I meander along the rocky shore and smell the damp sea air as it caresses my cheek with a cool, salty kiss. I look out over the vast, Pacific Ocean and watch as the waves rhythmically lap up against the shore.
The view isn’t the best, because the clouds of salty mist block out the rays of the sun that are struggling to be seen. But I just shrug my shoulders and think, “It’ll do.” Kind of like how I approach the entirety of my life.
I take in a deep breath of salty air as I walk along the shore. Solitude is my sole companion and I like it that way. Sometimes I need to be alone, among the waves, as they peacefully wash up upon the shore.
I wistfully yearn to have the peace and serenity that the waves create for me. But my mind is going in so many different directions, that I just can’t seem to settle on any particular path. And so, my mind remains a place of total chaos.
And chaos is the story of my life: I just wander aimlessly, in a multitude of directions, nev
er knowing where to turn next.
At every turn, teachers, family members, and friends all offer their advice as to the life I should lead. They tell me the path I should take and how I should be rich and financially successful.
But I do not listen. I know money is not my path to happiness. But I am not sure where my path to happiness lies. Is it in in the life of an independent, female traveler? I don’t know and contemplate if I will regret this way of life if I choose it for my own.
This thought frightens me because travel is the only way that I am capable of feeling joy. So I panic. And feeling these feelings while being in my body, makes nothing feel right. I wish with all my being that I didn’t always feel like this, but I do.
My skin just always feels way too tight and uncomfortable. And I feel like I’m the only one who feels like this, so a constant state of loneliness descends upon my soul.
I sigh deeply at my own indecision about life and the feeling of eternal loneliness that follows me around like a black cloud. I wonder if I will ever find the path that is right for me. Or am I just avoiding life and responsibility by traveling the world? I may never have the answer to this question. Or maybe it’s just all a jumble of everything. My path may be one of avoidance, but maybe that’s okay for me…
I need to get out of my head. I glance out along the beach and see a crowd in the distance. I briefly contemplate the comfort of human companionship and head over to the crowd.
Surfing in Lima, Peru
As I descend upon the crowd of beach bums, lounging around in skin tight, black wet suits with holes in them, the stench of uncleaned porta-potties hits me. In that moment, I know what that the answer to my momentary, quarter-life crisis is, surfing.
I find the most grizzled, saltiest looking of gentlemen. He smiles at me with the most delighted of toothless grins, and hands me a wet suit, while pointing to the porta-potty of fecal doom in the corner. A wicked stench invades my nostrils as I enter the portable toilet. I fight the urge to vomit, while rapidly changing into a wet suit that is clearly made for someone much taller than me.
I hold my breath, shimmy into the wet suit, and hop on one foot, all in an effort to avoid getting fecal matter all over my, now not so clean, clothes. I exit the porta potty quickly, with an immense
sense of pride that I have survived this most epic of changing room debacles.
I proceed over to a bench where my 15 minute surfing lesson ensues. And this lesson is in Spanish, which my instructor learns is not a language I understand. The lesson quickly turns into a charades game that I am not fully convinced actually teaches me anything about surfing. Looks more like the hokie pokie to me than actual surfing, but I am a woman of eternal faith and hope; a faith that means I will try anything to escape the corners of my mind that perpetually plague me.
I enter into the water and focus all my energy on walking among the shards of jagged, slippery rocks that poke out from the water beneath me. My only goal is to make it past the shallows without breaking my foot, or my neck for that matter. If I can achieve such a goal, this will be a modern miracle unlike any other.
And I actually make it through. Once in deeper waters, I lay upon my board, and unevenly shift my weight around, like any uncomfortable, surfing novice might do. As I do this, the surfboard smacks in protest against the water and I struggle to stay afloat. But as my hands rhythmically dip into the water and pull me forward, my body aligns itself with the board and I feel a sense of relief that I have not felt in a long time.
Back to Shore After Surfing in Lima, Peru
Out here, I feel minuscule in comparison to the expansive nature of the ocean and waves that are laid out before me. And the tinier I feel, the tinier my problems seem to feel.
My problems actually completely dissipate when I realize that my instructor, who led me out here, is no where to be found. All I see are an endless number of unidentifiable, Spanish men, in black wetsuits, none of whom seem to be the man I am looking for; the man who can help me get back to shore.
My eyes frantically scan the water but to no avail. Panic slowly sets in and I silently beg for my eternally futile contemplation of life to take me away from my current predicament.
But my worries about the future will not change the now. Therefore, when the next wave rises up and out of the water, I paddle for it, with all my might. My mind prays that this wave takes me to the safety of the shore, but my soul hopes that it will lead me to a new path, to a future that is truly meant for me.
Okay, I’m not gonna lie, when I arrived in Ecuador, Quito was not on the top of my bucket list. I mean, I really didn’t know much about the city and was basically just there to visit a friend (Thank God for Maria who drove me around and picked me up from the airport. Public transportation options were not that great at the time) and see the Galapagos Islands. Little did I know that this charming, historical, capital city, would bewitch my heart and capture my soul.
Not only is this city set high in the picturesque backdrop of the Andes Mountains (pro-tip: Bring pants and sweatshirts because the altitude makes the city cold at night, even though it’s on the Equator), but this city has a vivaciousness of spirit and historical charm that is like no other place I have visited.
There is a unique, Ecuadorian Sierra culture here that combines overflowing market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation haymakers with a sophisticated culinary culture and a vibrant and modern nightlife scene. The result is a city that expertly and distinctly intertwines the culture of the old with the excitement of the new, creating an atmosphere of life that is unlike any other I have experienced.
