We made it to Ecuador!

by Kim on August 17, 2012 · 61 comments

I am writing from our hostel in Quito, Ecuador! It took us thirty-two hours to get here, including a night of sleeping in the Lima airport, but our flights were smooth, our backpacks made it, and no one questioned our one-way tickets though technically one is not supposed to enter Ecuador without proof of onward travel. 

Spending the night at the airport in Lima, Peru

The last two weeks that we spent back in Portland were incredibly trying for Brian and I. As our leave-the-country date grew near our stress levels shot through the roof. We were bickering and snapping at each other like crazy but had no time alone to hash it out. By the time our final 72 hours in the U.S. arrived I was starting to worry that we were really crumbling. 

I can’t tell you the number of times in the past three years that I daydreamed about what it would feel like to be on the eve of leaving to start this trip. I imagined that I would spend a sleepless night tossing and turning as a mixture of nerves and excitement rumbled through me. I imagined how amazing it would feel to arrive at the airport with everything I owned on my back. I imagined that I would be sidelined with joy and excitement.

Preparing to leave for the airport with everything we own on our backs

But when the moment actually came I only felt numb. I didn’t cry as I hugged my sister goodbye at the terminal door. I didn’t feel sad or excited or even particularly happy. I felt stressed out and overwhelmed and I silently wondered if we hadn’t made a terrible mistake. 

Saying goodbye to my sister at the airport

We caught an uneventful flight to Los Angeles, touched down, then quickly boarded a 9-hour flight to Lima, Peru where we’d layover before heading to Ecuador. I settled in for the long-haul, preparing my earphones and kindle and notebook and pen in case inspiration struck. I closed my eyes and napped for a bit. 

A view out the window as the plane leaves Oregon

A few hours into the Peru leg of our flight, somewhere over Central America, I felt something shift inside of me. I began to relax and take deep breaths again. I felt like I was shedding layers of stress like a child sheds winter clothes when he comes in from the snow. Brian and I began joking with each other again. I thought: This is it. This is it! We are on the plane. This is happening! I felt flush with excitement and anticipation once more. 

We have been in Ecuador for less than twenty-four hours but I can already tell that my worst fears were unfounded. What was I so worried about? Why was I so stressed? The verge can be exciting, but I’m not sure it is ever a comfortable place to be.

We plan to spend about five days in Quito exploring, visiting the Old Town, and taking day trips to the equator and the Otavalo Market. After Quito we might head to Mindo, a tiny town in the cloud forest famous for bird-watching, or out to the little beach town of Canoa. Really, we can go whatever we fancy. I assure you the novelty of that has not worn off yet.

If you’ve been to Ecuador before I’d love to hear your tips. 

In closing I will leave you with a photo taken of me on this, the first night of our trip around the world, in our basic but wonderful hostel room as I drink a beer I paid exactly $1 for.  

A hostel room and $1 beer

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel August 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

Thanks for posting so quickly! It’s 7:30am and I’m already bored today.

HOORAY! When I showed Shawn the picture of you with all your stuff, he said what I was thinking, “they look…”, “nervous?” I responded. “Yeah.” But obviously those nerves shook off quickly. I’m so happy for you. Although the road trip and these last few months have helped you shed “normal” life, this is it. This is really it. The moment that you start living your dream. I am so excited to be there with you virtually.

Buena suerte! <3 you.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Oh, I’m sorry about your boredom. I definitely understand the feeling.

So we actually LOOKED as nervous as we felt? I’ve never had much of a poker face!

I can truly say that all my fears are gone. I don’t feel afraid of a damn thing right now, though I’m sure I’ll have my moments!

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Erica August 17, 2012 at 7:44 am

I am glad you have your big happy smile on again in that last picture. You will be fine! Your time has finally come! Enjoy it.. Relax! Have fun!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Thanks Erica! Relax is a word I have never been very good at putting into action… but I am trying. Fun, at least, I am good at!

