Hotel Owner, Yoga and Well-being Coach, La Ventana, Mexico
I first met Ms. Emily Cheevers in Mexico in 2016. A new mum to a baby boy, Emily was ready to dive into something thrilling and terrifying. She was about to become a hotel owner in a foreign country, while trying to envision raising a child and building a life in both Canada and Mexico.
Three years later and with two kids in tow, Ms. Cheevers and her husband successfully transformed the hotel and managed to make it work in both countries. Her relationships in these communities are strong and the kids are thriving in Spanish and English while soaking up invaluable life experience and exposure to the Mexican culture and customs. Additionally, her boys witness their business woman mom in action as she shreds the waves on her kiteboard and teaches wellness classes on the side.
Emily has a fascinating vantage point on the world and has structured her life to not only possess the freedom to be flexible between but also also soak up the best of both worlds.
2. Where is your hometown?
I divide my time between Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and La Ventana, Mexico.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
Hotel Owner/Yoga Teacher/Wellbeing Coach/Mama
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career-wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of, and what was the turning point to set you on a current path in life?
I never pictured my life how it is today. I didn’t think that I would end up living on the beach in Mexico, owning a hotel and having the freedom to do and try so many things, the freedom to explore so many different avenues. But here I am, and it is incredible. I love how we (my husband and I) have set up our lives. We live part time in La Ventana, a kiteboarding town in Mexico and part time in Victoria, BC.
In Mexico, we own a small boutique hotel right on the beach. In Victoria, I am at home with the kids while managing hotel business and my own retreat business. And while our semi-nomadic lifestyle is not without its challenges, every step of the way has been worth it.
That said, had you asked me five years ago where I would be, this would not have been the answer. I grew up in Vancouver until I was 10, then moved to an organic farm in the Gulf Islands (an Archipelago in British Columbia, Canada). After university, I started working in the not-for-profit sector - moving from front desk help to a volunteer coordinator to development and fundraising positions. After working in arts organizations and poverty organizations, I eventually ended up working for a company that managed the fundraising of many different non profits. I started there as a writer and was the Managing Director of the company when I left. In between all of my various jobs at not-for-profits, I travelled all over the world, did my yoga teacher training and art therapy training, met my partner Phil, and bought a house in Victoria.
When Phil and I decided to have kids, my plan was always to return to my company after my maternity leave. However, we knew we wanted to do something adventurous and unique for the year I had off. We were able to plan and save to take the year off together. We came down to La Ventana, Mexico; a town we had visited annually as kiteboarders. This time we brought our tent trailer down and stayed for three months, kiting everyday and learning to be a family of three.
At the end of the three months, in a story much too long to recount here, we ended up seizing an incredible opportunity to take over the hotel which led to buying it the next year.
Running a business in a foreign country while raising two young kids and figuring out how to make the transition from Canada to Mexico and back twice a year as easy as possible on the four of us has made for a crazy past few years. Learning how to be a boss in a third language and navigating the cultural differences in a workplace is a struggle but one that I am more confident at everyday. For the first couple of years, I desperately missed home and by the time the end of our ‘season’ in Mexico ended, I was so ready to be back in Canada. Now, it is starting to feel more like we just have a home in two different places. We are growing a community in La Ventana and have a very established community in Victoria. Both places are familiar and each has its own draw for me.
While I’m in Mexico, I miss my parents and my closest friends. I miss going out for any type of food and curling up in front of a fire on a cold day. But while I’m in Victoria, I miss the ease of living in Mexico. The ability to send my three year old son to the neighbour’s store next to us to get tortillas, because I know that he is safe and will be welcomed in by the store owner.
In addition to being the one half of the hotel owner, I am also our yoga teacher and I have started a retreat company. I am doing retreats in both Victoria and in Mexico for women who are looking to rediscover their sense of selves by delving into creativity, yoga, and some solid life coaching/goal setting. It feels like all of the paths that I have taken throughout my life (from studying languages to art therapy to yoga teacher to coaching) have led me to this place where everything fits. I am active, I work with people in two beautiful places in the world, I get to travel, spend time with my family daily, give back to my communities, and also have time to kiteboard and be creative and explore new passions.
