The next chapter

Post by João and Rimi

This is our last post on WordPress. Over the last few years, we’ve engaged with you, our valuable supporters, in chronicling the buildup of minuvida – the soap opera so to say. It’s time to open a new chapter. From now on the news, announcements, happenings, adventures (in other words, everything that relates to the daily operation of our business) will reside in this new blog page on our website.

And we start the new blog with very exciting news: the launching of our new outdoors experiences business! minuvida azores experiences allows you to Feel the Azores through hiking, food and yoga – even if you are not staying with us. While the renovation and expansion of quinta minuvida orchard lodge is finally underway, we can focus on what we do best – help travelers Discover and Feel the Azores through these very curated experiences. So, take a spin of our website and find out what experiences you can sign up for right now.

Meet Snorkels, our badass off-road 4X4!

 

We can’t close this chapter without extending a special ‘thank you’ to our devoted followers. There are quite a few of you who have frequently reached out (whether by leaving comments or reaching out to us directly) and this forum enabled us to get 70 percent of our business during last year’s beta testing season.

It seems fitting we should share some previous posts highlighting this almost-four-year journey, leading us to where we are today:

Just goes to show: you have to start somewhere.

We are now gearing up for the real grand-opening of quinta minuvida and will provide construction updates, experience updates, and many other tidbits of information in our new blog. Stay tuned!

Obrigado a todos! Thank you all!

Moving mountains…

Post by Rimi

I’ve become really good at turning down business. It’s quite painful really. Almost every day I receive a booking inquiry for dates we can’t honor. We’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting to receive our construction permit to actually start building.

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Doing business in another country is challenging. There are different norms, different rules – me not knowing them, or not wanting to accept them. Not to mention doing business in a new language.

On the bright side, we moved here in February, 2015 and had our business up and running by June. It’s not nearly as litigious a society as the U.S. People are genuinely trying to help you and are impeccably honest and trustworthy. The people you do business with quickly become your friends. Business meetings start and end with kisses and we’re often invited to dinner afterward at our business partners’ homes. I guess that’s island life.

On the down side (at least from this American’s perspective) people here have a strong tendency to over-promise and under-deliver, and everyone just tells you what you want to hear. There’s no real certainty in when or how exactly things are going to move forward. Things move agonizingly slow sometimes; bureaucracy doesn’t make any sense, even to locals. It drives me mad. When someone promises something “will be done next week” it may in reality mean “someday”, even “never” if you don’t artfully find a way to follow up without seeming too pushy. When someone says, “You’ll get financial help from the government,” it’s not as easy as it sounds. I guess it happens everywhere.

I’ve been practically harassing our team trying to find ways to move things forward. Move mountains, come on people! I’ve been obsessed with wanting to be open for the summer (the high season here) or at least be confident about a date we can officially start accepting reservations. We considered waiting until after the summer to start our renovations, allowing us to run our business on the existing facility like we did during our beta test season.

After much internal struggle, I realize that I shouldn’t just be focusing on the short-term. We don’t want to offer something half-assed. We have a vision. An AWESOME one, of what this place is going to look and feel like. As painful as it is to have to repeatedly turn away clients, we need to make sure we can deliver on our promises.

But it is finally coming together. And we have big news! So… we have (finally!) received preliminary approval, with a construction license pending to start construction soon. It’s been a LONG and arduous process.

We can finally start accepting reservations for our official first season! You’ll soon receive a separate email with a code to access our booking platform and receive a discount off our listed rates for prebooking. You’ll be able to make a reservation for dates starting August 15.

There is a strong possibility we may be able to open sooner than August, but we don’t want to be too “Azorean” and um… over-promise and under-deliver;-)

A word about Yoga Azores + unOffice PDL Business and Cowork Center

Those of you who know me, know I’m not one to twiddle my thumbs and wait around for things to happen. So I’ve cofounded Yoga Azores, a collaboration with an incredible woman and yoga teacher, Mandy Brinkley on neighboring Santa Maria Island. We are working to connect the global yoga community to the Azores, organizing and leading yoga retreats and workshops. quinta minuvida orchard lodge + experiences would obviously be one of the host retreat centers, but we have also developed partnerships with other hotels and venues on the island that can host larger groups and/or offer more budget-style accommodations.

I’ve also started some consulting work with unOffice PDL Business and Cowork Center, the only coworking space in the island of the Azores, and winner of Portugal’s Coworking space of the year. I’m working to bring digital nomads and corporate retreats to work and play in the Azores. And of course quinta minuvida orchard lodge + experiences will be one of our recommended corporate retreat centers, with additional partners for the right corporate size, budget and style.

