Zita Cobb, Innkeeper of Fogo Island Inn and CEO of Shorefast Foundation
When did you open your doors to the first guest?
During all the years that you have been running this hotel, what is an experience that really stuck in your mind?
An early guest at the Inn, an older man from the community of Deep Bay on Fogo Island, was initially somewhat skeptical about contemporary architecture and about the Inn. But when he arrived and looked around the Inn, he declared his approval in saying “I am glad to see you built it old.” This was a quiet moment of celebration all around as we knew we has captured “the ands.”
Welcoming guests in such a remote area can be a challenging venture, what makes the experience so rewarding?
We know how restorative and how powerful it is when all of a person arrives here. We see them arrive physically on day 1, but Fogo Island has a very powerful subarctic landscape that is hard to comprehend when you first encounter it. By day 2, people are starting to emotionally arrive and we see a change in their relationship to the place. By day 3, we see their heart arriving and their relationship with themselves starts changing. People suffering from lives “torn to pieces” can actually come back together in this landscape. That is worth every early morning and every late night.
When you first visited the area what impressed you the most?
I am actually an eighth generation Fogo Islander, so I grew up in this place. EF Schumacher wrote that nature and culture are two great garments of human life, and you feel that in all the gestures of this place. It is a place to experience what the world is like when the source of the natural order is at its best.
What is your favourite thing to do during summer?
Going on a boat to Little Fogo Islands, the small archipelago of Islands just beyond Fogo Island that were traditional fishing grounds for the inshore fishery.
What do you love doing most in the winter months?
Visiting the cabins in the interior of the Island and snowshoeing
*Note that Fogo Island actually has seven seasons… and of all seven seasons, Berry Season is best! This is the time in the fall (September and October) when all of the Island’s edible berries are ripe for the picking…
What kind of experience do you want your guests to take home?
I want them to go home feeling that they have been given back to themselves, and feeling optimistic about the future of human community.
What should every guest do when they visit your hotel?
Spend time with a community host. Every stay at the Inn includes a half-day Island orientation with a community host; someone who has grown up on Fogo Island and knows intimately the history and culture of the place. I also hope that guests spend time with the still-wild world and in reverence of the North Atlantic, which is right outside their window at the Inn.