I guess to get back to the original question, what accomplishments am I most proud of? I am proud of my ability to seize an opportunity and embrace it, knowing that it will be hard but knowing that it will be worth it. I am proud of myself for teaching that very first yoga class when I was so terrified to do so. I am proud of my skills in kiteboarding. But above all, I am so proud of the two little humans that I brought into this world. I love watching them grow up and I cannot wait to see how they affect the world with their own vibrant personalities.
5. What did you study in school?
In university, I completed a double major in Environmental Studies and Italian. I then went on to do my yoga teacher training, study art therapy, and become a life coach. I would love to someday return to university and maybe complete my masters in Counselling Psychology or the Adult Education Masters through University of British Columbia.
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
At 20, I imagined I would be living in a foreign country (I am!), working in an embassy or international non-profit. I never thought I would have sports (kiteboarding and yoga) playing such a big role in my life. I always knew I wanted to work with people, but I had illusions of having an office job that I had to wear suits and heels to every day. Having done that and being where I am now, I am thrilled to wear flip flops, be flexible to do yoga and kite, meet people from all over the world, and still be able to spend time with my kids whenever I want.
7. Was there a time when life knocked you down or out and how did you get back up on your feet?
When I got pregnant with my first son, I was the Managing Director of a fundraising company. My life plan at the time was to continue with this incredible company after my maternity leave and my job there was a huge part of my identity. We did (and they still do) such great work for so many people across Canada. But unfortunately, my departure at the birth of my son didn’t go as smoothly as I planned and for a variety of reasons I lost this huge part of my life that I really loved. It knocked my confidence quite severely. Then add in all the trials that go along with having a new baby and I fell into a bit of a hole.
Without my career, I felt directionless and knowing that I likely wouldn’t be able to go back was really difficult. As a mother, I felt so insecure. I didn’t know what I was doing and I thought everyone else must be looking at how terribly I was doing and judging me. I think that mothers go through this huge change and are left often isolated to figure it all out. Although there is more support now than there used to be, we still don’t talk about the loss of self that happens. I went from having a traditional career and a solid path in front of me to feeling a bit unhinged and without a purpose.
Eventually, with incredible support and a lot of self-work, I did get to a stronger place. I now have a job and a life that I am so much happier in. I also feel more confident in my abilities as a parent.
I am excited to raise these beautiful little humans and show them what passion and confidence looks like and also what hard work and dedication is. I have truly rediscovered my sense of self and feel grounded and confidant in my life.
8. Advice for other women?
Don’t talk badly about yourself to yourself. Tell yourself you are amazing on a daily basis. Do it as often as needed so that you truly believe it. And once you believe it, keep it on repeat because lack of self-confidence is a terrible trap to get caught in. In the world today we need as much self-love as we can get.
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it, for "feminist values"?
I think the way forward is that feminist values just become ‘values.’ We should all be feminists and feminist values should just be the norm. Do you believe women should have equal rights to men? Then you’re a feminist.
And yes, I believe that women can be all that we can be! But I believe it is up to us as a society to raise our next generation without thinking that feminism is a contentious word. I am married to a feminist. I am raising feminist men. That is how we can be all we can be - by making feminism just the norm.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
Two occasions come to mind. When I have been working toward reaching a goal (whether in yoga, kiteboarding, etc); when it clicks and I achieve it! And when I am in my creative zone, making art without any worry about the final product. I am trying to take more time to create these days and it brings me so much joy.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
I am really proud of myself for my yoga practice. I did my teacher training years ago without actually thinking I would ever teach. And taking it on since we bought the hotel, I have become our main yoga teacher. I think people really love my classes and after every class that I teach, I feel an incredible pride in myself.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
I want to continue pushing myself outside my comfort zone. Some big and some small goals are:
Start a yoga studio in Canada;
Do a proper handstand;
Grow my retreat business;
Start my own non-profit someday;
Complete a sprint triathlon;
Travel the world with my kids and husband;
Start foiling in kiteboarding
I also want to get back into music. I have played piano and violin since I was ten but sort of gave it up before having kids. But I want them to grow up in a house full of music, like I did. I want to pick my instruments back up and feel confident playing them both again.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
While I have become more and more confident, I would still like to work on letting go of the fear of failure.
