Creating a Sensory Guest Experience!

In my therapy practice, I use a grounding technique I call 5-4-3-2-1. I instruct anxious, dissociated, dysregulated, or stressed clients to pan the room, the full extent their necks will allow their heads to turn, and list out loud:

-5 things that they see with their eyes

-4 things they hear with their ears

-3 things they feel, not emotionally, but sensate

-2 things they smell

-1 thing they taste.

This simple exercise engages all five senses, grounds them in their bodies, and roots them in the present moment, right here-and-now leaving behind stress and anxiety.

#12 rift valley historic farmhouse view

One of the reasons I love international travel is because my anxiety levels are very low when I am on an adventure. I attribute part of this fact to being in a state of intense sensory stimulation while traveling that keeps me grounded in the present moment. Travel is a feast for the senses: scenery, colors, native tongues, music, textiles, chicken buses, tuktuks, stench, spices, foods, and flavors, newness all around.

It is long supported that human sensory experiences are linked to memory. What small details does your vacation rental offer to create a signature sensory memory in the mind of guests? Yes of course the view, the clean bathroom, but how about other small sensory experiences beyond sight? How do you tickle your guests’ sense of smell, delight their sense of taste, excite their sense of touch, and arouse their sense of hearing?

#12 butchering chicken for dinner (1)

I have had the pleasure of experiencing several sensate charms that I have carried with me around the globe:

-The smell of the fresh milled soap at Grand Tikal Futura in Guatemala City, our Spanish was not that great and we were asking the housekeeper for “más sopa, más sopa?” translated more soup, not more soap! We wanted a few extras to take home with us!

-The fresh squeezed, room temperature orange juice offered on a silver tray while waiting to check-in at La Inmaculada in Zona 10 in Guatemala City.

-The chunky, not too sweet, owner made jams served for breakfast at El Tesoro del Elqui in Pisco Elqui, Chile.

-All of the crazy sounds coming out of an antique kalliope music box played by the owner at the Cedar Beach Inn, in Door County, WI.

-Butchering a chicken for dinner at the Historic Farmhouse in Rift Valley, Gilgil, Kenya. I got to see the chicken’s ovary and all of the eggs soon to be released, interesting stuff!

As a vacation rental owner, you want guests to remember their stay with you, for booking return visits or to recommend your property to others. You want guests to leave behind stress and anxiety, be grounded in the beauty of their vacation and your amazing rental. Are you thoughtfully offering guests experiences that touch all five of their senses multiple times over?

This post was written by Cori Hildebrandt, avid traveler and psychotherapist.

Cori Hildebrandt

Hotel Pasatiempo

Throughout childhood (and predominately still), I was surrounded by a Monday through Friday, forty-hour American workweek model. I will never forget the moment of realization that one does not need to work a 9-5 job, settling for only a few weeks of vacation a year and a one-hour lunch break!

It was Spring Break 2001; I was on a trip to Costa Rica with three housemates. We were staying in Playa Tamarindo at Hotel Pasatiempo, a quaint, quirky boutique hotel.

It was 9am and I was waiting by the pool for my friends to venture into the one-main-drag-dirt-road town,sandwiched between surf shops and the Pacific.

The owner a middle-aged, sun weathered, gentleman from the Dakotas was dressed in board shorts, lit cigarette dangling from his lip, net in hand, and waist deep in the pool skimming out bugs and leaves.

He basically looked at me and said, “Hey, this is the life. I went through a rough divorce, liquidated my retirement funds, and left the US.” He looked pleased and happy, connected to being in the moment. He talked about buying land, building bungalows one-by-one, slowly building his hospitality business.

This man never wore shoes from what I observed and something about his life appealed to me. He was free, he was his own boss, he was peaceful, and he had time to genuinely connect with others.

Attached to the hotel he had a sweet little bar and restaurant, which was the most popular in town, hotel guests, locals, and other travelers gathered to share food, drinks, and nightly open mic sessions. It was simple and brilliant!

