Embracing Horror in the Zoobox

Embracing the Horrors of Travelling with Monsters (Zoobox - Eastman, QC)

NOTE: This post was written as part of 'A Hooligan's Odyssey'. A Hooligan's Odyssey comprises the travel section of Circus Living and revolves around the travel (mis)adventures of the youngest monster Seamus and his band of Hooligans. 

This isn’t the first time we stayed in one of Le Vertendre’s eco-friendly cabins and it certainly won’t be the last. For our readers looking for a more conventional blog post on Le Vertendre’s Zoobox and what the place and its surrounding areas have to offer, and tips to consider while you are there, read our post "The Zoobox - Paleo-friendly accommodations in Eastman, Quebec" on our sister site Getting Primal.

To help you plan further, other posts (I could only find posts in French at this given time) written by bloggers regarding their experiences lodging in Le Vertendre’s Zoobox can also be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of this post.

Ronan inside our Zoobox

When you feel you have researched the Zoobox and the town of Eastman, Quebec enough, and think you are prepared to take your young fledglings on the “perfect” or “dream” family vacation, you’re ready for your next lesson - time to get real. Trust me on this; it’s essential to ensuring you do make the most of your family trip and keep your sanity intact. As most of you with young kids by now likely already know, kids can be the most unpredictable, the most excruciating, and the most challenging especially when it comes to travelling with them anywhere.

As a travel blogger, I am always on a mission to highlight what places have to offer during our travels as a family. To inspire others to travel, I’ve always felt it my duty to post wonderfully scenic photos capturing peaceful, breathtaking, and magical moments my family shares together on our trips - and yes, moments like these do happen though not necessarily at the exact time I was taking the photos. There is just something about posting only the wonderful moments of our trip without discussing or showing the challenges that rings untrue to me somehow. I would argue that it's deceitful in so many ways.

Ronan and Kiarra hiking to our Zoobox

I thought long and hard if exposing the realities of traveling with our young kids can even help others. I considered if a captured video of a pre-schooler bawling his eyes out in the middle of the woods because he fell in mud would indicate anything useful about a travel destination. That is when I experienced an awakening, an ‘aha!’ moment, when I realized embracing not only the magical moments but also the horrors of travelling with our kids was the reason we continue and persist to travel. Taking the good with the disastrous, living in the moment while at the same time learning from the past, and not taking ourselves so damn seriously, are traits I would argue every parent should have. Ah, well, we’re not perfect so I myself don’t follow my own ‘go with the flow’ motto most times but it’s something I can honestly state I strive for.

I also realized that if I didn’t write about the travel truths of travelling with young children, I would in essence be deceiving the next parent who may imagine a picture-perfect trip to the Zoobox. The last thing I would want is our readers comparing their own trips to our 'perfect' photos wondering what the hell went wrong with theirs. Let my failure as a parent to control situations during our trips help inform you of the errors you should avoid in order to successfully reign your monsters (and I use that word in the most lovingly way possible) in.

To enjoy your time fully with your kids, apart from reading the helpful blog posts on the Zoobox on our Getting Primal site and at the links (in French) offered at the end of this post, I am also presenting to you for your amusement (and knowledge), the three things I learned about my kids and the three things you should take note of before staying in a Zoobox in Eastman, Quebec. Heed my warnings, and you will be more prepared than I.

Lesson #1 Rescuing the Scream Queen: Kids will need to use the washroom at the most inopportune moments

Just take a look at this scenic photo of the private lake and waterfall at Le Vertendre. Lovely photo, isn’t it? The kids looked preoccupied and content peacefully surveying their surroundings.

It lasted for about a minute and ended when Kiarra screamed about having to desperately use the washroom. Kiarra was given the opportunity to use the washroom at Le Vertendre’s office beforehand but nope, just minutes before we drove to this lake, she absolutely didn’t have to use the toilet. Considering our Zoobox was a 2 km hike from the lake, and going back to the office warranted having to get back in the car, her urgent need to use the washroom quickly became a problem. Ronan’s constant chastisement about how embarrassing she was for screaming only lead to more high-pitched wails. The other folks around enjoying the previously serene river scene were quickly forced into our nightmare. My sincere apologies to those folks who thought a little girl was being attacked by some rabid animal in the woods. When Kiarra screams, she projects like she’s starring in her very own horror film - she screams with the best of the scream queens. I won't go into the details if and how we averted further disaster since I think I've made my point. 

