High in the golden rolling hillsides of Haiti hidden among pine trees is something out of fantasy and childhood imagination — a treehouse hotel.
“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” When I think of a treehouse, I usually think of a fantastical place filled with imagination, much like a place out of Peter Pan. I don’t know about you, when I was a little, a treehouse was the most awesome thing a kid could have. And I had two. Well, not two treehouses per se, more like wooden forts since they weren’t attached to a tree, but they were still set atop beams rising high above everything.
– JM Barrie, Peter Pan
And when I mean everything, I mean they were only about 10 feet high if that, but at the age of 8, that seems like a structure reaching into the clouds. Sometimes during the summer we would run extension cords into the fort and I would sleep inside of it, fully stocked with sweets and lights and my sketchbook where I would draw up the heroic scenarios that were bouncing around my overactive imagination.
The treehouse was a place of escape as well.
I’ve written many times about how my imagination growing up was a haven during darker days of my childhood. Be it during bouts of drunken rage from my father, or when my mother might disappear for days and be accused of drug use when she came home. Eventually, both would erupt into a violent argument, which usually ended up with police cars or ambulances howling up to our house.
But in my fortress, in my treehouse, nothing could touch me. Nothing could harm me. I could feel strong and not sad.
It was a place constructed in the image of my fantasy, one where I was strong enough to take own fire-breathing dragons, or beer-breathed fathers.
As I got older, the forts of my childhood were torn down, so I would spend most of my days biking off into the forest as an escape. Even though I was at an age where most kids played video games after school, or did whatever else cool kids did, I would still spent most of my time inside my imagination and built my own treehouses or tree forts in the woods after school.
That was my form of counseling after years of official counseling and therapy didn’t work. Then, as happens to all of us, the time comes when we must grow up, the time to “get our heads out of the clouds” and start being an adult.
The time where child-like wonder and curiosity and endless possibility are replaced by an endless list of responsibility.
There is no place in the real world for treehouses — just cookie-cutter houses with the expensive mortgages and calendars of faraway places to remind you of the wonder of the world that only could have existed in the imagination of a child. To remind you of your once upon of a time.
Until you discover a treehouse hotel.
High up in the mountains, about an hour south of the capital Port Au Prince (if you can get past the traffic) lies Rustik Treehouse Hotel within the small town of Furcy where I had a dream come true moment and slept in a treehouse for the night.
Though, getting to the treehouse was a wild ride in and of itself. Our group didn’t even have a damn clue as to where this place was or if it even existed. It wasn’t on the map after all, until I added it…
Back in Haiti, my favorite country!
After I arrived in Haiti for the second time, I was picked up by my Haitian friend Vick and his girlfriend from the airport to go to the hotel. Once in the car, I expected for us to snake our way through the congested streets to his mother’s hotel where we usually stay.
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I thought we were going to spend the night at their hotel after I arrived 4 hours late from a flight delay, and the next day we would make our way to the south to begin our 3 week adventure around Haiti.
Instead, we spent about 3 hours sweating and stuck in the sea of cars forever honking.
That is Haiti for you…
“Where are we going?” I moaned through the thick air as beads of sweat crawled down my face.
“Some place to grab a beer in the mountains” Vick said casually.
“Are we sleeping there?” I asked.
“I mean, I don’t know if there are places to sleep, but it’s supposed to be a cool place to hang out at in the mountains. We can get drunk and if worse comes to worse, sleep in our tents” he said.
I sighed. As much as I was happy to be in Haiti once again, we were creeping up on hour four in the car and we had just barely reached the city limits. And it was HOT. Watching the cars and motorbikes weave in and out of traffic and seeing the bustling nightlife always fascinates me, but after a 4 hour delayed flight and two times off-boarding, a redirect the day before to Louisville Kentucky, and sleeping on an airport floor had me aching for a shower and a bed. And at this point, it seemed as though I wouldn’t be getting either.
Lost trying to find our way
The light of Port Au Prince faded and the roads gradually changed from paved, to gravel, to all out off-roading on dirt. Sometimes we even wondered if the car would make it the whole way, or if we were even on a road. We passed by Digicel stations in the middle of nowhere which is the only way to know if you’re near a town really.