What is your ideal vision of flexibility, financial freedom, and connection to life through your hospitality business? Do you have the courage to step outside the role you and society have created for you and choose a new perspective on how you will interact with the world? How do you want to spend your free time, what’s your pasatiempo?

This post was written by Cori Hildebrandt.

Cori Hildebrandt

Authentic Travel | Estancia Ranquilco | Patagonia

This post on authentic travel and experiencing Estancia Ranquilco, a 100,000 acre ranch in Patagonia, for one month was written by Cori Hildebrandt. Her previous post: Gathering Pearls of Joy

For those of you just tuning in, the purpose of my solo travels through South America was to find myself again. To live again. I gave up my corporate work and a long-term relationship to seek authenticity and connection again, something more and more of us lack everyday.

Changing locations every few days can be exhausting on a long backpacking trip so I decided to volunteer for a month on a 100,000 acre ranch in Patagonia. It was a break and made the ranch experience affordable!

Journeying from Buenos Aires involved a 20-hour overnight bus ride that landed in Zapala, then 3 rough dirt road hours in a truck to Buta Mallin, followed by another 3 hours on horseback. My company was another volunteer from London and our escort, the owner of the ranch.


What is more authentic than soot stained hands, stroking their calluses, and sneezing from your dusty leather boots? The feeling of swinging an ax, that is half your size, with confidence using a technique taught to you by a sweet 18-year-old girl. Gulping the few precious cans of lukewarm brewskies with your best buddy while you head out back to chop more wood?

All in hopes of enjoying a hot shower after a very long day of ass-kicking manual labor… Before there were electric and gas water heaters, they were powered by wood. You worked for your warm shower

What is more authentic than having a horse bite you in the tush while you hold up its hoof, so a stocky, singing gaucho can trim it with a machete? Sergio was a man who floated when he walked, he was solid and capable, but only graced the earth. I think because he was more a part of the earth than most men.

All he needed to survive was his horse, his dogs, and his facón, gaucho knife.

What is more authentic than learning to make alfajores on a wooden butcher block counter harvested from the land, watching the Trocoman River flow below through the panoramic kitchen window?

Gathering the necessary items from the root cellar pantry. No refrigeration, no electric or gas appliances. Rolling out the lemon scented dough, baking the cookies in a cast-iron wood-burning stove, and filling them with dulce de leche that was imported 3 hours, thanks to either a horse or mule.

I wish I had a picture because they were stunning. And they were served to Ted Turner and his guests who were visiting Estancia Ranquilco.

Estancia Ranquilco

Estancia Ranquilco

What is more authentic than racing the setting sun to the top of a mountain on horseback, all in hopes of being able to see the trail down the other side of the mountain to the puesto, Buta Mallin?

We did not make it, but luckily the horses knew the way. We traveled through complete darkness; the mountaintop blocked the moon. Imagine such a wide-open sky, in the middle of Patagonia, not being able to see your hand in front of your face. Your horse stumbling along on the rocky path.

All to find your destination where you slept in a one-room dirt floor puesto with several other people on the floor with no heat and not enough blankets.

Luckily the yerba mate was flowing before heading out in the morning.

What is more authentic than taking off your dusty boots and dressing up, feeling pretty to head to a birthday party celebration, unwinding on the veranda overlooking the Trocoman River, the red wine flowing, dancing with gauchos, goat roasting on a spit over the fire?

Getting busy in a sleeping bag, under a tree, next to a horse corral, on top of goat hides, gazing up at a sky filled with more stars than you ever knew existed.

What is more authentic than learning to skip rocks from a NYC guy on the Trocoman River?

Being successful at skipping rocks! Making a rock skip several times across the water seemed so rewarding and impossible prior. To celebrate, we hopped in the burning sauna, sweated it out, and then plunged into the frigid river. Exhilaration. Every cell of me screaming. Alive. Living.

Estancia Ranquilco was a magical, has-been sort of place. You were sheltered from the sounds of electricity and gas-powered engines. Most days were filled with doing what you needed to do to survive. It was lovely, beautiful, annoying, always surprising, lots of hard work, and often my heart aches to return.

