Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Nature?
Plus latest posts from August 2022.
I thought I would be using our family sabbatical to contemplate the big life questions like, what’s the next big pursuit I should dedicate myself to? or what are we here for?
Instead we are consumed with more down to earth questions. How do we stay warm at night with no heating? Do we kill that gnarly spider on the bathroom wall, or is it doing us a service? Can a person truly find happiness without fresh roasted coffee? (Fortunately, Liuan spotted a coffee roaster in one of the local shop doorways, so for now I can set that last existential question aside.)
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In a Cottage by the River
Three weeks ago we arrived in Paraty, Brazil. Our AirBnB hosts met us for check-in and led us down the narrow path lined with banana leaves, a cacao tree, and other tropical plants. The front porch of our new home came into view with the burbling river only a few paces away. I gasped. Que lindo! I commented to our host.
It was just like the listing photos, only better in real life!
Despite that first impression, it didn’t take long for our other senses to kick in, namely our sense of smell. It turns out the rustic beauty of the place is authentic. In other words, the wood beams and heavy shutters are as old as they look. The house makes no pretense of separating domestic and wild air. Add to that a constant source of humidity from the churning river water and you get a scent reminiscent of a dank garage.
Like many tropical homes with no air conditioning, all the windows and doors open wide to let in the breeze and the stunning scenery. But that’s not all they let in.
A frog with suction cup toes resides in our shower. Whether hanging from the tile wall or nestled in a corner of the floor, it doesn’t bother to move while we bathe. Innocuous, but kind of creepy.
Then there was the bat that went ballistic, ping ponging within the confines of our tiny cottage living area. (Sorry, no photos. I was too busy cowering on the floor and covering my head like you do for a grade school tornado drill while Liuan had the sense to open the sliding glass door).
Special Guest on the First Day of School
While most kids back home have just started school, we opened our “worldschooling” class when we arrived in Paraty three weeks ago. We just published a post where the boys give their take on it.
I began my first class with a phrase of the day in Portuguese (Brazil’s lingua franca). Within the first few minutes of practicing our phrase, the kids were already distracted and pointing at something.
I turned around, and there, perched on top of the open door to the boys’ room, was a marmoset.
Liuan, who was working in the adjacent bedroom, heard us squawking about something and came out to take a look. She ducked in surprise when she looked where we were pointing and saw the little monkey-like creature just above her head.
I wanted to chase it out without making it feel so threatened that it would attack my face. So I waved my hands toward the door and said “go, go!” in my most encouraging tone of voice. It moved haltingly and reluctantly, pooping on the floor and peeing on the furniture as it made its exit.
Nature and all Its Tradeoffs
There was a brief moment when we considered cancelling this place out in the forest and booking something closer to town. We had just suffered an uncomfortably cold night, lost our internet for an entire day, and were doubting whether a strip of flowing water was worth it.
But in the end, we decided to stick with it for the month we had committed to. Leaving for something more convenient wouldn’t be in the spirit of our travel. We could have just stayed home if we wanted comfort.
Quickly we devised workarounds. To conquer the cold nights, we bought a few more blankets for a trivial $10 a piece and closed the shutters before dark, which also solved the bat problem. The random weekly internet outage was solved by booking a cheap room in the city ($18 a day) when we needed reliable Wi-Fi to do work.
Beyond learning to be resourceful we learned some things about the oh-so-romantic nature we all pine after. On the one hand, nature is beautiful. Our photos convey a warm, peaceful, and inviting paradise.
But a photo only gives you half the truth. A countervailing truth is that nature couldn’t care less about your convenience. Nature can give you warm sunlight or a brisk damp wind that chills to the bone. Thrilling waves recede into dangerous riptides. Birds and butterflies live alongside bats and hairy spiders. The latter are just as worthy as the former, but they might make you think twice about using the potty without first turning on the light.
LIUAN HUSKA SEPTEMBER 5, 2022
We’re in Brazil homeschooling while we travel around the South American continent for a year. Today on our blog, they reflect on their new school life.
MATTHEW HUSKA SEPTEMBER 3, 2022
In the first part of my “Trifecta” series, I discuss the three things I’ve found most beneficial about our family gap year and long-term travel.
LIUAN HUSKA AUGUST 24, 2022
The amenities we lived without in Brazil show that conserving energy is more about systems than individual choices. Also one thing I wish we had in the States!
MATTHEW HUSKA AUGUST 22, 2022
Teresópolis is a small, laid back city about two hours to the northeast of Rio de Janeiro. See some of our favorite photos from our month there.
MATTHEW HUSKA AUGUST 6, 2022
Convincing you isn’t so much about changing your preference for the city, but challenging you to venture out and discover those hidden gems.