My tip?

Make your kids use the washroom at the office especially if your Zoobox is one of the farthest ones from the parking lot, or ask for a Zoobox that is closest to parking especially if you have little ones.

Lesson #2 Fighting the Mud and Shit Monster: To be dirty as to be disgusting is all relative to a child.

Here’s happy Seamus enjoying a warm bath as soon as we arrived at our Zoobox.

A viewer of this photo marvelling at the Zoobox’s interior and seeing the smiling little boy in the tub wouldn’t likely think twice about the events which lead to this photo. Contrary to the happy scene in this photo, the little boy just minutes before was having an epic meltdown in the middle of the woods. Our 2 km hike to the Zoobox involved a lot of whining and fighting between the kids, and ugh...Seamus’ arch-nemesis, the mud monster. Seamus insisted on walking at some point during our hike (we previously had him riding one of the luggage wagons situated for guests’ use at Le Vertendre’s parking lot). Needless to say, he lost his battle with the mud monster and landed smack bottom into the mud. A monstrous fit followed shortly thereafter because he was ‘dirty’. Who would think that just minutes before his muddy predicament, Seamus had picked up a rock by the lake which had animal dung on it. The boy with the shit-filled hands had no complaints about being dirty then while Randy and I frantically searched for baby wipes to quickly disinfect them.

My tip?

Be prepared for muddy trails. If like Seamus you have a kid that only likes to get dirty on his own terms, prepare him/her for the inevitable. Guide them around the muddy areas, place them in the wagon (please be very careful when pulling them in a wagon meant for luggage), flat-out tell them hiking means they are going to get dirty, or if all else fails, just bring earplugs to drown out the mind-blowing hysterics.

Lesson #3 Surviving the Sibling Armageddon: When the kids say they want to all sleep together, they actually mean only up to the moment before their tolerance for each other wanes.

Here’s a video of me describing the Zoobox and all of its fun features for both kids and adults.

When I pointed up at the top where the kids were bunking, I neglected to mention that you should be prepared for them talking, fighting and bugging you throughout the night. Eventually, Seamus ended up sleeping on the couch located at the end of the firefighter’s sliding pole. He didn’t want anything to do with his older siblings who were breathing on him, sweating on him, and stealing his sheets (which Le Vertendre by the way conveniently provides). If you, as a parent with young kids, are disappointed when I tell you that you will get no privacy with your significant other, then you still have lots to learn. Regardless of whether the Zoobox is open concept or not, unless the kids are set up in a separate cabin miles away from yours, safe to say that any romantic moments you were hoping to share will have to wait and happen on a post-honeymoon trip, or when your kids are much older.

My tip?

Let them have their little lovey-dovey group moment. Let them have their ‘sleep-over’. Just be prepared for alternate sleeping arrangements should they decide that despite loving each other they realize they don’t actually like each other.

Kiarra surveying our environment

Well, there you have it, three little tips for your amusement, or if you do find them useful, glad I, a parent who feels bewildered most of the time, could help you out. As for more picture-perfect captures of the place (the Zoobox and its surrounding areas are without a doubt beautiful) and for more ‘truthful’ images and videos of all of our travels captured in film, Join our Circus to gain access to our ‘back yard’. Until then, keep going, keep travelling with your monsters because as much as they at times make you feel like you’re aging faster, they also have a way of connecting you with your younger self again. Travelling with them will keep you on your toes and will encourage you to experience each moment as it comes. They are the blood to your vampire thirst. They will keep you young.

This post was written as part of 'A Hooligan's Odyssey'. A Hooligan's Odyssey comprises the travel section of Circus Living and revolves around the travel (mis)adventures of the youngest monster Seamus and his band of Hooligans. Interested in more travel features? Join our Circus to stay updated by scrolling to and completing the sign-up form below.

For more info on the Zoobox

Le Vertendre's website
Le Vertendre on Facebook
Zoobox review on Getting Primal
Narcity's article on the Zoobox (in French)
Zoobox review on afrokanlife.com (in French)
Zoobox review on Famille au Menu (in French)