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Amanda @amandaelsewhere August 17, 2012 at 7:49 am

This is so exciting! Ecuador is such a fantastic first destination. In Quito I (and the New York Times – but I still maintain I found it first) recommend La Boca del Lobo near Plaza Foch for eats – if only because it is so funky and unlike anything else I had seen in the Old Town (anti-traditional). You write one of my favorite blogs; I so look forward to reading about the rest of your journey.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm

We just ate in Plaza Foch today- it is very close to our hostel. I will definitely make sure we check it out. Thanks for the recommendation and your kind words :)

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Amy August 17, 2012 at 7:52 am

Yay you guys! That is so awesome. I love the way you describe things. You look great! I was a bit confused about Brian beardless. :D Brian you look great too!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Oh, I totally should have mentioned that Brian shaved his freaking beard off. I was traumatized for a few days and couldn’t speak of it. He wanted a fresh start for our trip and says he won’t shave again until we are done. That’s gonna be a long beard!

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Pamela August 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

Welcome to the nomad life (outside of the US) :D
My 2 cents: go to La Ronda, drink Canelazo, eat empanadas!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thanks Pamela, we are glad to be here!

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Jen M. August 17, 2012 at 8:10 am

I would recommend going to Otavalo on the main market day (I think it’s Saturday). There is a market going on every day, but the big day is really the main event. Get there in the morning in order to visit the animal market- it’s finished by around noon. I found the animal market really fascinating and a good place to start your Otavalo visit. I also enjoyed walking around the food stalls and seeing just how many kinds of tripe there are.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thanks Jen! We are going to try to hit the Otavalo Market up very soon (and on a Saturday- you are right, that is the main market day).

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Dana - Our Wanderlust August 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

So Exciting!! Love the last picture you look so happy :) Enjoy every moment, we can’t wait to hear all about Ecuador from your point of view…

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Thanks Dana! I can’t wait to see Ecuador and write about it. Such a beautiful place already…

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Daniel August 17, 2012 at 8:41 am

Hi there,

My wife and I have been following your blog. We started travelling at about the same time as you, but headed straight for South America instead of your tour around the States.

We’re in Peru now, but were in Ecuador 3.5 weeks prior for a total of 6 weeks. We loved Otavalo, the market is good during the week, we didn’t see it on a weekend day, but it is supposed to be crazy. Be sure to check out the fresh food market just two or three blocks from the craft market. Baños was fun for a weekend, I wouldn’t recommend much more unless you’re planning to hit up the jungle from there (we’re waiting until Bolivia for the Amazon).

We spent 4 weeks on the coast of Ecuador. Be prepared, there are a lot of cloudy days this time of year so you won’t necessarily be getting pristine beach weather. Check out our blog as we’ve written up all the places we’ve visited. Make sure you visit Cuenca and El Parque Nacional Cajas just outside Cuenca, it was our favorite city to date.

As for the bickering, we experienced the same shortly after arriving the South America, we never fight, but the uncertainty of what we’re doing next or eating next or whatever was grating (see http://orofino.me/doldrums/ for our documentation of this). Jordan (my wife) basically planned where we’d visit ahead of time for Peru and it has been much, much better.

Best of luck and feel free to email us if you have specific questions.

- daniel

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Ah, I have heard so many great things about Cuenca and can’t wait to get down there. Thanks for the tip on the park- we will check it out!

Glad to hear we aren’t alone in the bickering (thought sorry for all of us that we weren’t!). Someone warned me of “decision fatigue” and I can see how that can easily set in.

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Rhonda August 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

WOOHOO. Great to see you made it and have already relaxed back into travel mode. Enjoy enjoy enjoy!! Can’t wait to see your pics of the markets.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Thanks Rhonda! It is SO GREAT to be FINALLY on the road (I know we were on the road for three months in the U.S., but as you know this feels much different).

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Tina August 17, 2012 at 9:48 am

You will love the people and food in Ecuador. If you get a chance go to La Cuenca, and take the train to Riobamba.

Have fun.

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Oh, thanks for this tip! I am going to look into this (La Cuenca hadn’t been on my radar before).

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Pamela August 17, 2012 at 9:54 am

I’m eager to see your future posts. I arrive in Quito late on the 24th (next Friday). I leave on the 26th for the Galapagos and then I’m back to Quito on the 2nd before heading to Cuzco. And, back once more on the 9th before heading home. I absolutely can’t wait to see Equador and Peru!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Pamela, we just might end up in the Galapagos at the same time. We’re still undecided because of cost but are leaning towards going because, well, how can we pass it up??

