- On March 19, the government of the Dominican Republic prohibited incoming tourists from entering the country. Current travelers in the country were asked to return home.
- Bartolo Griffin, the owner of the Dominican Tree House Village, watched the last guests fly home leaving 22 empty tree houses.
- The family of five around Griffin decided to stay on the property during the nationwide curfew.
The Dominican Tree House Village, a 4-star hotel in the Dominican Republic, is currently much quieter. The sounds of the birds in the jungle seem louder and the communal dining table feels bigger. The resort, which usually seats 50 people, is empty.
The only people left are Bartolo Griffin, his wife and their three children. Griffin is the owner of 22 tree houses in a tropical forest in El Valle, in the Dominican Republic.
On March 19, the government of the Dominican Republic prohibited incoming tourists from entering the country. The country’s borders were “effectively closed” and tourists were asked to leave the country.
Griffin’s remaining guests said goodbye on March 16 with the last flights leaving the country. But Griffin’s family of five decided to stay.
Griffin, an American from Boise, Idaho, said the decision was easy for them. “It’s literally like living with my kids in a hidden paradise,” he said.
Griffin is worried about his company, but is trying to get something positive out of the break
The tree houses stand on stilts under the open sky and are equipped with thatched roofs, bright red curtains and bamboo railings. Griffin’s family wakes up every morning in a king-size bed to the sounds of the forest outside the door.
“We are like a small tribe that lives from the jungle,” said the 44-year-old. “Starting a new day together was one of the most beautiful things there is. We have no pressure to be anywhere. “
Before the country-wide curfew, Griffin was usually busy helping guests make calls and being present whenever his help was needed in the village, where a night costs the equivalent of around $ 250.
Griffin’s family now has a daily schedule similar to many other quarantined families around the world, but the setting is completely different.
Instead of relying on a backyard with an inflatable pool in a suburb, the family can go swimming on a beach or river. Schoolwork is done in a tree house, while migratory birds are chirping in the background. And instead of chicken nuggets, there is sancocho, a traditional soup, for lunch.
Griffin’s three children, who currently live in the resort, have never seen it deserted. “My kids have the best home vacation imaginable,” said Griffin.
Although the pandemic changed the life of Griffin’s family, his employees are affected much more
The Dominican Tree House Village has 37 employees. When the business was closed along with the borders, the jobs of the employees were at risk.
Griffin said he initially sent everyone on vacation and bought just under 1,700 kilograms of rice, 45 kilograms for each employee.
But Griffin quickly realized that he had to factor in the possible consequences of the pandemic if it lasted longer than a month or two.
Griffin’s tree house village would have to adapt to the situation. Griffin asked his employees to introduce him to agricultural projects that he could support. “Little by little they come to me with agricultural companies,” he said.
Projects such as the construction of a chicken coop, the planting of 2,000 banana trees and the creation of permaculture gardens benefit the community both in the short and long term.
Griffin believes these projects can support his employees and their families during the pandemic. They will also be useful when the village is up and running again.
Griffin attributes his entrepreneurial drive to his hometown
Griffin grew up in a poor Mormon family. His father was a metal worker and every winter there was a risk that his father would be fired. Sometimes this became a reality and without income the family had to live in a tent.
Griffin ultimately went on a mission to Spain for the Mormons. When he came back he had no financial means and started cleaning toilets.
“If you can get the Book of Mormon, the religious scripture of the denomination, you can basically sell anything,” said Griffin.
He started selling his cleaning services to nearby restaurants and founded a company that offered concierge services.
He married, had four children and got a divorce again. After his divorce, Griffin explained, he looked at himself and asked himself: “What do I want from my life?” His answer: build a tree house village.
Griffin grew up with Disney films like “Tschitti Tschitti Bäng Bäng” and “Mary Poppins”, but his favorite film was “Jungle of 1000 Dangers” (Eng .: “Swiss Family Robinson”). The family in the film runs aground on an island and then lives in a tree house.
Griffin dreamed of a life like the one in the movie, but it was about finding the right place. He had already lost his heart to Costa Rica when his brother urged him to think about the Dominican Republic as a location.
“My brother said to me: ‘If you don’t do anything else for me in your entire life, at least fly there to see it,” said Griffin. “Two weeks later I got on a plane, flew here and fell in love with the place.”
Griffin bought a piece of mosquito and swine populated land in Samana, the Dominican Republic. The first thing he did was build a zip line for cruise tourists. The money went straight to his tree house village.
He built 22 tree houses within two and a half years and opened the resort in 2014. During his time in the Dominican Republic, Griffin remarried and had three more children who form his current family.
“We created a paradise,” said Griffin, and this paradise should never end. Instead, he believes people will want places like his resort as soon as travel is allowed again.
“I think if all of that is over, my business will probably run better than before,” said Griffin. “People will start to turn away from any drunken, all-you-can-eat McDonald’s experiences and look for something unique and special.”
The Dominican Tree House Village runs under the motto “Separate to create a new connection”. Although Griffin has been true to this motto for years, the time is currently particularly challenging.
Griffin told Insider that his family had a deeper relationship during the quarantine.
“It shaped this time,” said Griffin. “I hope they will look back in time and see them as the beginning of a journey, rather than a burden or the end of the world.”
This text has been translated from English and edited by Nora Bednarzik, the original can be found here.