Like many things, you do not understand what you had until it is past.


Just like when I travel, modern travelers seek an authentic vacation experience, where they can explore, and tap into a sense of local community. There was an authenticity about my Ranquilco experience that resonated with my soul.

What authentic experiences are you offering your guests?

Pat 1

9 scarf

Gathering Pearls of Joy

A very wise woman once told me that we must look for the pearls of joy in our lives.

Throughout a lifetime we have a wide variety of experiences. Of these many experiences, there will be a few fleeting moments when we are graced with a deep sense of meaning, purpose, and connection. A true awareness of being fully alive.

Our hearts will overflow with joy. Our minds will be calm and content. Our bodies will be balanced. The world will be in harmony.

Everything will be perfectly right.

She said that we must collect these moments. Pluck them from our experience and string them onto an imaginary necklace, to be worn with admiration as we navigate life.

Pearls of joy.

As Cori was speeding down the Tigre River making an escape from Buenos Aires, she was sensory overwhelmed, completely in the moment. Everything was perfectly right in the world.

When is the last time you experienced a pearl of joy moment? Did it happen while you were on vacation? It should be our goals as vacation home & B&B owners to help facilitate pearls of joy for our guests through connection, ease of the experience, and joy.

This post was written by Cori Hildebrandt. Her previous post: Uruguay Is Love.

Uruguay is Love.

I often talk about the importance of personalizing your guests stay. In part, understand what their needs are but also never be afraid to show your unique perspective on your community. No one can duplicate your experience! Checkout Cori’s latest blog on her South America trip…

I spent three relentless weeks in the Buenos Aires heat, surrounded by 16 million people. When I say relentless, you would know what I mean if you have ever been to Retiro Bus Station. Avoid that place at all costs, book online. I was primed for an escape and that escape included a pearl of joy moment.

Speeding down the Parana River Delta from Tigre, we were full force ahead aimed for Uruguay. I needed a vacation from my vacation. Something about the movement, the breeze, the wind blasting my face, forced down my throat and my hair whipping my face in every which way- felt like traveling. This felt like living, this felt like heaven and freedom all wrapped up in one. A river of dark, murky water encircled me, it was intoxicating. Sexy. I was in love with this moment.

A few days and a variety of boats, ferries, and buses helped transport us to Punta del Diablo, a small surfing village on the South Atlantic Ocean. In this one main dirt road town, we luckily stumbled upon La Casa de las Boyas and its owner Fabio Ganzola. Fabio’s the kind of guy that you cannot decide if you would rather have him as your father or your lover.

La Casa de las Boyas

La Casa de las Boyas

He’s a real cool cat. He is a nurturer, an adventurer, a proud Uruguayan and an excellent host. We were more than happy to be Fabio’s guests at his beach house. Being Fabio’s guests had many perks. For dinner, he would ask what each of us wanted and then source it fresh from the local market, bring it back to the hostel, and grill it up all while we lounged on the deck drinking, talking, and connecting with people from around the globe.

One afternoon he invited a handful of us, one American, one Canadian, one Israeli, one Swiss, to join him on a tour of the area in his truck. We literally drove over the rocky shoreline to get the best views possible of vacant, sprawling beaches and waded in Laguna Negra, a black lake.

Not falling in love with the natural beauty of this part of Uruguay is impossible, especially when experiencing it through the eyes of a native. Fabio offered an unheard of amount of personal attention and guidance to us. I will forever think fondly of Uruguay, La Casa de las Boyas, and its owner.

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

Offering Guests a Sense of Connection

Connection and ‘the experience’ is one area I work diligently to maximize in my consulting practice.

The most successful hospitality businesses that I have worked with (vacation rentals, hotels and/or boutique experiences) are able to connect with their guests on many levels, in an exceptional way. Not only do they go through great length’s to know who their guests are/what they want to experience (to tailor the travel experience accordingly), but they create a holistic environment of connection; to the environment itself, the community, historical significance, the property and to the owners.

