To start off 2017 with a bang, Michael and I headed to South America for the first time! Our original plan had been to spend a month traveling through several countries, but when we settled on travel dates we realized we could stop in Texas on the way home and see my family and work at PAX South, which were all rare and good things, so we shortened the South America trip to about two and a half weeks and decided to stay in just one country. That was absolutely the right choice, because Ecuador had more than we could possibly experience in just a few weeks – I can’t imagine having tried to explore Peru or Colombia on the same trip.
I chose Ecuador because it seemed to have so much cool stuff to do – there are a million reports from backpackers all over the world that made it so appealing. There are a lot of amazing outdoor activities to choose from, there’s incredible hiking, beautiful beaches and unique cities and all sorts of new foods to try. My friend Tracy had spent a few months in Ecuador and had nothing but awesome things to say about it, so it was settled: we were spending the whole trip in Ecuador.
The trip was amazing, minus a few big failures. Our flight was delayed by an entire day, so we lost some time there. Mike and I both got food poisoning in a big way despite following most of the safe-food-rules (I will admit I drank many juices that probably contained water – my bad) so that cost us another couple of days. And the biggest challenge we ran into was working around the language barrier.
I went in with an arrogant mindset that we would be able to get by on speaking English, because that had been the case in traveling through Europe. That was not the case, and I had to get over my fear of speaking horrible Spanish pretty quickly, because we needed it to navigate daily life. I had studied Spanish for years in school, so I had to dig deep in the recesses of my mind and try to cobble some sentences together (I can speak it okay, but I can almost never understand it). Mike did an incredibly impressive job of learning Spanish on the fly – by the end of the trip, he could handle any basic business transaction, which is amazing because all he new of Spanish pre-trip was the occasional Spanglish phrase I would throw around at home. He totally stepped up and it was awesome. That guy is fearless. Plus everyone in Ecuador is super friendly, so they went easy on us.
We did also have many successes: We learned to navigate the public bus system almost immediately and used buses to get absolutely everywhere. We managed to make it across the entire country despite our sickness setbacks. Mike continued to be great at haggling (I still refuse). I survived canyoning despite being incredibly terrified. We got ourselves a sky chair. And we had a really, really good time.
Over the next week, I’ll be posting entries from our time in the cities we visited: Quito, Quilotoa, Baños, Montañita, Puerto Lopez, and Mindo. But for today, I hope you’ll enjoy this video I made from our time in all of those cities in beautiful, welcoming Ecuador.