So lots of exciting stuff going on. One things threads it all together: Our mission to Help travelers discover and feel the Azores.

Join us!

quinta minuvida orchard lodge

Post by João – 

Roughly a year ago we put out to our world a small video sharing how excited we were about our new home. People were excited to see what we were brewing. Our walled-in corner looked like the Garden of Eden to many. Some even visited over the last year to check it out in person.

But the fun is only really starting now. Our 2015 adventure was only a test. We are planning to make it all official soon: quinta minuvida orchard lodge + experiences! Before that, however, we have a lot of work ahead of us, including a major and tricky renovation project.

Before the machinery moves in and the transformation begins, we figured (you guessed it) we’d share another little fun video. We give you an overview of the grounds and unveil some of the post-renovation plans. We are working on producing a “professional” video for our grand-opening already!

 

We also want to use this little moving picture to announce to our special followers (you) that pre-booking is coming soon. Yes! (For now we are only opening reservations for after August as we want to make sure everything is in place for a proper grand-opening. We may open up July if we can assure that our quality standards are met.)

If you have visited our website lately, you have perhaps noticed a constant stream of small updates. These are important changes. We have engaged in a strategic planning exercise that has helped us better define our vision and mission, and some of those changes reflect that direction. Our lodging operation, for example, is now quinta minuvida orchard lodge. We decided the fruit orchards that surround our property truly define the nature of our offering and are a genuine Azorean feature. Our overall operation is quinta minuvida orchard lodge + experiences – again making clear that we are more than a place to stay. Rather, it’s a place where you can Feel the Azores.

Ok, enough of that. Soon our supporters will receive exclusive access to our pre-booking page, which will allow you first dabs at staying with us and a sweet discount when we open this summer. Keep an eye out for that information, which will be shared via this blog. Obrigado!

Reflections: 2015, the year of minuvida

Post by Rimi

As I get older, each year moves faster, an ever-diminishing percentage of my entire life. Reflecting on the past to integrate and nurture lessons learned helps me to best set the course for the year ahead.

2015 has been a pivotal year in our lives. So, here’s the monthly rundown of the major milestones and happenings. And so we learned that anything is possible…

January: We put into motion the initial plan for a six-month stint in the Azores. Then we got a call about a property going into foreclosure. We took a leap of faith, having only seen photographs, and committed to buy what is now quinta minuvida. After two properties heartbreakingly fell through in 2014 we figured third time’s the charm… and it was!

February: Moved to São Miguel on Valentine’s Day, narrowly escaping snowy Boston between endless winter storms. Closed on our villa just two days later. This time was for real.

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March: Put into motion a plan to bring the villa “back-to-life” – including draining, cleaning and filling the 110,000-liter pool, connecting electricity, water, and slowly but surely discovering all the little and big things we needed to fix.

April: Hosted our first guests – family, close friends and friends of friends. I was a tiger when negotiating consulting fees during my last career, but boy was it tough to charge friends for our own (quite valuable) services.

May: Started the gut renovation of the Wisteria Pool House and started building our app with insider maps, guides, and recommendations. And we FINALLY got the stuff we had shipped from Boston in January (!!!). I honestly thought I’d never see it again.

June: Tested our first cozido hike. It has now become our signature experience. More friends and family visited. We also got licensed to operate a lodging facility.

July: Fully booked the entire month (thanks to you spreading the word!). João and I were floored by how many friends took a chance on us. We had a blast but honestly barely kept it together…

August: Again, booked the entire month but now we’d hired help and developed better processes. We were leading hikes, cooking creative Azorean cuisine and sharing the insider views with our guests. Summer was rolling along nicely!

September: Booked three weeks out of the month and we had a bit of a break. We hosted a 12-person local meditation retreat with some guests camping out in the orchards. It was great to share our quinta with the local community.

Holistika Retreat

October: We closed for two weeks to take a vacation of our own – turned out to be a whirlwind trip to Lisbon, NYC, Boston and Boulder, Colo. We were glad to return home.

November: Bookings topped July and we enjoyed our first international yoga retreat. We learned the intricacies of living in a stone house in a very humid climate sans heat with winter temps in the 50s and 60s. We also hosted our first Thanksgiving and had a LOT to be grateful for!

December: Things came to a screeching halt (and I think they sort of had to), when João broke his foot. Small break, but big lesson. Our health is critical to our biz. So we closed for the month and finally had time to rest, spend time with local friends and family and enjoy the holidays. Some things happen for a reason…

All in all, we hosted over 100 guests, including four retreats! Seventy five percent of our guests found us through word-of-mouth, thanks to you, and over half our guests were American (less than 10% of visitors to the Azores overall are from the U.S.).