I will think of you as I write my posts and try to include some good tips. Have fun on your trip!

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Tracy August 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

This is so exciting! I have been eagerly awaiting your first post and am so happy to hear that you were able to let go of the worry/stress/anxiety and actually relax. It’s only going to get better from here, you two enjoy yourselves and eat lots of delicious food (that’s the best part of traveling, right?)

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I’ve already had some great food- it isn’t hard for this vegetarian to eat in Quito!

I totally believe that shit is about to get AWESOME!

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Jessie August 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm

As a fellow adventurous Oregonian, I want to say good on you for taking this huge step! I can’t wait to go on my own round the world extended trip. In the meantime, recommendations for Ecuador (I’ve been there 3 times, spending a total of over 6 months):
- Otavalo market’s biggest day is on Saturday, and it’s totally worth checking out, just be prepared to be overwhelmed and possibly a little lost :-) Also don’t take anything extra with you, watch your belongings the whole time, and I’d recommend bypassing the vendors who travel around (as opposed to staying at booths) because they are particularly persistent and will just follow you around for a long time. Eat at Posada del Quinde, best restaurant in Otavalo and say hi to the owners Maggie and Flor for Jessie from Tandana. There’s also a great pie shop right on the plaza that can’t be beat for awesome fruit pies.
- Mindo is beautiful, if you guys like “extreme” activities I highly recommend ziplining there. You can go tubing on the river too which is fun and not nearly as intense as white water rafting.
- But if you want an amazing and unique cloud forest experience and want to do some decent hiking, I strongly recommend visiting Santa Lucia Reserve. You can get there in a day from Quito, and it’s incredible. Very nice staff, genuine ecolodge up the mountain so you have to hike about an hour or so to get there (they have mules to take your big bags). Delicious food, great for hiking (they have a bunch of trails near the lodge), birdwatching, and being in one of the most peaceful places you can imagine.
- I love Baños, it’s a bit touristy but a lovely place to visit. Excellent restaurants, tons of activities (horseback riding, canyoning, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, etc.), and lots of spas for relaxing too. I recommend staying at La Casa Verde, it’s a little outside of town but a gorgeous ecolodge with fantastic views and great staff, they have a great cook and an in-house masseuse too! And don’t miss the chance to do a steam box, it’s the real Baños spa experience.
- If you like hot springs, check out Papallacta, really great (there’s a lodge called Pampallacta that has its own springs so you don’t have to leave the hotel grounds).
- The coast is beautiful, I’ve been to Mompiche and Bahia de Caraquez, and I’d recommend Mompiche as a nice chill beach town to visit, but be careful about what you eat… not exaggerating, on both my trips to the coast multiple people in the groups I was with got food poisoning!
- In Quito, I second the recommendation for Boca del Lobo, it’s very cool, though also closer to US prices. Other great places to eat in the same part of Quito (Mariscal) are The Magic Bean, Crepes and Waffles, and a place that’s up in the hills with gorgeous views of the city is Cafe Mosaico.
- The Galapagos is DEFINITELY worth the cost. I was just there in March and it was absolutely incredible. I’d recommend a boat cruise, you’ll be plenty comfy on tourist class boats and if you go to travel agents in Quito in person you can sometimes get good deals and last minute discounts. Do at least a 5-day/4-night boat trip, more would be better. If you also want to spend time on the main island, I’d suggest doing that first and then finishing with the boat trip, because doing it the other way was a little bit of a let-down.

Hope this is helpful, sorry it’s a lot of info, I just get so excited about Ecuador! I also know a nice organic fruit farm in the coastal area (not on the coast, just in the lowlands) that you might enjoy staying at, and you can learn how to make chocolate from scratch (it’s in Puerto Quito). Feel free to email me if you want any more specifics or other suggestions, and que disfruten! I’m so jealous :-)

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

WOW, thank you… this is amazing. Brian and I are laying in bed right now literally taking notes. I don’t even know where to start except to say that I KNOW I will be following some of these recommendations. We were just laughing because every hotel we’ve booked in Ecuador so far has been from recommendations that readers have left here in the comments section. THANK YOU.

