Wow! My family of three just got back from one of the most intense bonding experiences we’ve ever had.
Our adventure started off in Medellin, Colombia, where we spent four nights at an incredible Marriott Hotel in the heart of Pablado, a very trendy part of town. The hotel had every amenity you could think of including a delicious all-inclusive buffet breakfast, access to the executive lounge for snacks, a complete gym and a beautiful room that opened out to the pool with a gorgeous view of the city.
Needless to say, we were quite spoiled with this full service luxury and enjoyed every minute of it. But, we were also very excited for the next leg of our trip to Nuqui, Colombia, a very small town on the Pacific Gulf. Our plan was to stay with a friend of a friend who owned a retreat home totally off the grid in the middle of nowhere.
Our host family picked us up at the tiny airport and suggested that we get some groceries in town. They took us to a 10 x 10 store that offered a limited supply of beans, rice, eggs and a few other products. We looked into the small meat freezer and saw a frozen chicken split in half from head to toe staring up as us with one eye and decided to go vegetarian for the twelve days we planned on staying.
We took a 45-minute ride on a small motor boat to get to their home. On the way we saw incredible humpback whales breaching in the distance, as this was the season they came there to birth. We approached the shore near the house and they suddenly said “OK jump!”. Unbeknownst to us, we jumped in the ocean thigh deep carrying our packs overhead to the shore, trying not to get our computers and cell phones wet. This is what our host family did every time they wanted to bring supplies to the house.
Our accommodations were a totally open air house with no windows, doors, AC, refrigeration, electricity or hot water. The outdoor kitchen had a two burner propane stove top and the water was pumped in from a nearby waterfall. So, essentially it was camping with a roof over our heads and a bed with a mosquito net.
I loved it! My naturcentric being immediately connected with the fresh air and the crashing waves just feet from our house. I enjoyed waking up every morning, sitting quietly by myself and watching a pod of dolphins swim by. I loved picking limes and hibiscus off the tree to make tea and get creative with 101 ways you can cook eggs, beans and rice.
My Amenity Man and City Girl counterparts had thoughts very different than my own. They felt totally trapped like they were stranded on Gilligan’s Island. No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be.
Although our stay wasn’t truly on an island, the only way to access it was by boat and we were totally reliant on the owners for connection to civilization. I have to admit it was a weird feeling that no one knew where we were and we had no way of contacting anyone since our WiFi and phone service didn’t work.
The experience was an unexpected total detox of technology, alcohol, dairy, gluten, sugar and caffeine and by the second day my two buddies were losing their minds. Add in the fact that they were both covered in bites from head to toe and had nowhere to escape the heat, they were not happy campers. The sound of the waves crashing that lulled me to sleep kept them awake all night. By the second night, they were begging me to get out of there.
We talked to the owner about our dilemma, but she wasn’t willing to refund our money. And since we couldn’t afford to pay double for another place to stay, we decided to try to suck it up and make the most of it.
Luckily, the owners had six cats, a baby bunny and a bird, so that kept Kayla entertained for several hours every day. We cooked all our meals together and were mindful not to waste one drop of food because we had access to so little. Scraps that we would normally throw away were carefully saved in a Tupperware container for the next meal. Water that was boiled was used for tea at a later time.
We went for walks on the beach, stacked rocks, read and played tons of games. There was no technology to distract us. We only had each other.
One day the owners took us on a boat ride to a neighboring town. We were planning on going to some thermal springs and have lunch at the one restaurant there. Our host asked what meal they were preparing for the day. They said fish soup and fish. I knew Kayla wouldn’t eat fish, so I asked if they had any other options. They asked if she liked chicken and I said yes. Great they said, come back in an hour and it will be ready. As we walked away, I heard the squawk from a nearby rooster. I turned around to see him being carried out back to his demise, later to be served as Kayla’s lunch.
In the end, we only made it eight out of the twelve days we expected to stay. By the last day, Kayla had ripped off all her skin from scratching so much and Scott lost 14-pounds and his mind on the Gilligan’s Island diet. They were ready to go home.
Although my team mates had some significant suffering, I thought it was a wonderful experience for our family. With no diversions or distractions, we spent quality time with each other. I can’t remember the last time we cooked all our meals during a weeks time and ate everyone together. It gave us the opportunity to get creative and make up fun things to do to entertain ourselves.
We spent 90% of the day outside in nature in the sun and the rain touching the earth. We talked about our dreams, specifically what foods we missed the most. We were so appreciative of every meal, no matter how simple. And we turned every leftover morsel into something delicious. And most important, we were all so grateful to have the basics, food, water, shelter and each other. We realized how very little you need to be happy.
Personally, it reminded me how fortunate I am back home to have access to so many resources. How crazy is it that we can order something on Amazon and its shipped in four hours. Where as, if something breaks in the majority of the world, they may not have access to materials that repair or replace it for months or ever. It also blew my mind that we can go into a store like Whole Foods and have 20-different choices of things like milk and most others only have access to powdered milk or none at all.
We caught the first flight out the next morning. As the cold air from the airplane hit our faces, I heard a sigh of relief from my daughter. We headed to the same Marriott where we first began. At next mornings breakfast buffet, the normal tune of “There’s nothing to eat Mom.” was replaced with “This is the best piece of bread I ever ate.” Our appreciation level skyrocketed with every warm shower, clean pillow and cold drink.
Now, during our year-long travel around the world, we have grown more patience for the little annoyances. If the WiFi goes down for a minute, the meal isn’t exactly the way we like it, they don’t have an item in the grocery store or the shower isn’t quite hot enough, we reflect back on our recent adventure and say “We’ll always have Nuqui!.”
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