So now we embrace 2016 and look forward to a successful renovation to allow us to open this summer and provide our complete offering. We’ll soon be taking reservations for 2016 and posting first here on this blog, so stay tuned!

 

 

Can you feel it?

Post by João

The day started at 7:45 a.m. Too early. It was supposed to start at 8, on the dot. At 7:43 I grabbed Rimi’s right hand and ensued with the obligatory morning hand massage. The sun had yet not fully cleared the Fogo mountain. I could just get a glimpse of the bright new day behind the curtain covering the door that leads to the patio overlooking our future home. Then, bang, bang, bang. And louder. BANG BANG BANG! Ana arrived. Just about 10 minutes early, but enough to produce a lasting jolt. A sucker punch in the face. As I lay there, the bottom half of my left leg immobilized, Rimi scrambled to get a layer over her pijamas, go down what must have seemed an endless flight of stairs, cross the hallway, go out though the back door – greeted by an army of voracious kittens and a ever-so-excited-to-see-you puppy – to then, finally, find the gate locked. She had no keys. We need to give Ana a set of keys.

There hasn’t been a day on this island I haven’t felt blessed to be here, with the right person, doing the right thing.

We shut the lights at 11 p.m. or so. We’re exhausted. The kitchen is a mess of pots and pans. Ten people and several courses later our Azores Thanksgiving was over, thank God. I cooked on one leg. Next day the cats feasted on pork left from Thanksgiving dinner on top of the kitchen table. They found narrow passage when Rimi scrambled out of the house to welcome yet a new set of guests. The dog dug partially out the phoenix roebelenii palm tree. A couple of days earlier I took an innocent jump to catch a flower, landed askew and cracked the tiny metacarpal bone on my pinky toe.

These 24-odd hours somewhat summarize the last six months. You must think we’re crazy. But, I’ve never talked to any entrepreneur who hasn’t said they wished there were more hours on each day. And when they say that gearing up a business is hard beyond imagination, we usually think: whatever, it can’t be that hard. When someone tries to describe the pains of birth, I usually yawn. How long it takes to get something through city hall? Check. Every construction project usually costs twice as much as you thought. Sure.

Had I and Rimi a cool 5 mil bucks from VC money to hire people and make things happen for us, like setting and running a super duper boutique orchard lodge overnight and hiring people to do every little thing for us and boss them around, we probably would. But we chose to do it with our pain and sweat – and the sky is not the limit financially. I think we still wouldn’t have done it any other way, but check with me in six months.

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I’m not good a verbalizing feelings sometimes. Today is Rimi’s birthday. We’re at a spa where she’s getting to be a princess for an afternoon. It wasn’t easy to get here. Even today we’ve been running around. Too many things to do and little time to do them. She has been anxious and bossy and I’ve been a one-legged ass sometimes. But one thing is for sure: There hasn’t been a day on this island I haven’t felt blessed to be here, with the right person, doing the right thing. Write that down.

Now I’m thinking ahead. My leg is forcing us to slow down just a tad. We decided that Rimi can’t be doing the job of two people and I that I’m kind of useless right now. We’re getting assistance to help with things and maybe we can boss them around a little 🙂

After a few trials, our project is moving forward and we may be able to start work just after the new year. A bigger, better and surely properly staffed quinta minuvida is just around the corner. I’m already looking toward 2016 with excitement. It’s going to be legit! And yes, Ana now has a key to let herself in and start breakfast and other duties. We can even sleep in a little now 😉

 

My new life, embraced

Post by Rimi

Our visit to the U.S. last month really put into perspective what we left behind. João reminds me that it’s not about what we lose, but what we gain. I finally understood this when I returned to our property I took a deep breath and thought, “Feels good to be home.”

Santana reflection

Letting go of the traditional metrics of success

Leaving my awesome company, which I officially did in September, really meant committing to this new life. João quit his job in April and has been full time at quinta minuvida since. I stayed on. As if diving into running our business during high season and being thrown into the “lion’s den” as João called it in his last post, wasn’t enough – I was working remotely on endless conference calls. Some clients didn’t even know I was calling in from the middle of the Atlantic. I had to come up with some interesting explanations for the background noises when tractors full of mooing cows drove by;-)

Deep down I knew I couldn’t continue living two lives, but having stable income, even if it was already less than the full time salary I left behind, was comforting, to say the least.

I thought about quitting, but kept getting caught up in the very American mentality of defining myself by my salary.

I think many of us wear our salary like a personal pricetag of self-worth, and identify ourselves through our spending decisions on where we live, what cars we drive, and what hobbies we pursue during our free time.