Give your guests a ‘tour’ of the community, from your perspective and provide a space for them to build their own- whether that can happen on your property or elsewhere. For hotels, staff training is critical. They must be informed, prepared and empowered to interact and provide unique experiences for your guests.

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

The sense of being physically alone in a foreign land triggered in me the deep need to connect with other human beings, quickly.

Even in death, we are part of a community.

Even in death, we are part of a community.

I think modern travelers are seeking a sense of belonging and connection again as our lives at home are becoming increasingly disconnected. La Casa Fitz Roy was my home-away-from-home in Buenos Aires because of the friendly staff and welcoming social crowd. I didn’t really care that it had cockroaches or dingy bathrooms. Of course, I would recommend eliminating these things. But what made my new home memorable (even so years later) is their authentic staff and communal spaces that encourage conversation and interaction among travelers.

The people I met at La Casa Fitz Roy became my network. I encountered time-and-time again all over the continent of South America; it was always comforting, and fun, to see a familiar face in a sea of foreign ones. It still baffles me how I ran into more people I recognized in South America than I do in my own hometown… I think part of it is because when we travel we are open and have the time to genuinely connect with others, while at home we often get bogged down with work, household, and family responsibilities.

Part of the joy of travel is the free time to make new acquaintances and feel a sense of universal connection.

How can you help cultivate authentic human connection for your guests? How can you invite your clients to be part of a unique community experience?

Cori’s Previous Post: Southwards


I love hearing Cori’s stories of her evolution from travel. In many ways, this story reminds me of myself, green to owning a vacation rental. I dove in, scared but with vision, and knew that only I could make my dreams come true.

Like Cori, because we braved those first steps, I too now have a career that allows me to travel, spend more time with my two amazing kids and meet incredible people, whether they are guests or clients.

Thank you for the blog, Cori!

La Boca barrio, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

La Boca barrio, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

I was beyond shaking, I was convulsing, and the Argentine sitting next to me probably thought I was having a seizure.

This was the first time in my life that I felt fear. Down to the core, center of my being, primal fear. I was afraid for my life. I was alone. I had been numb from all of the sadness and loss over the past months. All of a sudden, I snapped the hell back into feeling!

I was landing, languageless, in less than an hour. I had been “researching” for a few months, and realized ALL I really had was a two night hostel reservation. How was that the only thing that came out of hours and days of reading and researching? Hmm.

Oh, I had a return ticket home in 7 months flying out of Bogota, Colombia.

Once my feet hit the airport floor, I realized that this was it. Get with the program, Cori! I do not have a choice, but to figure things out. I have NO ONE to turn to here in Argentina. This is all me, only me.

After getting to my hostel, I sat in my room and cried. I Skyped my mom and cried. I Skyped my friend Abby and cried.

I bought food at the corner shop but brought it to my room because I could not bear the idea of eating alone at a restaurant or café. It felt weird.

I wrote in my journal, read a whole travel memoir, and slept. This was my first 30 hours in Buenos Aires.

My current hostel was small and quiet, with no communal areas. I knew I couldn’t stay here. I needed connections, friends and I didn’t want to be alone anymore! So, I mustered the courage to venture out around the Palermo neighborhood to scope out other hostels.

La Casa Fitz Roy became my home in Buenos Aires. It was a bit of a dump, but I returned to it time and time again for the social vibe, friendly familiar faces, its close proximity to the subway, and cheap rates.

Over bottles of wine and European cheeses in the courtyard, surrounded by people from all around the globe, it was at La Casa Fitz Roy that I felt the pulse of being a sola traveler for the first time.

It was here that I began to fall in love with the freedom, adventure, and plethora of folks from all over the world that would define my 7-month trip in South America. It was here that I experienced a new sense of universal connection.

Cori’s Previous Post: 5 Tasks Of Life


The Five Tasks of Life

In Adlerian counseling there is a belief that each individual has five tasks of life: work, love, social, self, and spiritual. I often use an assessment technique with my clients where I ask them to rank on a likert-type scale their level of satisfaction with each of these life tasks.