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Jessica August 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Hooray! I’m so happy for you both. I’m in the midst of packing up my place and figuring out what to store, what to bring to Goodwill, etc. I know we’ll get through this not sexy or fun part of heading out to explore the world but right now I’m just stressed out! I’m so happy and glad that you guys made it to your first outside the US destination – I know my husband and I will make it to! We’re leaving in about a month. EEEEK! Also, that beer looks awesome. :)

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Oh, I want to hug you. I UNDERSTAND!!!! You can go back a few months (to May) and read all of my posts about the stress and sadness of being exactly where you are now. It passes, I promise. A month will FLY BY!

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Bethany ~ twoOregonians August 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Your description of those last days in Portland and the transition to the great Day One overseas rings so true. One of my most vivid memories came from a moment with myself, staring at my reflection in the airplane bathroom mirror while we were on that flight from California to Lima: “Yes. This is it. This morphing into newness is real, and it’s here, and it’s never going to be the same again.” The melting away of tension and anxiety and the fresh start on a new continent: incredible.

So, so happy for you, Kim (and Brian!). Soak it up. Safety and joy to you! xx

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Ah, I love that you know exactly how it feels. Thank you for the love. I can honestly feel it. Sending ours to you and Ted. XO

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Brian August 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Bethany – I did the same exact thing on the flight from LA to Lima!

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Skott and Shawna - Get Up & Globe August 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Congrats guys on leaving the motherland!!! Yes, one dollar beers are truly one of the greatest parts of travelling, no? PS… they get even cheaper… Vietnam for example. Shawna and I are currently right above you in Cali, Colombia. As you are beginning your RTW, ours is coming to an end with us winding up back in Canada within the next month.

Sadly, we are unable to give you any tips for Ecuador as we have never been, but would you mind if we turned the tables a bit? We have 3-4 nights in Portland on the way home in early Sept. I think we are planning on running a Pints to Pasta (or something like that) 10km, but other than that we are open to all ideas.

Travel safe!

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Kim August 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Oh yes, I know the Pints to Pasta (thought I have never run it myself. Delicious Widmer beer at the end- totally worth it!). I would love to give you some tips about Portland and I will email you soon!

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Lindsey August 17, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Hooray for renewed excitement and $1 beers! I can’t wait to read about Mindo – sounds amazing.

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Yay- the more I drink $1 beer the more I love them :)

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Hannah August 18, 2012 at 4:36 am

This made me so happy!!! Congratulations guys – you made it! I am so in that stressful period myself right now, as our final 6 weeks race by. I’m constantly battling against my bad mood and am struggling in very unexpected ways. Reading this has lifted my spirits so much – there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I can’t take my eyes off it. Much love to you both xxx

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Oh, Hannah, I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. It’s so funny because other people always told me that it is worth it and I believed it but I didn’t know it. But now I know. Just keep on keeping on my friend. You will get there and it will be beautiful.

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Sarah Somewhere August 18, 2012 at 6:54 am

Wow! I couldnt concentrate after seeing Brian beardles!!! He looks so YOUNG! Tyrhone recently shaved his off too and its always a bit strange for the first few days. Rock on guys, you made it!!!!!

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I should have warned everyone that he shaved off his beard. I think I was too traumatized at first to mention it. He vows not to cut it again until our trip is over. This could get interesting.

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Patti August 18, 2012 at 9:50 am

Congratulations on taking a successful first leap abroad. I look forward to reading your posts and following your adventures. And I’ll be taking notes and tucking them away for our future travels. Safe Travels ~

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Thanks Patti :)

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Traveling Ted August 18, 2012 at 10:03 am

If you only knew when you were stressed out in Portland that you would soon be in a hostel drinking a $1.00 beer, you would not have been so stressed. Look forward to more reports from the big adventure.

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm

It’s true, Ted, but I had no idea what to expect!! It’s so good to be on the road with a little more understanding…

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Tracey Tullis August 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

So happy for you guys! And excited for you too. You did it!! Awesome… I can’t wait to read about Ecuador. My family and I are in the process of selling almost everything to drive to South America in 2013. You guys are so inspiring and I love reading your posts. Congrats and enjoy those $1.00 beers:)

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Awesome, Tracey, and congrats on your upcoming adventure!! I hope I can give you lots of tips about Ecuador that you and your family can use.

