Matt Salvo: Life after leaving WA
April 11, 2017
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We have all at some point or another, perhaps at a moment of anxiety, or life’s stressful episodes which make the world feel as if it is collapsing upon us, fantasized about simply starting from scratch. Most of us have at least once humored our mind with visions of moving far away to practice an art, or perhaps the common dream of quitting one’s job to start a business or move far away.
Most of these often pondered fantasies, however, are short lived. In reality, it is not only frightening to embrace change, but the fear of sacrificing all aspects of one’s current ongoing lifestyle is certainly enough to, more times than not, steer one back to a computer, and away from the Travelocity page open on one’s phone.
For former WA Junior Matt Salvo, however, fiction was turned into reality in the fall of 2016, when Salvo decided to leave WA and build a cabin in his parents’ back yard in which he can home school himself for the rest of his high school years. The inspiration to make such a drastic change in his life, Salvo says, came to him during a long hike in Vermont over the summer.
“I hiked the Long Trail last summer, around July or August, and then when I came back, I just felt like going back to the public school was not right for me. I didn’t want to sit down in a classroom all day and learn out of a book; I wanted a more hands-on experience. We [Salvo and his parents] really didn’t know what to do at first, but then we looked at the home school options,” he said.
Instead of taking classes online, Salvo decided to take his education into his own hands. Keeping a diligent work schedule, Salvo spends his days exercising, studying, and then taking breaks to observe the serene nature of his surroundings. This includes the numerous bird feeders he has placed behind his cabin to attract wildlife, as well as a large pond, to which he often retires for the scene’s natural tranquility and warmth for contemplation.
“One of the great things about this is without all the pressure and stress, you can really think. You know, sometimes, you get yourself into some pretty abstract places, but I feel that truly thinking is one of the best things; it really exposes a lot of parts of life that some people would just never see,” Salvo said.
“I have taken to my own pace now. [I have learned to] Take a step back, slow down, and just look at what’s going on around you. Studying the birds everyday, you just see so many interactions of nature that I think we can learn a lot from- that we can take, and use, and apply to figure out some of the problems that are out there,” Salvo added.
Being an enthusiast of nature, and an aspired environmental scientist, Salvo even went as far as to ensure that his cabin was composed of only environment-friendly materials.
“I kind of coined it the ‘sustainable house’. What it is, is all the lumber I got from New Hampshire. It is locally sourced, and sustainably harvested from the forest […]. Every step along the way that I took to build this, I did my best to find a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to construct this cabin,” he said.
Salvo refused to use any unnecessary artificial materials while constructing his quarters. In fact, everything from installing sheep wool insulation to his methods of sealing gaps in the wood, were done in an eco-friendly fashion.
“The roof is actually sealed with what they would use at the bottom of a ship- I spent hours hammering cotton into the cracks and sealing it with pine tar so that there would be no chemical preservatives or anything like that. The shingles are shear, naturally resistant to rot, and as far as heating elements go, I went with a wood stove, not only for the classic feel, but if a forest is managed properly, it’s actually a carbon-neutral source of fuel,” he said.
Despite his interest in taking the SAT exam this May, or applying to college, Salvo envisions himself staying true to his current lifestyle as an adult. He is a self-proclaimed minimalist, dedicated to simplicity, and he takes peace in the ethereal beauty of nature. Unlike most teenagers, he is not saddened by isolation, nor discomforted in social scenarios. In his eyes, the chaos of stressful exams and assignments, unlike solitary studying, leaves no room for reflection or inner thought.
“There’s definitely peace in being out here, it’s very serene. I still see people on the side, and of course I miss the passing conversations with friends in the hallways, but I don’t think that the constant pressure is really necessary to thrive […] I’m definitely true to the thought, ‘the simpler the better’. Obviously this is just under one hundred square feet, so I could probably do with about twice the size, but I love the life- I could imagine myself having some land, a garden, growing my own food, composting, making a shelter, and just providing for myself,” Salvo said.