14. Anything you'd do differently, if you had another go at life?
I would worry less about what people thought about me. I would speak my mind more. I am starting to do these more and more, but there are moments from my past that I think back to when I should have stayed true to what I thought, but was so concerned about judgement and not being liked.
15. What inspires you?
My kids. Thinking of how I want them to view women as they grow up makes me want to be the best example. I have two sons and I want them to grow up appreciating and respecting women as equals. They are a constant reminder and inspiration to model the behaviour that I want to impart to them. If I don’t love and respect myself, treat others with kindness, and model positive relationships, how will they learn to do the same?
16. What are you hopeful about?
I am hopeful that my boys grow up knowing that they are supported and loved. And that they go forward in the world embracing and respecting the differences and unique personalities of each individual they come across.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Strong relationships, a good community, exercise, a creative outlet, and an ability to laugh at yourself.
18. What is a quality you most love about yourself and why?
I love my ability and desire to connect with people, to make people feel welcome and at ease.
19. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much about what people think. Just be yourself and if others don’t like it, that’s their problem.
Just as important, speak and act kindly to others. You never know what someone else is dealing with and how your words and actions will affect them. My grandfather used to always say, before you say something out loud, ask yourself, ‘Is it kind? Is it necessary? And is it useful?’ I think this is a good practice.
I was bullied as a kid. I remember so distinctly these kids in my hometown calling me fat and telling me I shouldn’t walk because the ground might break. It’s crazy to think how much damage that and other words they said did to my psyche as I grew up. I wasn’t fat! But I truly believed deep down that I was. That bullying affected me for so long in so many more ways than just my physical appearance. It affected the way I approached groups of people for years, always worrying that I wouldn’t fit in and they would be laughing at me behind my back. I was insecure well into my twenties and that insecurity still rears its ugly head every once in a while. I had this skewed image of my body and of my personality.
Picturing my kids or any other kids having to deal with that sort of bullying just makes me feel so sad. I don’t blame those kids because I know them as adults and they are good people. But you don’t realize at 14 how hurtful words are. And how long they can affect someone. So, my advice is to be kind to yourself and be kind to others. And think before you speak.
20. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
To be totally honest, I haven’t been reading nearly enough since having kids. I have started to make space for reading once again, now that my boys are one and three and nights are not so sleepless. Right now I am reading The Dresden Files, a completely self-indulgent fantasy wizard series. I just finished Born to Run, which was a fabulous read. But favourite all time reads are The Clay Girl, The Red Tent and the Harry Potter series.
21. Who is a WOW Woman in your world who inspires you and why? Can you nominate three (or more) women you know who perfectly fit WOW WOMAN description? What would you tell them if you had an opportunity, of why you admire them?
Shanti McDougall, my mum, would be my first. She is incredible. She is an organic farmer and the strongest woman I know. She has taught me how to break the norm and create your own life/job/path.
Natalie Hull is just one of the best women out there. She was a bi-athlete growing up, quit that to attend university, eventually become an Occupational Therapist and now works in a pain clinic in Vancouver. When you meet her, you immediately want to be friends with her. She has an incredible ability to balance family, friends, sport, creativity, and an ability to make everyone she knows feel at ease. She also has some of the best dance moves I know and is absolutely rocking the mum life while maintaining her incredible career.
Finally, my grandmother, Vivien Abbott, who passed away a few years ago. She was a trailblazer. One of the first female doctors in Canada, she moved to India to start a medical clinic in a town of about 100 people. I have visited this town (where my mother grew up) and they still talk about the strength and love that my granny exuded. She was truly an inspiration and an incredible WOW Woman.
22. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
Emilycheevers.com - this is my Wellness Coaching/Retreats website
@emilycheeverscoaching - Instagram
Bajacasaverde.com - this is the hotel in Mexico that my husband and I own together. Come visit!