On Sunday night, my friend Kim and I appeared on the Live Well Network’s television series Sweet Retreats which asked us to tour three vacation homes and then to choose which one we’d want to come back and vacation in. The episode turned out amazing and you can watch it HERE.
I’ve been putting off writing about the experience for a few reasons: 1. I didn’t want to accidentally write something that might spoil the show. 2. I thought reflecting on all of it might be that much easier after seeing it all unfold. So here goes:
When Reality TV became popular (I mean REALLY popular) about four-six years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would never ever go on a reality series that may embarrass me. While the prospect of hosting my own show that spins off The Hobby Hoarder is something I would love to do, being a character on a Jersey Shore spinoff who earns the nickname “Lib-Wow” is just not on my to do list.
So when I first received an email from the casting producer of Sweet Retreats, back in March, I was hesitant. It was the second to last day of our fifty day road trip and we had just gotten done exploring the North End of Boston. After crossing a busy street, I pulled out my iPhone and checked my email. The first email that popped up had “ABC Casting” in the subject line. This—of course, prior to reading the email, excited me. As my friends continued walking briskly, I fell behind and focused on the email.
I scanned quickly through the casting producer’s email, which informed me what the show was about, what I would be required to do, and when the show would take place. However, for some reason, my eyes and my mind ignored all of that and only several key words stood out to me:
“Vacation Homes.” “TV.” “Hamptons.”
Somehow I managed to pair those three key words to equal: “Did I just get asked to participate in the Long Island version of the television series Jersey Shore? The Hamptons?”
I caught up to my friends and told them about the email. They were excited. Me on the other hand, I was slowly growing more and more anxious about saying yes.
“Maybe I should re-read the email…and perhaps, I should go to the link they sent as well…to check out the show??”
As I slowed down and re-read the email, as well as checked out the link, I realized that I had missed all the really important information – the information that would actually intrigue me to want to take part in the show. The casting producer detailed that participants are asked to tour three vacation houses and then choose which one he or she would like to return to and vacation in.
This wasn’t even fine print. She had literally laid it all out for me. I had let my excitement get the better of me. Let’s be honest, I am pretty sure I have something called early on-set excitement–which means that when something out of the ordinary happens, my insides begin going bizerk. I lose my memory momentarily, and just start going through a laundry list of irrational thoughts and questions in my head–I can’t be alone in this, right? I don’t know if early-on set excitement is actually a diagnosis, but I’d like to add it to WebMD.
I thought to myself, “Oh–That’s like house hunters.” Then I re-examined the email one more time. The casting producer went as far as to say, “It’s kind of like house hunters.”
My nerves settled. “I can definitely do that.”
So I emailed back the casting producer and told her I was in. Several days later, the casting producer and I had a quick phone conversation. She told me that the location had changed—and that instead of the Hamptons, I would be visiting the Upper Hudson Valley. She also mentioned that I could bring a friend along to join me. A friend, I thought. Well that’s not fair. I just traveled the country with both David and Kim. I can’t invite just ONE of them. These are my travel buddies, my companions—my family. But I also know from my work experience that a two person cast is much easier on a field producer than a three person cast—and well a four person cast, for a two camera shoot can be, for lack of a better term, hell. I knew I’d have to make a decision—even if I didn’t want to.
Again, my anxiety started to flow. “How do I choose just one person?”
I gave it some time to settle. David was being offered several gigs on NYC based fiction television shows—ones that started before the show would be shooting, so I began to factor that in.
Then I thought, “Well I could just invite someone unrelated to them…” And then I thought, “but I couldn’t picture doing any travel without them at this point.”
A few minutes later, I received a follow up email from the casting producer. They suggested making it a girls weekend.
Phew. Thankfully they made my choice for me.
I asked Kim if she’d join me. She tentatively said yes before confirming a 100 percent yes just a week later. It was set. Kim and I would be traveling to the Upper Hudson Valley for a reality vacation/rental home series on May 20-May 24.
When May 20 hit, Kim and I met in mid-town Manhattan, rolled and carried our luggage to the rental car shop and made our way to the beautiful Hudson Valley—which was comprised of brilliant views of the Taconics and the Berkshires, just east of the New York/Massachusetts border.
The weather forecast called for rain the entire week, but as Kim and I drove into our hotel’s parking lot, the sun was completely shining. Before getting comfortable, we decided to go for a hike.
It wasn’t too far off from our road trip routine: park the car—then go on an adventure. It felt as though we were getting our groove back.
As I breathed in the fresh air, I felt the nerves I had about the days ahead begin to calm. “I freaking love adventures—and this is definitely an adventure,” I thought to myself.
Over the next several days, we visited three amazing homes:
A contemporary farmhouse
A Tuscan-inspired gem
A barn converted into a vacation home @ the Kinderhook FarmStay
Each time we rolled up to a different house, I thought to myself, “Is this real life? Do we really get to tour these houses on national TV—these beautiful, stunning homes?”
We also got to meet an incredible crew of people including our field producer Maureen, two camera men Brian and Eric, a sound man, Zach, a PA Trudy, and last but certainly not least the host of television series, Rene Syler. Part of me was eager to tour the houses, but another part of me was excited to meet the production team. Since I work in TV, I am always interested in meeting people who are as passionate about the field as I am. The crew did an amazing job in making sure the shoot ran smoothly (despite threatening thunderstorms each day), and in making sure we continued to feel comfortable throughout the week. Kudos to them.
Photo Credit: Maureen Tait
In regards to the houses, there were pluses and minuses to each of the homes—but something I adored about each was the remoteness. As a New Yorker, it’s very rare to experience silence. In the past, I would have told you that my favorite places to visit are big cities. But the road trip reminded me how nice space is—how nice the escape can be—and how nice it is to just sit down and hear nothing but nature—or in the most remote of locations—just your own heart beat. Each of these places offered a significant mix of the sounds of nature and silence.
(Spoiler alert). In the end, Kim and I both agreed that the barn converted into a vacation home at the Kinderhook FarmStay was the perfect pick for us. To be honest, I knew it before we even walked inside. I was absolutely in love with everything I saw as we pulled up. I even couldn’t help but to exclaim, “Holy cow!–No really, holy cow…there’s cows and sheep and chickens–OH MY-this is really freaking awesome.”
During our tour, we learned that the Kinderhook FarmStay offers 1200 acres of land, an assortment of activities to do right outside the front door, and screen doors/windows that face east (Meaning we could just wake up and watch the sunrise from our bedrooms). Additionally the farm is novel and unique in that it has no interior walls through the three main rooms, yet still manages to offer the privacy you may be looking for when on vacation with the help of drop down curtains. In the show, I went as far as to say I could probably write a whole book about the barn experience. That wasn’t an exaggeration—I definitely could.
This Kinderhook FarmStay isn’t a place to just stay so you can experience the existing towns surrounding it—the Kinderhook FarmStay is itself a destination to experience.
It’s been over a month since we shot our episode of Sweet Retreats, and I can’t help but to think about the farm, Luci the cow that I had the opportunity to milk, the crew that I had the chance to meet and work with, and the time that I got to spend with one of my best friends whom I now consider family (I mean come on, if you survive a fifty day road trip with someone AND a reality show—they’ve got to be family)! What an incredible opportunity—an incredible memory. And to think–What if I had said no?
Photo Taken by Maureen Tait; Edited by Kimberly Manley.