Even though I know that we each make our own happiness, I have still been searching for a place that feels like home. It was one of the things I was hoping to find when I came to Ecuador; I had this dream of walking into a valley or stepping onto the beach and suddenly, miraculously, feeling like I belonged. Continue reading Home is…
Riding a quad up into the hills east of Olón this week turned out to be a bumpy adventure and though some small instances may have required minor trespassing, it was well worth it.
As the sun was beginning to set I found myself standing atop a world more beautiful than I had known existed.
Horses and cows were the only creatures inhabiting the immediate area, and for the first time I found myself envious of what a member of the animal kingdom possessed.
The ocean, in its blue tranquility, stretched along the horizon, caressed by a soft sandy beach that teased and invited each and every wave that broke upon its shore. The ocean seemed to be, if such a thing were possible, contained on the left by the cliff that cuts the beach off from Montanita and on the right by the lush green hills that led to the rainforest near Ayampe.
The small pueblos of Olón, La Curia, San José and Las Núñez marked mankind’s habitation of the area, yet they did so with a finesse, a smooth blending that western culture has yet to master. Nature here possesses a strength that is not so easily cowed by man.
Rushing up from the coast, to my vantage point above the world, was a blanket of lush vibrant green. Life, rich and intense, covering every inch of earth.
I fell in love I think, in those moments, with a dream or with possibility. It was breathtaking, and I mean that without a single ounce of the creative exaggeration that us writers are liable to wantonly throw about. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe, my mind empty of thoughts, the deep thrum of desire at the core of my being the only sensation that I could feel.
You need to have felt it, I believe, to understand it. The pinpricks of goosebumps along flesh, the inexplicable welling of tears in awestruck eyes and the uncontrollable wanting that burns from the inside out.
I can see myself there, in the elusive future that I have never been able to imagine, in the still morning with a steaming mug of coffee in my hand, watching the world come to life before me. I can see the nights, the sun setting in a blaze of color, giving the world over to the stars, and on the clear nights, the milky way stretching out above me as fireflies dance through the darkness, performing for me alone.
Only one addition could improve this daydream; something this incredible is not meant to be experienced alone.
As I walk down the dark beach, the roar of the ocean the only sound I hear, the faint shimmer on the white capped waves the only thing I see; there is nothing to distract me from the power that surrounds me. The earth, the air; it hums with it. You can feel it down in the depths of your bones. I cannot imagine that anyone could stand with me and not sense it. It isn’t the gentle ebb and flow of the tide, it isn’t the gentle lapping of waves upon the shore. It is more than that here. The waves crash and roll, leaping forward; more alive than anything I have felt before.
It is strength, and here in this deep darkness, the moon and stars hidden by the clouds, the fog shrinking the world into what is right in front of you, it is loneliness. A great emptiness that rages and beckons. Terrifying and alluring. A sirens call.
I think first impressions are important. Often in that first split second you will get a feeling, a gut-reaction that can be extremely telling, even if you don’t know exactly where it is coming from. A sense of suspicion when you first meet someone. An unsettled feeling when you walk into a room. That flip in your stomach when you lock eyes with a perfect stranger. These moments have meaning, and should never be ignored.
That being said. There is only so much that you can know about a person or a place from the first initial introduction
I chose Ecuador as a destination because circumstances made it the most convenient and affordable place for me to shake things up a little. Not to mention the rather loud voice inside of me insisting that should I leave Canada, I had damn well better go to a place with sun.
Sun there is. My slightly crispy shoulders will attest to that fact.
I arrived in Quito with a cold. It had started developing the night before in Calgary and by the time the plane landed in Ecuador my ability to breathe, or eat without embarrassing myself had diminished almost completely.
When I arrived I was tired, my face felt like it was the size of an elephant and I was unprepared to enter a completely new world. My initial feeling was more akin to dread than excitement. I was afraid. Afraid I had made a mistake in signing the next six months of my life over to this new country. I was overwhelmed. The language was unfamiliar, I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying around me and it seemed like I was in a completely different world.
