It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Ecuador for over a month now. I don’t know what we were thinking before we left the U.S., but 4.5 months in South America just isn’t enough. I’m excited to head to India in January, but I’m sad that we’re not able to explore every nook and cranny of the places we’re visiting. There’s so much to see and do.
I’m constantly amazed at how quickly we’ve adapted to our new way of life. Aside from a few minor bumps in the road, and the incredible stress right before we left the states, we’ve fallen into this new lifestyle with ease. We’re having such an incredible adventure and I sometimes still have to pause and allow myself to realize that after years of planning and dreaming this is actually happening. I feel similar to the way I used to feel in college- carefree and aware that I am fully participating in the act of being alive. I’m learning a lot. I’m having a hell of a good time. My future feels wide open again.
We’re currently in Baños, Ecuador, where we’re spending three weeks, and we love it here. Baños itself is small and charming, a beautiful little town tucked into the Andes mountains. We are living and volunteering at Arte del Mundo, an organization that promotes literacy and the arts to the children of Baños.
A view of Baños, Ecuador from the hills above
We’re living communally with six other volunteers and it’s so fun. I love that I’m making new friends from all over the world. We’ve met such an eclectic and fun mix of people. Brian and I both lean towards introversion and before we left I feared that we might get lonely out here on the road. But the truth is that so far any moments of loneliness have been fleeting and outnumbered by whole days filled with new friends.
Dinner with our friends and fellow volunteers
We’ve been busy in Baños! In the mornings we are taking Spanish classes (for four hours!) at Mayra’s Spanish School. We have private lessons with our teacher Markos, whom we adore. Brian and I are both terrible students, we can’t remember a thing, but Markos is patient and he’s teaching us a lot about the language and about life in Ecuador.
This is how we normally look and feel in Spanish class
In the afternoons we volunteer with the children. We read with them for an hour and then launch into an activity that the volunteers have planned in advance. We do fun things like make silent movies, bake cookies, create art and play games outside.
Hosting the Baños Olympics
By the end of the day Brian and I are both exhausted and our heads are spinning. Learning (or, rather, attempting to learn) a new language is hard. I’ve found that I improve the most during the hours I’m working with the kids. They talk a million miles a minute and don’t care that I can’t speak a lick of Spanish. I have to get creative and use my limited vocabulary to communicate with them. I end up saying ridiculous things like “you to read book with me?” and “no to run!” but at least I get my point across.
I’ve been running regularly here in Baños and even have a normal route. Baños is hilly and at elevation so the running is slow-going, but I love exploring the dusty back roads outside of town. It’s not uncommon for me to be chased by dogs, rerouted around cows and horses, or stopped by locals who want to ask me where I’m from and how long I’ll be in Ecuador.
It’s been so nice to settle into a place, unpack our bags, and establish a bit of a routine. There’s a part of me that’s beginning to itch with the desire to move on, to see the next city, the next country, but a bigger part of me that is happy that we’ve spent some serious time getting to know Baños. We’re learning a lot about how we like to travel. The deeper, richer experiences seem to happen only when we slow down.