Updated: Nov 28, 2021
So, finally the day had arrived. We drove out to Gothem on that chilly November morning to view the property. We met with our realtor and the owner at the property and began the walk around. Not only was it
chilly, but the nearby farmers were beginning to do the late fall/early winter fertilizing so the overwhelming smell of urea hung in the chilly and damp air. It left quite a different impression than the one I had of our earlier sunny May visit to Gotland.
Although in the past I had lived in several states with seasonal weather (Tennessee, Virginia, Rhode Island) most of my life I lived in either California or Florida, so the combination of being both cold and damp was a new one. The chill seeped deep into my bones and given that the café was only open on the weekends the heating was off, so it was also ice cold going inside. Erik spent a lot of time speaking with the owner, since I didn't understand any Swedish, while I walked around the property with the realtor taking pictures and trying to see past the worn buildings to the vision that Erik and I had spent the last month talking about. In my mind I assessed the cabins, the kitchen and the buildings for what items could be re-used and what new changes would have to be required to our budget. It was not only feeling daunting, but also now very real.
One of these ideas was where we would stay during the early spring renovation period. Not having a lot of capital and since the cabins were not outfitted with winter water or sewage we had decided to use one of the spaces in the cantina to live in. Fortunately, there was a shower in the staff restroom so it would function for us to live in, but there was only one heater in the dining room and it wasn't going to be able to heat the whole building so heating would be a huge issue. Another issue was the interior, we had thought that the walls were painted and thus it would be easy to paint over, little did we understand the Swedish enthusiasm for wall paper (more on that later). It was in pretty bad shape and with the dampness of the space was coming off in some places. This was going to be a bigger job then we thought. The deck on the other side of the restaurant was also in pretty bad shape and I wasn't feeling very confident that it would hold a lot of people on it.
The drive back to the hotel was a passionate discussion of my observations on the poor condition of some of the buildings and the necessary changes to our renovation ideas that would significantly impact our budget. Erik also relayed some of the information he had garnered from the previous owner regarding seasonal business, equipment and infrastructure functionality, which further deepened my belief that a year round steady business wasn't going to be possible. Erik was as excited as ever, but I was feeling anxious and stressed. Top it all off with some deeply difficult personal issues we were facing and I was unsure if this was the right time for this adventure. We spent the next day at the tax office, registering for the wedding and getting business start up information. We also spent some time at the library, looking at the Gotland in Numbers (an interesting publication done every other year showing the economical statistics on Gotland, this would be a very helpful document in showing the growth in tourism that the island had been going through since the high speed ferries started in 2010). Then we flew home. It was a world wind trip that would determine where our future lay. The next few days were full of deep discussions on the probable success of our idea as well as the contingency plans; if once we start and it doesn't work out. These culminated at the end of the week with what would be the second biggest argument of our relationship (spoiler alert - the coming year would have many more arguments and would be the greatest test of our relationship EVER). This argument occurred under this massive banyan tree in our backyard and would forever be remembered with me deciding that I didn't want to go through with it; as I didn't believe it would be successful enough to provide us with a viable living, and Erik shouting that he was "utterly disappointed" and walking away.
Over the next few days we tried to avoid any discussions on the property and went about the rest of the week filled with the stress of our current jobs. But the question of Gothem was like a heavy weight on me, was my fear of the unknown going to keep me/us from going on the adventure of a lifetime? We had kept all of this private just between us (not even discussing with family), but now I needed some outside guidance. So I turned to a trusted advisor, the woman who had guided me once before in how to find the love of my life. I asked her one question, "I'm faced with a difficult career decision and need to know if I should take the opportunity?" She told me that I would travel very far across the ocean and that the career opportunity (I wasn't specific about what it was) would make a positive difference in many people's lives. Her guidance had not failed me before and despite my fears, it was enough to convince me that the risk was worth it. Erik and I spoke and I told him I was ready and from there on we were full speed ahead. Gothem here we come! Now how to get everything ready to move us and three dogs to Sweden in 3 months! To be continued...