I didn’t actually enter the city of Quito, so if you’re hoping for a run-down of the big cities you’re not going to get it yet. The airport is on the outskirts and since we arrived in the middle of the night we immediately went to our hotel in a small area called Tababela. (I’m not 100% certain the first hotel we stayed in was actually IN Tababela, though it was certainly nearby).
The first morning I awoke to the sound of birds. Beautiful birds with their delicate voices raised in song… and the rather forceful cock-a-doodle-do of the resident rooster. I don’t mind the roosters, they make me giggle a little every time I hear them. I will say this though: The idea that they only crow at dawn….. absurd. If he sees sunshine, a tasty bug, a pretty chicken he wants to make his own… you know, any of the things that are going to make your average rooster happy, he’s going to be doing a little cock-a-doodling. Love him for it. At least you know he’s enjoying life.
The hotel was really a collection of buildings, each with a few rooms and washrooms as well as a central building for eating. The whole area was enclosed in a compound of sorts, and filled with all manner of lush trees and flowers. Edible fruits were growing on trees that had barely grown to hip height, they don’t bother waiting for maturity to begin producing. It’s incredible. Flowers of every color and size lured me in and occupied both me and my camera for a great deal of time. This, my first real sight in Ecuador, was a veritable garden of Eden.
And yet I wasn’t happy. I let my initial fears and uncertainty govern my reactions and didn’t let myself move beyond that initial impression.
The first three days we stayed just on the outskirts of Quito and didn’t do much beyond explore the small town center of Tababela. I found the combination of my cold and the altitude rather exhausting. I was passed out by 6 every night; there was no way I could keep my eyes open for another second.
But. An hour long flight from Quito to Guayaquil and a 3.5 hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Olon, and everything began to change.
I should never have let my first impression color my opinion of Ecuador. It is one thing to take that first feeling, that gut-reaction into consideration. But it is entirely another to hold on to it when the reality before you is so obviously different.
There is poverty here, without a doubt. The people live differently and yes, when they realize you are a tourist there are some that will try to take advantage of you. No where on this earth is perfect, and it never will be so long as humans remain imperfect. Such is life. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of the people here aren’t beautiful, kind and open. They greet each other on the street, they smile and they mean it, and it’s perfectly normal to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.
So I’m taking Spanish lessons; I’m going to learn enough that I can communicate with the beautiful people here. I’m going to eat the amazing food, see the incredible sights and do my best to fully experience what this country has to offer.
See you soon chicos!
You might think, seeing as how I have chosen to spend the next six months of my life in Ecuador, I would know a great deal about the country. That is not precisely the case. I have heard a number of first hand accounts, as both my parents spent time there last winter – but beyond that my knowledge is rather limited.
With my departure date looming I’ve been trying to dedicate some time to researching my destination but I find myself more entranced by the videos of the beaches and photographs of the wildlife and waterfalls than any technical details. It will be interesting to see how much my expectations diverge from reality.
I have made the executive decision to pack as little as possible, I don’t want to be dragging around an accompaniment of unnecessary paraphernalia. The first items rejected from my list were beauty products; hair dryers, straighteners and the like. I’ve always been a hint of a diva, no extremes, but I’ve never travelled without ensuring that I have the opportunity to beautify myself when I feel it’s necessary. I think this might be good for me. :P
I’ll be arriving in Quito on the 14th of January; I have a vague idea of what is going to happen after that. Very vague. The plan is to spend the first two months near the ocean. I get the feeling that I’m going to get really good at flying by the seat of my pants. Which… also might be good for me.
If you want to know something in particular about the places I am visiting; just let me know! I’m not at all opposed to taking requests for blog topics. :)
Life is a funny thing. The more I feel like I’m figuring out who I am, the less I seem to know what I should do with this new-found knowledge. Perhaps it’s because life, the good kind, is meant to be a mystery. I certainly wouldn’t want the rest of my days to count out in ordered predictability. I find that the older I get, the more chances I take and the more willing I am to jump blindly into my future.
(My fortunes tell me this is a good idea. Obviously you should always listen to the cookie.)
Life doesn’t work out the way you plan. Well. Perhaps if you’re seriously great in the planning department, it might – but if you’re like me and leave everything until the last minute, forget to pack your socks and resort to winging it, life can throw you some unexpected curve balls. (Not sure what’s up with the sports metaphors… but lets roll with it.)
