Category Archives: vacation rentals

Freedom – Just How Free Are We Right Now?


The concept of freedom is completely ambivalent. While I live in America, Home of the Free and Land of the Brave, I do enjoy a wide number of freedoms that citizens across the world do not. I can speak about what I wish to whomever I wish. I can come and go at will pretty much wherever I wish. I can write whatever I want without fear of censorship, although there are times recently when that seems threatened. I have the freedom to worship, or not, as I wish and to say whatever I feel about God or his non-existence.

So why is it that I feel trapped and without freedom? Six years ago my mother died of a massive brain aneurism and I transplanted my youngish family from our established 25-year home in the growing metropolis of Jacksonville. We moved 80 miles west to a community with a blinking light and post office as its claim to fame between Lake City and Live Oak. My father, married for over 50 years, needed a surrogate care-taker because he’d never cooked or done laundry. So we chose to move. We sold our house and moved into a dream house. A 100-year-old Victorian with wrap-around porch, huge floored attic, the biggest bedrooms we’ve ever seen, completely renovated and beautiful, on 5 lovely acres in the country. Mama and Daddy had done wonders with it over the 20 years they’d worked on it. Daddy retired at age 55 from the Broward County school system and they’d split from South Florida to resettle in North Florida.

The house was beautiful, if full of antiques (they were both collectors) and stuff. It took me over five years to finally sell or give away all of the stuff they’d accumulated. Anyway, we settled in and cleaned house. We had it repainted in and out, new wallpapers and curtains. We made it home. Daddy had a cozy log house built on the property so he could maintain some semblance of sanity. It had been a long time since he’d been part of a busy six-member household.

Well, Daddy died about three years later and we had an auction to get rid of the rest of their stuff and put the big house on the market. We wanted to go back ‘home’ to Jacksonville. Oh, by the way, my husband still works in Jax, driving three hours a day on the interstate.

That was when the market collapsed. I tried selling the house myself for a year and got a few nibbles. Then we hired a realtor with NO nibbles. We were stuck. We are stuck. We can’t abandon it like some others are who are being foreclosed upon. We own it outright. We need the sale to buy a new house. So our freedom, and that of a lot of others in America right now, has been obliterated until America gets back on its feet after this depression. And yes, it is a depression when so many are out of work and losing homes.

But, to end on an up note, because I believe we will all pick up the country by the boot straps and move forward, this will not last forever. And as I and one of my daughters like to do; we look for the silver-lining, because we know it is there somewhere.  One benefit has been turning the log house into a Vacation Rental business. It allowed me to quit teaching as it provides a fairly decent income.


Vacationing in the Country


Running my vacation rental business is like trolling for fish when I was a little girl. I lived in Ft. Lauderdale and most weekends Daddy took us out in the boat. We would go far out into the ocean and he would drop several lines at varying depths. We would then troll, go very slowly in a straight line, hoping to attract a fish. When there was a tug on one of the lines, he would stop the boat and grab the rod. Then he would let the fish take more line thinking it got away with the small fish Daddy had used as bait. Once he thought the fish had mouthed the bait (not just nibbling at it) he would yank hard on the line to ‘set’ it, then reel the fish in and we’d have supper.

I realized recently that running my business, Florida Black Bear Cabin LLC, is very much this same model. I place my ads on likely websites like Homeaway or Vacation Rentals by Owner. I also run adwords through Google.  Occasionally I run specials making sure they are listed on each of the places I have ads. Keeping an immaculately clean and incredibly equipped cabin  helps for future returns.

It’s taken about a year to fully understand what to do while running a business. I revamped my invoices several times, adjusting and tweaking things until I was satisfied. I set up quite a few spreadsheets to track expenses, taxes charged and paid, overall income, guest logs, etc. I try to be as paperless as possible, which helps with filing and clutter. Of course some paperwork is unavoidable and for that I have a designated file system on my desk. Being organized is the key to running any successful business.

I had thought the economy would affect my rentals more than it has. But we are the only rental of this kind for fifty miles around and we have the temperate climate of North Central Florida.  Plus, I’ve gone out of my way to make it feel like home away from home. Practically every guest has commented ‘It’s so much nicer than the advertising shows’. I put a lot of thought into setting it up. I said to myself, ‘What would I want or need if I stayed here’.

I’ve already had several return guests and have only been open a year. That’s the nicest comment anyone could leave in a guest register. We’re also located at the juncture of three major rivers, hundreds of springs for tubing, swimming or diving and several State Parks. During the summer we get a lot of tubers for the Ichetucknee River. In the fall we get canoers and kayakers for the Suwannee or Santa Fe Rivers. We’re also close to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park so when they have great concerts I get guests. This year I had guests book the weekend of the Wanee Music Fest (Classic Rock) about six months ahead. Good thing, too. I could have rented twenty cabins. So the moral of that story is, if you know you’ll be coming and want a reservation you have to call early. My bookings fill up about two months ahead right now.

I’ve even had guests from England stay with us. I have another family from England coming for a month. And the reasons for renting our little log house are as varied as the people. We’ve hosted lover’s reunion, birthday and anniversary parties, business stays, funeral gathering, wedding gathering, visiting local family, real estate shopping, just passing through, and actual vacations. I love meeting new people and have made friends with several guests. We’ve even shared Facebook pages. It’s been more fun than work actually and I’m really happy I’ve had this opportunity. For many years we had discussed running a bed and breakfast, but with four kids I already was. So this has fulfilled that dream in a manageable way.