Life’s Lessons: Finding Real Treasure In a Hole in the Wall

Last night, my husband and I discovered a real treasure. We were wanting some local Chinese food for dinner. Sounds simple enough, right? But you see, we’ve lived in our community for 27 years and we have never been able to find a decent Chinese restaurant. We’ve tried the big chain restaurant (which will remain nameless) and the little chain fast food places (which will remain nameless) but their menus all tasted a little too prefab for our liking. There was once a small, stand-a-lone Chinese restaurant close by, which was pretty tasty, but it closed down 7 or 8 years ago. Was it asking too much to find some decent, authentic Chinese food within the city limits?

Then I remembered that my Avon lady (of all people) had shared on Facebook (of all places) a Chinese restaurant that she really enjoyed. I found her post, jotted down the name of the eatery and found the address. What we came upon wasn’t anything spectacular or noticeable. In fact, we’ve driven by the location hundreds of times without a second glance. We had been directed to an older, run down, strip mall – a hole in the wall kind of place.

We entered with some trepidation (what was the restaurant rating of this place?) but as soon as we walked through the doors, we knew we had found a gem. It was clean, the ambiance authentic, and the service was friendly. We were seated immediately and handed menus filled with the kind of authentic Chinese food we had been seeking. We explained to our server that this was our first time at her restaurant and she proceeded to share the history of the place. She and her husband had owned it for over 20 years. They have never advertised yet they were always busy. And their dishes, while cooked to order, were always the same because they have had only had one cook the whole time: her husband. Our meal was delicious and plentiful. Truly, one of the best we have ever had. We had finally found the Chinese food we had been searching for all these years in a spot that we had virtually ignored. All because we took a chance on a little hole in the wall.

This Chinese food story pretty much sums up our midlife adventure. When we were younger, we were so caught up pursuing the big named stuff that everyone else was pursuing and yet, we were never quite satisfied. When the kids came and we were raising our family, our resources were stretched, but that didn’t stop us from still seeking our pursuits. We just scaled back a little bit. And still, while we were racing around and trying to catch up, we just never were quite satisfied.

And then it happened. Our kids grew up and left and with them, so did our big expectations. Our lives became simpler. We were no longer chasing after what everyone else had. We started looking for and appreciating hole in the wall opportunities. Finding real treasures in places we would never have looked years before.

We’ve adopted this hole in the wall attitude in just about everything we do these days: vacations, restaurants, date nights, even new friends. Our rule on vacation is, never go to a restaurant or tourist attraction that resembles something we can do at home. Ask for local recommendations from local residents, and don’t be afraid to accept those recommendations, even if it appears to be a hole in the wall from the outside looking in. Keeping this philosophy, we have been introduced to many interesting and unusual experiences in ways we never would have considered years before. And because most of the suggestions are holes in the wall, we have ended up saving money too. On a fixed income, that is an added benefit.

Our hole in the wall outlook has expanded to relationships as well. Where we would have been more reserved, sticking to ourselves, following what everyone else was doing, today we think nothing of striking up conversations with the most unlikely characters. We’ve met some very interesting individuals with very interesting life stories that have enriched our own perspectives and views. After all, everyone has a story waiting to be told.

So far, our hole in the wall attitude has not let us down. We are experiencing adventures that are different, enlightening, and enriching. All thanks to learning the lesson that life’s real treasures can best be found within obscure, holes in the wall. We certainly haven’t lost out with this perspective. In fact, we are becoming very rich indeed.


  1. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs

    June 13, 2014 at 3:33 am

    This sounds like an excellent approach, a new way of seeking out the good that’s often overlooked. I need to start seeking holes in the wall… in a variety of ways. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Great article, Caryn!

  2. Caryn,

    Saw your link to this post on the Gen Fab Facebook page. What you say here has applications from both the business perspective and the consumer/diner’s perspective. Many times that “hole-in-the-wall” establishment provides a phenomenal dining experience. My parents used to be fond of the little eateries where the owner (who often wore the cook’s hat, too) would come to the table and chat with them. It’s the kind of warm, personal experience that is missing in chain restaurants.

    It is interesting to me that this place didn’t advertise and yet was always full of customers. Obviously, word of mouth still works well in today’s world. Love to see that working for a restaurant these days.

  3. What a refreshing approach to entering this next chapter of our lives! Rather than closing in and constricting your viewpoints and experiences, you and your husband are opening up and inviting the world in, in its many forms. A good lesson for us all!

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