Tag Archives: Ecuador

Excitement in Ecuador

It’s been a while since I have done anything adventurous. OK, that is not entirely true; I did hike the Inca Trail last summer. But, aside from that, which was a while ago now, I haven’t done anything that caused me nervous excitement before hand in too long. Now, don’t get the wrong idea here: I’m not a bungee jumping, sky diving, or any type of plummeting toward the Earth kind of girl. But, I do like a little action here and there, which is why I am really excited about visiting Ecuador!

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A small country in comparison to most of its South American neighbors, Ecuador is big on adventure. With its landscapes changing from coastal beaches and the Galapagos Islands, cloud forests and rain forests to mountains & volcanoes, there is something for every outdoor lover to enjoy. People come to Ecuador to surf, trek through the jungle, hike and climb up mountains, birdwatch, white water raft, mountain bike and gaze upon species of wildlife completely unique to the area. I want to do all of those things, plus I am considering trying some new things: horseback riding and canyoning. I have never done either, and they both freak me out a bit, so I think I should give them a shot (funds permitting).

Quilotoa-Loop, Ecuador

Cotopaxi

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Aside from all of its natural wonders, Ecuador is also huge on culture. Home to many colonial cities waiting to be explored and the oldest market in South America, it seems like I could spend forever and a day here. Good thing I will have about a month!

Otavalo Market

My plan is to cross by bus from Colombia and start making my way around the country, ultimately finishing in Guayaquil, so I can hop a flight to Spain. It seems like Ecuador will be very compatible with my $50 USD/day budget, which is really important. Actually, it turns out Ecuador’s official currency is the US Dollar, so there is no exchange rate to consider; $1 USD = $1 USD. The difference is in what $1 USD can get you in Ecuador vs. the U.S. For example,  a 1 hour bus ride in Ecuador will cost you about $1, a 2 hour bus ride about $2 and so on. In the NY, NJ, PA area, a 1 or 2 hour bus ride can cost anywhere from $7 on Megabus to $20 on Greyhound; that is up to 10 times the price in Ecuador!  With its extensive bus network and affordable prices, getting around in Ecuador is definitely cheap and should be relatively easy. Honestly, I’m hoping I will be able to stay a bit under budget here so I can more comfortably afford the relatively pricey countries that will follow.

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I still have much more research to do to pinpoint which towns and cities I want to visit and to map a general order in which I should do things. But from what I do already know it will certainly be the action packed adventure I need!

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My Itinerary: An Updated Plan

While the waiting is my least favorite part, I have been enjoying the chance to really think about what I want to get out of this trip, what I want to do and see, and how to make sure it is all that I am dreaming of. As I have talked about in other posts, two of my biggest goals are to greatly improve my Spanish and to move and explore at my own pace, lingering or leaving as I see fit.

I have slowly been shaping an itinerary with these things in mind: 7 months in Central and South America and 2 months in Italy for a total of 9 months of travel. Ready to get down into more specifics about what towns and cities I want to visit in each place, I began to research Belize in-depth and realized I might have a bit of a problem- I could easily explore this tiny country forever, but had allotted about 3 weeks there in order to get through all of the countries I wanted to before heading to Europe. My plan also involved about 6 weeks of Spanish language school in Guatemala and 2 weeks exploring the rest of the country for a total of 8 weeks. This would mean that in 3 months I would have just made it out of the first two countries I’d hoped to visit with only 4 months to go and at least 10 countries left to see…typing this now it was clearly a terrible plan.  I was also realizing that this plan would plant me solidly in Argentina and Brazil in June and July, two of the coldest South American months- no bueno!

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So, I started thinking about how I could make some adjustments and bring my plan back into the realm of the reasonable. First, I tackled the length of my trip: I originally chose 9 months because I thought that with the money I spent on paying off my loans I would be restricted in the number of months I could really afford to spend out in the world. But, with some more strict cuts to my monthly spending (at this point I literally can’t cut anything else out) it looks like I may still be able to meet my original goal of $25,000 after all. Also, after re-evaluating, I decided that I don’t need as much money to come home to as I was originally planning to keep, and that it is safe to spend more of it on the road. So, I have now extended the length of my trip back to a little over 11 months.

Another important piece of the puzzle: my best friend is getting married in Spain in July of 2014! Obviously there is no way I am going to miss this. So, a new route is in order!

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After thinking it all through, I have now settled on an itinerary that takes care of almost all of my issues and leaves me with something I feel better about: I will still begin in Belize and make my way down through Central America to Ecuador. From here I will fly to Spain, then hit Italy while I’m already in the area. Once I am finished in Italy, I will fly back to Ecuador and finish the rest of South America! With this new plan:

  1. I will get 6 whole months in Central America and Ecuador allowing for the slower pace I have wanted. I will be able to linger in Belize for 4 weeks without losing out somewhere else.
  2. I will cut Spanish school in Guatemala down to 4 weeks. I still want to learn as much as I can, so I will attend for another week or two along the way in other countries- maybe Honduras or Ecuador. This way, I will have time to practice actually using Spanish between formal lessons and will get to brush up and build on what I have been learning in real interactions. I will also get to stay put in other locations for a week or two and learn different accents and local slang. I think this is the best plan for my language retention.
  3. There are direct flights from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Madrid, so it will be easy to get a round trip to Europe half way through. I will get to spend time in Espana and then easily jump over to Italy. While it will be high tourist season, it will be summer and I’d prefer to be there in the warmth. I will also get a chance to practice Spanish in Spain and break up the culture of the Americas with a little stint in Europe. Not to mention, after 6 months out on my own, it will be nice to see a familiar face.
  4. I will miss the South American winter and will be in Argentina and Brazil in the spring when temperatures are much more pleasant. I’ll have 3.5 months or so to dedicate just to the South American countries I haven’t visited yet, again allowing for a slower more pleasant pace.

This new itinerary feels good to me and I think doing my trip this way will help me get everything I want out of next year!

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Oh, and today my countdown hits 299 days until I go- I have finally made it out of the 300s!