Leaving my job meant forfeiting my six-figure salary, my hard-earned senior vice president title. I could no longer expense fancy dinners at top restaurants or have enough disposable income to jet-set on a weekend trip to the other side of the world. I secretly loved that my company highlighted my MIT education during client pitches. These were the things that defined me. How could I give them up?

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And discovering what truly matters…

But then our business started to take root. It was clear that we were onto something. We weren’t just offering guests a place to stay, but experiences to enhance their personal journeys of discovery. Guests were truly connecting; with nature, with themselves, and even with each other. What we envisioned for quinta minuvida was coming into focus. More importantly, I felt I was living with purpose.

I am often reminded of Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist (which I HIGHLY recommend you read or even re-read) and Santiago’s pursuit of his Personal Legend. We all have a purpose to fulfill, but often it’s too easy to latch on to what’s right in front of us or find meaning with what’s within arms reach. In the book, sheepherder Santiago gives up wealth, women and sheep to find his way, and ultimately finds much more profound meaning and purpose.

I often walk guests through the active volcanic region of Furnas, starting with a brief silent meditation to focus on all the senses and take in the colors, smells, tastes, sounds, and feelings of this truly magical place. It’s incredibly rewarding to witness them slowing down and experiencing the place, a stark contrast to the tourists stopping to take a few selfies and moving on.

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When so many of our guests brighten after being here, I see that we’ve created a space to welcome personal journey and growth, and are often a part of it.

So what are the metrics that define success for me now? Well now that’s fodder for another blog post!

Exciting news coming soon!

We have great news on our future renovation and will close January through April/May, so stay tuned for more on what we’ve got planned (and send us good luck vibes to get us through four months of some major construction!). We are still accepting reservations through year-end and New Year’s, so continue spreading the word for anyone looking to get in on our first season rates!

The test of tests

Post by João

It started with the serrated knife and ended with a bruised knee. Dinner for eight did go on as planned, albeit with a few cuts and bruises. With that, we wrapped up another day in the young life of minuvida.

It’s lion’s den, I tell you.

Back in February (it seems so long ago), we decided to throw ourselves into the fire and test the heck out of what we had so meticulously planned for two years – creating a lodging facility aimed at providing experiences, not just rooms to sleep. We invited friends and friends of friends to “beta test” the concept. We also opened up on some basic lodging platforms, such as AirBnB, and had almost 60 guests with over 70 percent coming through word-of-mouth and introductions/social media shares from all of you. We could not be more grateful.

So how did it go, you may ask. The good news: There IS demand for our concept (even enthusiasm). The bad news: It was a lion’s den. We had a baptism of fire. We learned a LOT! Rimi offered her “lessons learned” in a previous post. Here’s my (maybe more skeptical) take. But, hey, I’m realist.

  • We are truly a startup so we have no schedules and work around the clock (exhausting and taxing for a husband/wife team, and our Azorean friends who love their social time and don’t understand that we can’t spend the day at the beach with them on a Saturdays and stay over until 2 a.m. barbecuing).
  • Go where no human (or Azores noctule) has gone before. Case in point – our signature volcano vent-cooked meal and hike (we think we are the first people doing this on the island) has proven so popular that we just can’t eat any more cozido.
  • Things will go wrong, and they did. We learned to have LOTS of cleaning supplies (and buckets) on hand when an entire family caught a stomach bug. Rimi deeply slashed her fingers during a gourmet dinner and I even stumbled to the steps with an entire tray full of desserts right in front of our guests. We pretty much had it all during these months of beta testing. A baptism of fire for sure, but the lessons were invaluable.

Beta testing is over and trough January we are running more or less as a B&B (fully licensed, thank you). We are even up on Trip Advisor. You can check us out at http://www.minuvida.com and make reservations on the site and check out suite photos and rates. The website is still best viewed on desktop but our app is coming soon.

In the meantime, life is good. At the end of the day, even with all the stresses associated with learning a new trade, we are really lucky to be living in a tranquil place away from the rat race of days past. It’s our new little piece of paradise. We only have to walk around our property to be reminded of why we’re here and the purpose of our business.

And that brings us to the future.

In January we hope to start a major renovation project that will catapult quinta minuvida into the next level. We are seeking the coveted “turismo em espaço rural” designation (basically a country manor boutique lodging facility) and will also build our new home in a current building on the property – and claiming back (finally!) our private space. We will run our full signature program (providing experiences, not merely a place to stay, through activities in food, outdoors and yoga built into each booking) and increase our amenities dramatically (how does a loaner bike program and on-site observatory sound?).

We also plan to hire at least a full-time person to help us out. We had some invaluable part-time help during the summer, so we know that when we double our capacity we will also need to increase our level of service.

Until then, keep spreading the word. We appreciate 🙂