I’m a writer. A bit of a slow one. I slack, I get distracted and I STILL haven’t finished anything. But it doesn’t make me less of a writer, just an as-yet-unfullfilled one. I don’t know what it’s going to take to launch me into the seat of a published author, but I figure one of these days I’ll finally spit out the next great Canadian novel and be able to figure out what my next step is.
In the meantime, because I can’t sit still anymore, and what I’m doing just isn’t working for me… I’m going to change things up a little bit.
January 13th, 2014 – I’m skipping town for a while. I’m going to add to my collection of experiences and hopefully end up with hundreds of stories to entertain you with. (Should you enjoy the stories I plan to share, and happen to be capable of offering me a job as a travel writer, do not be afraid to contact me. I’d be willing to talk.)
Where am I going? Somewhere with a little bit of jungle, a little bit of beach, and whole ton of character and culture.
I’m off to the wilds of Ecuador; and I won’t come back without a story.
There are some kisses that every person should experience. First, the terrible, slobbery, can’t-close-your-eyes variety – they are necessary to better appreciate the great ones. The passionate, push-you-up-against-a-wall kisses, that shut your brain off and don’t leave any room for thought. Kisses that are filled with longing, with hope, and kisses that are really just a whisper goodbye.
But mostly, kisses that you never want to end. Where you think you should pull back, maybe you even try to, but neither one is willing to walk away. Noses touch, hands pull you in and it doesn’t matter if you’re late for work or that someone might see or even that five minutes ago you were determined that this kiss was never going to happen.
Because those lips on yours fit; and you don’t care what impression you’re giving because you know the moment that those lips are gone… you will miss them.
And if, by some chance, you never get them back, you will never regret kissing them… just once more.
I innocently said, “I’d love to do something like that”. Never knowing just how much I meant it.
Eight months ago, when I started this particular leg of my journey, I considered myself unmemorable. Call it a lack of self confidence. I had this tragic habit of looking at anything challenging and assuming it was beyond me. What a terrible way to live.
This last year has been wonderful for me, even the pitfalls and struggles have served to build me up and, in the end, make me stronger.
Because without challenges, we cannot grow. And without growth, we do not live.
I’m not going to say that it was meeting any one person that changed my outlook, or that one day I woke up a new woman. Though there are certainly people and events that contributed; I have found that you’re more likely to be changed by a series of small, nearly unnoticeable events than one cataclysmic happening.
The obstacle course was just one day. Just one more thing I’m able to do. Just one more reason to be proud of who I am.
The difference between me today, and the me I was a year ago, is that not only do I know what I need to do to improve who I am, and where my life is going, but I’m not afraid of it. Whether I am alone or supported by family and friends, I will succeed. All I need to do… is do it.
I’m smart enough to know when I’ve hit a limit and when I’ve just given up. Though I work hard, I haven’t yet worked ‘as hard as I can’. Our breaking points have nothing to do with the strength of our bodies – they are determined entirely by the strength of our will. The moments when I give up, they have never been because I can’t go on. They have always been because I won’t.
It doesn’t make me a failure. It gives me something to work on.
It might seem odd, to have learnt so much about who I am, in the confines of a gym. But it’s true. What before was “I can’t” has become “I will” – and as I do more and more of what I had assumed was impossible for me, (because it simply wasn’t ‘me’), I realize just how far I have yet to go. This isn’t daunting. It’s exciting. What am I going to do tomorrow, or a year from now, that I have never yet dreamed of?
What an exhilarating rush, to realize that your potential is so vast, you could never imagine the full breadth and width of it.
Next Up. Spartan Sprint.
There is a great deal to be said for accomplishing something that a former version of yourself would have been convinced she could not do. There is more to be said for realizing that, while it’s a great achievement, it doesn’t represent a fraction of what you are capable of.
It is easy to say, life is good enough, I’m doing ok – lets not mess with the status quo. Seems like a solid, responsible thing to do. It’s not. The status quo is there for you to beat, stomp on, crumple up and eventually leave behind you in the dirt. If you don’t, you are doing the least responsible thing you can, because you’re not living up to your potential. And if you’re not living up to your potential, you are wasting the most precious commodity you have. Your life. (And, as I’m sure my mother would be happy to tell you, wasting what you’re given is not even remotely responsible of you.)