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lori August 18, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Hi! I just found your site though I feel like I heard the yellow envelope project story so maybe I just found you again!

And what timing! I just returned from a short career break (2 months) solely in South America. My last stop? Ecuador!

Start talking to people about getting to the Galapagos! You can get such a last minute deal because you have all the flexibility in the world! I am not sure what season it is now – I went in March which was low season. But go go go!!

And best of luck to you on your travels!
Lori

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Lori, thank you! Due to your encouragement (and others) we are going to go. We started shopping for last minute deals today. Did you take the north or south route?

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) August 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I completely understand this post, Kim. The same thing happened to Tony and myself before we left on our trip… weeks of living with my family, then his family, and the stress/anticipation of finally leaving took its toll on us and we were always sniping and just feeling out of synch. I thought we’d get back into our old groove once it was just the two of us in the world, but we have still had a few rough patches as we adjust to our new way of life. I assume this whole trip will be a journey in more ways than one, and I am confident that once we figure out a pace that is sustainable and makes us happy, we will get back to our old selves.

So glad to hear you and Brian made it to Ecuador safely. And ditto Sarah’s comment about Beardless Brian: I didn’t recognize him in that first picture (I wondered why you were taking photos of random strangers at the Lima airport! ;). If I can offer some generic advice, it’s to take it slow and not push yourself too hard. After 10 days of travel, I can say that the pace at which long-term travel feels good vs. your standard vacation is quite different! Take the time to take things slow and keep us all posted!

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Kim August 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Steph, I love that we are at the same place in our journey and that Brian and I are not the only one’s struggling to adjust to this new life as a couple. It’s challenging but I know we will be stronger when we make it through.

We have been in Quito for five days and this is the longest we have been in one place since we left Ohio back in June. Today we sat at the hostel all day reading and writing in the sun- it was WONDERFUL and exactly what we needed. I am definitely learning that moving slow and having down time is CRUCIAL to my happiness.

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Dalene August 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Relief! Sweet relief! Ahh, love that you overcame all the stress on the plane ride. Didn’t I tell you that? Is it okay for me to say ‘I TOLD YOU SO’?? Haha.

So happy to read these first couple of posts at the beginning of your big journey and see you settling into your groove. I HOPE you make it to the Galapagos! :)

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Kim August 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

You TOTALLY told me so!! Actually, knowing that you told me so (and others as well) helped me get through the hard parts. So thank you for that!

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Ian August 22, 2012 at 8:59 am

That must be an amazing feeling knowing that you have an open itinerary to go anywhere at anytime without being rushed. keep traveling safely my friends!

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Brandon August 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Kim,

I’m very excited for you guys. Can’t wait to be down there myself – only 2.5 weeks till I leave!

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Rebecca September 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

So exciting!! The stress would have come from the unknown, the fact you’re doing something “different” – but glad to see you’re now relaxed. Have fun, looking forward to following your adventures! :-)

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Scott September 11, 2012 at 5:07 am

It’s been pretty hectic out here the last 7 months and I kind of lost track of you guys,but just wanted to say congrats on getting started and welcome to the other side!

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Kim September 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks Scott!!

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) October 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” … best. motto. ever.

We adopted it about 3 years ago and has served us very well.

SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!

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Kim October 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Thank you Sonja!

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April June 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm

I was interested to read about you anxiety and numbness. We are 2 weeks out and I have more mind runs of being at the airport with our 2 grown children and saying bye than I have a lot of other things about the trip. Maybe because our original 5 (we have 2 in law kids) has never been on separate continents before and I seriously want this trip to be awesome for our 12 year old daughter. I can envision myself being numb, so if I am I won’t feel quite so abnormal. :) I’ve loved traveling with you before we go!
April recently posted..Ecuador Post #1- pre-trip, the itinerary

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Kim June 4, 2014 at 6:53 am

Hi April, it’s funny how that anxiety and numbness can set it. But I bet you’ll find there is a moment- whether on the plane or at some point on your trip, when you realize that you are living right there in the moment and loving it like crazy. ENJOY Ecuador. We found the people to be so friendly and kind.

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