Cuenca, Ecuadorand I am zooming past it in the back seat of a dusty ’53 pick up. With a cold jugo de mora wedged between overheated legs, I begin to think of home for the first time in 800 miles. As I blow past arbitrary shacks, fields complete with cows, pigs, and the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, I begin to realize this is what I want. I began to feel for the first time that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in this moment.
I wake up to the tune of trills, caws, and tweets rising in volume with the sun. Luckily, I have an internal alarm clock set for seven o’clock, and am able to enjoy this unexpected soundtrack. I look out the window and see a swarm of red, turquoise and yellow loading every tree branch to breaking point. As the birds begin to stare back at me, I open the window which swings open making a loud thud; birds fly past me like emerald bullets- it has been the best wake up call I have ever experienced. As soon as we are all ready, the four of us set out to find the waterfalls that La Cuenca is so renowned for. We are in the middle of a thick green jungle and stumble upon a water fall leading to a cement dugout that looks like Ecuador’s version of Wild wave’s water slides. We lie down in the biting water until our backs are flat down and allow the current to take us for a ride, each of us going right after the next.
I am arriving upon my second absolutely incredible month in Ecuador and feel as if I have already gown and evolved- appreciating and learning as much as my brain can hold in its capacity. I have gone so many incredible places here. I spent a Saturday in the crafts market at Otavalo and bought the complete market for forty dollars, I have straddled the red line at “La Mitad del Mundo” that marks the Equator, one foot in each hemisphere; and in April, I will scuba dive and get nose to nose with tortoises in the GalÃ¡pagos. The second week I was here I took an eight hour bus ride to Cuenca, a jungle four states over from where I live.
I live in the state of Pichincha, Ecuador with my host- mother Fatima; she is a dentist and is the tiniest lady I have ever seen. My host- father Julio is an engineer that works at the electrical dams in Cuenca. He is an intelligent man, who comically insists on telling me every word in Spanish very slowly “le-che means milk” he will say as he pulls it out of the fridge, and my wonderful host-brother Pablo, who is eighteen and takes me to the most remarkable places. I stay in the room of their daughter who went on emersion to Norway.
As much as you think you might, you can’t really understand a culture until you’re living in it and being affected by it. The decision to move to Ecuador was one I made on my own. I decided to pick one place and go there completely. What will make this trip life changing is partly the place, but more over what I bring to Ecuador: infatuation, curiosity, and understanding. It is the people I meet and how my experience will change how I act in daily life. I am staying here long enough to get under Ecuador’s skin, and let it get under mine.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.