We bounced and bumbled onward in the darkness. Luckily before I departed the airport I bought a SIM card, and even though it didn’t work half of the time, I was able to find the general location of a bar out that way. That had to be Rustik, because there was nothing else for miles.
At one point, we pulled up to a guesthouse down a dirt path that had faded wood signs pointing out in now invisible paint which way to go. All of the lights were off and it looked abandoned. Vick knocked and yelled and finally someone came outside, informing him that this was not the bar we were looking for, and pointed us in the right direction.
“It does exists!” we all said relieved, but we had to find our way there still. We back tracked and took the other road in the fork, and after a while we spotted a sign that read “Rustik“. And when I say sign, I man a wooden construction spool laying on the side of the road spray painted with “Rustik” which will probably be moved at some point. Navigating roads is always about forever changing landmarks there.
We pulled into the dark driveway and all got out of the car and moaned out loud as we stretched our limbs. Vick told us to wait while he checked to see if they were still open, and upon his return spoke the words that I had hoped for.
“You are going to love this place” he said with a smile.
Love it I did…
A treehouse all to ourselves!
As I walked over the floors made from wood palettes and other random construction site objects I spun around in circles taking in everything. Walls made from glass liquor bottles or beer bottles, with chandeliers made from the same.
Beautiful hand-made Haitian crafts in a corner nook, and trees bursting up through the floor-boards. Outside it was pitch black, but I could just make out the rope bridge to the treehouse room. We didn’t even know it was a hotel or hostel or whatever you want to call it, but now we were in a place of fantasy in the mountains of Haiti and the whole place was to ourselves.
There wasn’t a single person staying at this place except for the girl at the front desk.
After working out rooms (Vick and his girlfriend would be taking the actual treehouse) we ordered some Haitian food, talked and laughed and enjoyed the ambience of this unique place, and drank the night away with rum punches.
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One of the Best Wake Up Calls…
In the morning I woke to the cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster outside and the sunlight shining through the glass bottles of my room. Even though the room was pretty basic, that was the point, with the big bed and warm blankets pretty much the only thing in there. There wasn’t even outlets, just a toilet and shower attached. Even as a blogger, this minimalism matched the experiences and I loved waking up in that manner.
Just as the sun was breaking over the distant mountains I walked outside to see the valley flood with molten gold. The air crisp and fresh filling my lungs as stretched, and I spent the next hour simply admiring the natural beauty of this place. As the sun rose higher, smoke rose from huts in the distance, animals began to stir, and farms walked off into the hillside with their tools.
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Waking Up With a View
As everyone woke up and ate breakfast, we made a plan to explore the valley and the waterfalls nearby for the day before moving on further south, but I was much more keen to sip my coffee and listen to the 1940’s French songs that played out of the speakers. I wandered the property in awe at this Peter Pan like place, or something straight out of the Swiss Family Robinson’s, except it wasn’t storybook but real.
Hiking Galore from the Treehouse
Around noon we began our day long hike into the valley, and after a few hours of exploring the incredible mountains and waterfalls around Furcy, we returned to the treehouse to pack our things. There was a part of me that wanted to stay another night of course, but we had other places to be and more adventure to seek 00 though I did inquire about how I could live and work there.
There is something about treehouses that are special, and maybe that is why I love sleeping in my travel hammock everywhere I can around the world — that connection to nature where the “real” world falls away to the simple pure joys in life. Something natural and minimalistic, something that doesn’t need flat screen TV’s in the bathroom or all the other ells and whistles. Just something to reignite the childlike spirit in all of us.
SEE MORE OF HAITI!SEE: Travel Clips: From Treehouses to Voodoo Caves of Haiti
Whoever it was that deemed treehouses and imagination should be left behind as we age, they were probably the one who also made it a fad to leave behind one’s dreams as well.
And a reality without dreams or imagination is a reality that I do not want to live in.
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Maybe that is why travel has become so important in my life — the fact that when you are lost in the world discovering a mysterious new place, that sense of wonder and imagination fills your entire being. Out of nowhere, things that seem as if they could only exist in story books and fairytales are at your feet.
That feeling of endless possibility pricks your skin with a million goose-bumps. And at that moment you know that the child-like sprit was never meant to be put away and forgotten, but embraced alongside knowledge as you grow so you discover the truth about life — that any dream can come true.