Larry and Debbie live in a small, dark red house with green trim. The living room is lined with dark, yet hospitable wood paneling and its large windows overlook the bay outside. Larry's small powerboat bobs calmly up and down in the water. The afternoon is dark and misty clouds hang low over over the rugged landscape of steep granite hills, jagged inlets, and clusters of tiny islets. Larry removes his camouflage hat and puts his feet up on the hassock. He is in his fifties, a man with a solid build and a closely cropped salt-and-pepper mustache. If he got out of his black diesel truck and approached you in America you would almost certainly run, but this is Newfoundland—instead of leveling a pistol at you, Larry will invite you over for dinner with his family. "We have company over all the time. Had this fellow from Osaka stay with us for a night... he was hitchhiking across Canada. Just started. It was pouring rain," he says in his thick Celtic accent. American travelers, yes, they tend to be a little squeamish at first: "had a Californian through the other day. He didn't seem comfortable when I invited him, but I said we're Christians up here, it's not like we're going to do anything to you!" He smiles a smile both genuine and understated.
In the kitchen, Debbie makes spaghetti. She is a tall, soft-spoken woman with long hair, a long apron, and a round face that is calmly benevolent. "Wish we could offer you something a little more Newfoundland," Larry apologizes, but the pasta lands and it is more than tasty. Their eldest son and his girlfriend are visiting from Alberta and they join at the table with their three year-old daughter. Larry says grace and food vanishes. Stories volley back and forth, anecdotes about beautiful and remote parts of the island, places where "the white pine are so big, me and me eldest couldn't wrap our arms around them." When Larry listens he cocks his head slightly and squints with one eye while opening the other wide, a gleaming gray iris appraising your every word. His backcountry lore is impressive, his hunting experience voluminous. He makes a point to state that most locals hunt and fish for food. Even after almost three decades of working as a mechanic at the local boatyard, his employment isn't steady enough to ensure a large salary; felling a moose can feed the family for a long time and commercial meat is expensive. The pasta is a memory and the white toast that accompanied it quickly follows suit. Then Debbie brings out her homemade molasses rolls—lassie buns—a recipe she got from Larry's mother. A recipe that is perfect in both conception and execution, the rolls being sweet, spicy, and gooey all at once. The conversation migrates back to the living room. The family sits in a circle. The living room is not centered around the altar of a television.
Larry is bored with being a mechanic. The challenge is gone. He has a pipe dream, though. Many years ago, he and Debbie met an elderly couple traveling from South Carolina and, true to form, invited them over for dinner. They swiftly became friends and Larry took them out to a cabin he built on a small island 21 miles out towards the Atlantic. They had a wonderful time and returned to visit again several years later. The friendship endured until the couple passed away. But Larry still remembers how happy they were to visit, their smiles as they disembarked on the island. Their excitement made him feel good. He thinks he could give other visitors the same experience and, perhaps, turn into a highly personalized adventure tour guide. He could host from his house, use his own cabin, boat, or quads. He and Debbie have been going into remote areas of the woods for their entire lives and they are masters of the forest picnic. "She's a great cook," he says with a smile, "and I've got something of a reputation in he area for being able to build wilderness privies with a view!" Larry certainly has the charisma and the experience to make a fabulous host, but he is daunted by the marketing. He needs affluent Americans or Canadians who like eco-tourism of the grittier variety. "I wouldn't really know where to start finding these people..." There are other technicalities, too. "As a Christian, I would have to let them know that I don't allow alcohol in my house. And I don't think I would be comfortable with a homosexual couple staying here, either." He pauses and thinks. It is a complicated decision to weigh, a tremendous financial risk, and a minefield of potentially uncomfortable situations. The world teems with idiosyncratic people—opening the door to them as a business is very different from opening the door as a generous individual. But it could be fun. Yeah, it could be really fun. He scrunches one eye and ponders a rack of moose antlers hanging from the wall.