But, the character of this city doesn’t come from the beautiful, snow-capped mountains or the historic colonial monuments and architecture of the Old Town district, now a UNESCO world heritage site. The real charm of this city comes from the spirit of the people who live here and their love for this country; a love that touches everything the Ecuadorian people do.
Whether it’s a building, a mountain, or a culinary delight, there is a joy of life that is embodied in the pride and care that citizens take within their daily life. And I respect that so much because it can be easy
to get bogged down in the mundane reality of the everyday; or to become bitter and angry in recounting the tragedies of the past, of which Ecuador has many. But the people of Ecuador seem to get up and fill their country will joy, excitement, and a pride of culture that was obvious in the enthusiasm that my friend had in showing me around (All this being said, Quito is not a utopia and there is crime and poverty so you do need to be careful and do your research before going).
So I invite you to come with me and find out how to spend a day in Quito, Ecuador. Now, Quito is a vast city, with quite a lot to do, so this task won’t be easy. But, if you’re up for it, there are a lot of things that you can learn, see, taste, and do!
The List: How to Spend a Day in Quito, Ecuador
Capilla del Hombre – You’re probably reading the name and wondering, “What does that even
mean?” Well, this building is actually an art gallery that features some of the most important Guayasamin artwork in all of South America. That is because this artwork is so emotionally expressive that it simultaneously captures the pain of and hope from an entire generation of indigenous people. These feelings are embodied in a way that I have never seen before and in a way that words simply cannot express. The building itself is located a few blocks away from the Museo Guayasamín and stands as homage to the suffering of Latin America’s indigenous poor and to the eternal hope for a better future. Seriously, bring a kleenex. The emotions that this art evokes are unreal and unlock feelings you didn’t even know you had (Best and most moving part of my time spent here). Tours in English, French and Spanish, are in included in the price of admission ($8 adult) and are highly recommended to enhance your understanding of the art displayed here. They usually leave upon request during opening hours,
which are from 10 am – 5:00pm, Tuesday – Sunday.
Teleferiqo – This vantage point overlooks the entire city of Quito and provides spectacular views of the mountainous, Andes landscape. The natural beauty of these mountains generates a peacefulness of body and a connection of spirit, with the environment, that the city of Quito lacks. When ascending the mountains here, you literally feel as though you are entering an entirely different world, when you are really only entering the outskirts of Quito itself. A truly transformative, worthwhile journey for sure.To get here, hop aboard the sky tram that takes passengers on a 2.5km ride (10 minutes) up the Volcán Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. Once at the top , you can hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (4680m), which is about a three-hour hike for fit walkers (Can be tricky so ask about safety before attempting).You can also hire horses (per hour $10), which are about 500m from the upper station (follow signs to ‘paseos a caballo’). The horseback riding option sounded less daunting and more romantic to me. But, with only 24 hours in the city, I went in the morning, when the views here are best, by taxi for about $5 (To get into the national park itself, which is open between 9:00 am and 6:00pm Monday through Friday and until 8:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, it costs $8.50) . I didn’t get the experience that I wanted, but I was ecstatic that I took the time to enjoy this scenic, peaceful place.
La Mitad del Mundo – This is better known as the equator, or the invisible line that runs across the globe and separates the world into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Now while the line
itself is imaginary, the El Reloj Solar Quitsato monument is located here and was designed to represent the equator and it’s importance to scientific advancement. Because this area has become such a popular tourist destination, a series of shops, food stalls, and museums have sprung up around the monument. As a result, hawkers of various indigenous wares will get in your face and demand that you buy whatever it is that they have to offer. Therefore, I would maintain a,” get in, get out” mentality when you get here and basically take your pictures and go. That being said, the only thing that you may want to see here is the Equatorial museum. Yes, it is a little touristy, with “shrunken heads of the Amazon” on display (This really creeped me out and I hoped they were dolls), but there are some interesting scientific phenomenon that are demonstrated here, that only occur on the Equator itself and are totally worth seeing (My inner science nerd screamed with delight when I saw this). You can also get a equatorial stamp, in your passport, to commemorate your visit, and I mean, come on, who doesn’t want more stamps in their passport?
Old Town – Make sure you end your day by walking through the Old Town or the architectural/historical crown jewel of the city. Everywhere you turn, the streets are lined with colonial monuments and architectural wonders that embody this city’s past occupation by the Spanish. This quarter of the city has no austere, museum mile, devoid of ever
yday life. Instead, locals steadily bustle through the series of restored, cobble stone blocks, that are lined with 17th-century facades, picturesque plazas, and magnificent art-filled churches. After marveling at such historical beauty, meander on over to the ‘gringolandia’ of the Mariscal, a region of the Old Town that is packed with local eateries (Get the empanadas and canelazo, which is a traditional, warm cinnamon drink), vivacious nightlife, and bands playing authentic, Ecuadorian music until the wee hours of the morning.
Museo Nacional – Now, if you have done ALL that and still need something else to do, or you have more than one day in Quito, then I highly recommend the Museo Nacional. I was really bummed because I did not have time to go here, but I heard wonderful things about this museum, which is located in the circular, glass-plated, landmark building of Casa de la Cultura Ecuadorian.
This museum houses one of the country’s largest collections of Ecuadorian art, with works that date as far back as pre-Hispanic times. Some highlights from the museum include a magnificent golden sun mask, ‘whistle bottles’ from the Chorrera culture, figures showing skull deformation practiced by the Machalilla culture, ceramic representations of tzantzas (shrunken heads), ceremonial stone chairs of the Manteños, and the Colonial Art Room, which showcases works of art that originated from the Quito School. Even reading this now, this list sounds super cool and I hope you get to check this place out and tell me what I’m missing. I mean seriously, they had me at “shrunken heads”. LoL.