  • I describe the work task as your career, school, volunteering, or managing a family and household
  • The love task is defined by having one person that you trust to support and unconditionally love you.
  • The social task is broken into family and friend relationships.
  • The self task is how you feel about yourself as a unique individual.
  • I direct clients to define the spiritual task however they see fit.

We then discuss what would need to happen to increase their level of satisfaction in each of the life tasks they ranked low. It is such a simple tool that offers an interesting way of evaluating life satisfaction.

How satisfied are you with each of the five tasks of life?

What would need to happen to increase your level of satisfaction in the areas you ranked low? Could self-employment and owning your own vacation rental property increase your level of satisfaction in your work, love, social, self, or spiritual tasks?

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

Cori’s Previous Post: Onwards & Upwards


Onwards and Upwards

A deep-seeded feeling of dissatisfaction is no stranger to me. I carried it with me for the majority of my twenties and I still feel it creeping in from time-to-time. I tried, I tried hard to feel satisfied while maintaining a responsible, stable life. I bought a house. I quit my job. I traveled. I played pseudo-stepmom. I joined new social activities. I explored new hobbies. I went to counseling. Yet that small, still voice within always a whisper, encouraging me to change it all.

The courage to listen to that small, still voice within arrived. I quit my job of six years that I was awesome at and that offered financial stability. I ended an almost eight-year relationship realizing that love is not enough to make a relationship work. We sold our comfortable house and most of our belongings. I departed the area I had lived in for almost twelve years. I left behind my sense of community, family and social connections, a beloved psychotherapist, and my Moose dog.

I never doubted my decision to toss my whole life up in the air even while enduring several hellish months of transition plagued with crying, stressing, grieving, and being overwhelmed with anxiety. I got to the point where I was numb. The numbness was a welcomed reprieve.

I showed up on my mother’s doorstep broken. I held onto my faith in the world to guide me. I kept placing one foot in front of the other. I had a plan. Onwards and upwards, or should I say southwards?

By Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

Hop A Ride on My Journey of Wanderlust

Rolling in a 1992 Astro Van, dad behind the wheel, mom as co-pilot, little brother and sister in the first bench seat, and big sister Cori in the back riding solo. (Is the back not where the cool kids always hung out?). We were road tripping to Orlando for the Spring Break of 1994. Little did we know that this was our first and our last family vacation all wrapped up in one.

I was fifteen years old heading to Disney World; our parents were on the brink of divorce, yet I was thrilled to be going somewhere. Anywhere! As we crossed the border into Florida it started to snow. We stayed at a Best Western. We ate at Red Lobster and Ponderosa. We fought a lot and teased our mom.

When I think back on this trip now, it seems laughable. But that was my life then, that was my upbringing, those are my roots. We did not spend money on going out to dinner or entertainment. So the times when we got to get a Hardee’s soft serve cone, went to a movie, split a Happy Meal at the mall, those were special times, they were a treat.

Us kids sometimes laugh now as adults how “deprived” we felt as children of all the materialistic pleasures and entertainment that money could buy. But what we do not laugh about is that we were raised to believe in hard work, family and community connections, financial responsibility, honesty, and resourcefulness.

I am not sure how influential this first trip to Florida was, if at all on my future wanderlust, but it did mark my first real journey has a “traveler.” The fifteen year-old me had no idea that the adult me would have already traveled to over thirty countries and walked on five continents. Proudly all on my own time, money, and desire. I have raced the setting sun on horseback to the top of a mountain in Patagonia, bathed in a mud volcano in Colombia, been attacked by monkeys in a kayak in Thailand, had my first food orgasm in Perpignan, France, and gotten worms in India.

Come journey with me as I reflect on memorable travel encounters around the globe, muse over the times I have been brave enough to make significant life changes, and work towards my lifestyle dream of self-employment, cultivating joy and fostering healing in the lives’ of others. Witness me secure financial freedom and flexibility to be able to invest in activities and adventures that nurture the spirit!

By Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Psychotherapist