I am finally settled back in at home after the long trip back from Ecuador. Having had a little bit of time to recuperate from jet-lag and to rest (I came down with a bad flu at the end of the seminar), I have finally had time to process and internalize the significance of many of the amazing experiences that I had over the last month. In order to keep this somewhat short-winded, I have decided to just go ahead make a list of all of my favorite things about the country and the trip…
1. The people. Everyone that we met along our travels through Ecuador were just beautiful. Every time we arrived in a new location re welcomed by a smiling face, whether it be the owner of the hostal that we stayed at or our guide Sandra in the Galapagos. The people of Ecuador made us feel comfortable and were more than happy to share their knowledge with us.
2. The people (again). I have to admit that I was a little nervous when I departed about living with 13 other people for a month that I didn’t know. However, I should not have been whatsoever, because I would now consider every single person that I traveled with a friend. We all made great memories together, and enjoyed every second of it.
3. The variety. Ecuador is an amazing country in the fact that it contains so many different climates and environments in such a small area. We were able to travel from the bustling city Quito, perched high in the Andes, to the cloud forest, the Amazon basin, a volcano, and the Galapagos Islands with the maximum travel time to any one place at 6 hours. The scenery changes so drastically, and there is always something beautiful to look at and admire wherever you go.
4. The food. The seafood in Ecuador is delicious. We were lucky enough to get to go fishing with local fisherman in the Galapagos Islands, and it was really exciting because it was something that many of us had not gotten to experience before (we caught a tuna and ate it on the boat). There are also many delicious juices served daily with breakfast and lunch (guava, papaya, passion fruit, tree tomato), and the plantains… I could eat them for days!
5. The biodiversity. Many places in the country are considered biological “hot spots”, and when you get there it is immediately apparent why. Some of them contained plants and flowers in such variety that it was like you would see something new everywhere you looked (especially in the cloud forest, where there would be flowers layered all the way up through the canopy, with the orchids being a personal favorite of mine). On the mainland we saw so many different animals; monkeys, parrots, owls and other birds, iguanas, lizards, butterflies, and a very handsome tarantula. The Galapagos were especially spectacular with their endemic plants and unique animals and the marine life. We saw giant tortoises, hawks, marine iguanas, land iguanas, very friendly sea lions, penguins, blue-footed boobies, sea turtles, and of course finches. The fish were beautiful (especially the reef fish), and the group even got to snorkel with sharks and sting rays!
6. The ‘adventure‘. This trip really forced me to confront all of my fears, and allowed me to discover what I am capable of as an individual. Whether it be confronting my fear of heights while I am walking over 100 feet up in the air through the canopy at Tucanopy, to just stepping out of my comfort zone here at home to travel internationally for the first time, I discovered that there are so many experiences waiting to be had if I just push myself a little bit further. Every single day that we were on our trip we would settle in for the evening or go to bed at night saying something along the lines of “I can’t believe I just got to do that….!”. To me, that means that this exploration seminar was more than an educational experience; it changed the way that we perceive the world, ourselves, and our environment.
Overall, I can say that I am so thankful that I got this opportunity, because it has really truly enriched my life.