Why the speech? I beat a milestone this weekend, actually in a way, I beat a few. I started kickboxing because it was something I had always wanted to try, and never thought I would do. Beginning was a huge stepping stone for me. Because of this, I began to learn a little bit about strength, about confidence and a whole lot about myself.
For example. I’m not a mouse. Some people would tell you that I am, but I’m not. A mouse wouldn’t have been willing to compete in a karate/kickboxing tournament. But I did. And came home with a Silver in Sparring. Is the little trophy sitting on my shelf going to change the world? The chances are slim. Did it bestow me with some all-powerful skill? I don’t think so. (But if it does I’ll let you know.) But that doesn’t make it any less of an achievement to be proud of. I can tick off another box, move another step forward, and that is always a reason to hold your head high.
Today I got to trade in my white hand wraps (the sign of an un-tried beginner) for the happy glow of yellow wraps — a sign to all that I have moved up in the world. I’m still a beginner, which is perfectly fine because I am aware of just how much I have to learn; but I am better than I was, and will continue to improve.
I’ve set a new goal for myself – if you’re curious you can find out more about it -> here.
My point today? Go for it. Even if the current version of you can’t hack it. Because the ‘you’ of the future can, and if you don’t give her a chance; you will never discover what you are capable of.
Don’t you want to know?
Wine Appreciation is certainly something that anyone can participate in, on any night (or day) of the week. (I won’t judge.) A fine wine, to a wine lover (because I know you don’t all share my appreciation of the libation), can add a nice little dash of ‘something’ to everyday life. Combine it with a good book and a fire and it brings out a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Mix in a glass while you’re having a gab with the girlfriends and you’ll find that laughter and open conversation are also on the cards. (I’m trying to picture a bunch of guys sitting around and doing the same thing but my imagination just isn’t quite cutting it, if you’re a guy and you’ve done this (not in a couple situation) please do let me know!) … Have a sip or two during a romantic dinner with your lover and the wine might turn a lingering glance into nothing short of passion.
Wine, to me, has always been about emotion. More so than any other form of alcohol, wine has the tendency to amplify what I’m already feeling. (As such I have learnt that it is better consumed when I am happy, in love, mellow… and so on.) But while I know I enjoy a glass or two, I’ve never really delved much more deeply into my appreciation for this particular elixir. Which is why I decided to take a Wine Appreciation class at my local college. (Yes. I know. Wine Appreciation, at college?? In my opinion it’s a beautiful thing and I was delighted to see it on the menu. Erm. In the catalogue that is.)
I convinced a good friend to go with me and went off on this adventure completely uncertain of what to expect. We arrived to find a number of bottles of wine (all hidden from view) and a plethora of meats and cheeses waiting for us. There were only ten of us in the class and we were all supplied with wine glasses and water – and a cup to spit the wine into if we were so inclined. (I did not partake of this particular option…) You could tell that no one was really sure what to do or how to act when they all first arrived. It was fun to see how the environment changed from nothing but awkwardness to one filled with laughter and enjoyment as we slowly tested the wines that were available. Perhaps for that reason alone a glass of wine at night would be conducive to good health. The reduction of stress is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
We sniffed, tasted, formed opinions and learnt about the various types of wine, how food changes the taste, what can ruin what should be a good bottle and all kinds of interesting little tidbits. The course was taught by Adrian Bryksa (@YYCWine) and he was delightfully un-snobby, clearly educated in the world of wine and an enjoyable teacher; the ideal person to share an ‘Appreciation’ for wine.
After this experience I would have to say that it never hurts to learn more about the things that you enjoy. Because really, the more you know, the more you can appreciate them!
Want to make a girl happy? BBQ me an organic steak (or tell me the name of the cow it came from) with the faintest hint of pink left in the meat, and woo me with a bottle of Clos Du Val, Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage I tried was a 2009, but I would be open to trying out other years. ;) I would also happily accept a seafood dish served with a Trimbach, Reisling, 2010.