I must confess that they were all written by guests.  Not only that, but mostly guests who actually liked The Painted Fish and enjoyed their stay.

 Which brings me to the point of this novella. 

Contrary to the belief of the guest who gave us his feedback, it’s not our intention  to trick unwitting travellers into wasting their money and ruining their holiday by spending it at “The Horrible Painted Fish”.

The really great thing about small owner run accommodation like ours is that they are so varied, reflecting the personalities of the people who run them and offer a huge range of styles and prices. 

Hopefully, everyone wanting somewhere to stay should be able to find something that at least approximates their needs. 

As my brother says ‘For every lid there fits a pot.’ 

 So I guess all this is a round about and hopefully light hearted way of saying ‘Thinking of staying at The Painted Fish book carefully, you may not like it.’

We look forward to seeing you.

(Of course not if The Painted Fish is not the pot that fits your lid!)

Love Tim

PS  Always brush your teeth after eating wasabi!