Quito, Ecuador: A Lonely Heart Goes Clubbing

Bella Vista

It was June 2009, and I was only a couple weeks into living in Quito, Ecuador when I decided I’d had enough. We lived in an area called “Bella Vista” which means “beautiful view” in Spanish. All that meant to me was that I had to walk up a hill the size of a mountain.

I spent my time doing a typing class online so I would have all my credits, and I could graduate high school early. When I saw the pictures of my classmates at prom and graduation, I felt completely removed from it all. I was lonely, isolated, and in a literal foreign environment.

The first time I went to the grocery store to stock up on junk food and eat away my feelings, I realized that Ecuador didn’t have the same food items as the U.S. The only thing I could find was Trix cereal and it was 8$. After walking up the steep, cobblestone hill to our house, I sat in the living room and started Googling things to do to get out a bit. I’ve always been the type to take action when I’m upset, not enjoying the feeling of standing still. I found a group on Facebook called “I Love Quito.” I certainly didn’t love Quito, but I figured there would be people my age who had liked this group and I could send them messages in order to make some friends.

Quito, Ecuador: clubbing and adulting

Do You Want to Be Friends?

I messaged about a dozen people and patiently waited for their replies. (Bear in mind this was before the days of websites like meetup.com or couchsurfing.com)

Hi, My name is Sarah. I have just moved to Quito from the United States and since I don’t work here or go to school I don’t really have a way of meeting people. I was wondering if you might like to meet up for a coffee sometime?

The first message I received back was from a very outgoing and talkative girl named Pame. We met up for a drink at the mall and she told me her and her friends were meeting up that night at a club called “The Room.” I was only 17 and after living in the U.S. with strict drinking laws, I was thrilled. I felt like my parents didn’t have a say in what I did since I was no longer in high school and I took this opportunity to spread my wings, much like any other teenager would do when they go to university or get out into the real world.

She picked me up that night and we went back to her house first so we could get ready. I decided to wear a short black dress that was floaty, and lace. I paired it with black tights and hot pink high heels. Her house was very tall with stairs leading up to many different, small levels, and there weren’t very many lights on; it felt like a cave. Her sister came over and they sat on the couch next to me while she did Pame’s makeup. This really meant rubbing orange foundation all over her face like you would face cream, and then some mascara. (YouTube beauty gurus also weren’t a thing yet.) We went to her room so she could get dressed. It had a bed, a tall wood dresser, and those were the only things I could see under the enormous amount of stuffed animals everywhere.

Quito, Ecuador: clubbing and adulting

“The Room”

Her sister dropped us off at the club and we stood outside waiting for her friends to show up. A huge crowd of people was beginning to assemble outside. It reminded me of nights I went to school dances back in Maine, but this time I was out in the real world. I was nervous and excited for my first time in a club, and hoped that maybe this was the start of my new life. Her friends came up and chatted with us. They all spoke Spanish, and occasionally asked me a question in English. I felt like an ugly accessory that Pame was wearing but nobody wanted to offend her by making fun of it.

A couple of boys walked up and right away I locked eyes with one of them. He was wearing a button down shirt, and tan blazer. He had floppy dark hair, and nice eyes. He smiled at me and I smiled back, feeling a little shy. We went inside the club, heading downstairs where it was dark and hot. Bodies were gyrating everywhere, and everyone was laughing, and flirting, and spilling their drinks on each other in time with the salsa music pumping out of the speakers.

We found a big table in a corner and ordered orange vodkas for the table. It was the first time I had ever tasted vodka, and I consistently ordered that drink for a few years until acquiring more knowledge of the alcoholic variety in bars. I had never really drank that much, except for the occasional party in high school so it wasn’t long before I was dancing, spilling my drink down my wrist and having a good time, albeit not feeling entirely comfortable in such a foreign setting with so many strangers.

Quito, Ecuador: clubbing and adulting

Too Shy

A few people even tried to teach me to salsa. The guy with the tan blazer asked me to dance and I obliged. He pulled me to his chest and we swayed along to a Spanish song. His body was warm and he was a good dancer. While we were dancing he made sure to tell me 3 times that he was part owner of the club. I found this hard to believe, and assumed it was probably his parents who were the actual owners.

I liked the feeling of a guy asking me to dance in a club, and I felt like a real adult. However, after a few minutes he suddenly let go. I went back to the group I was with, feeling hurt and confused. I had my friend ask him what happened, and he responded that he thought I was too shy. I was devastated at his words since this was all I had ever heard throughout high school, and I felt like an insecure teenager once more. Unfortunately, it would be a few years before I really shed that persona.

We continued to dance until the club closed, and “tan blazer” drove us home. In the car a lovely song played on the radio. It was about a bird that couldn’t fly and was stuck on the ground. It was slow and soothing, especially after the supercharged atmosphere of a club. They dropped me off and I went up to bed, feeling pretty good about the fact that I had had my first club experience, though I was still lonely. I didn’t feel that I really had a place in this world, or any world yet.

Quito, Ecuador: clubbing and adulting

Deafening Silence

I felt vulnerable and scared of the future. My parents were busy figuring out their own lives, and I was along for the ride, something that I’ll admit I resented. I shed my little black dress, wrapped myself up in the covers of an unfamiliar bed, and looked out at the skyline. The whole city was lit up like a Christmas tree (there were lots of street lights everywhere to deter crime) and the mountains loomed over everything like a dark cloud. I sat up in bed, tears slowly trickling down my face, and feeling completely out of control. The silence in contrast to the club was deafening. But still, a small voice in my head told me big things were coming, and that I would carve out a place for myself in the world, eventually.

 

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Scotland: Real Life is Where the Magic Happens

traveling

Traveling and Wanderlust

Traveling. A word that conjures up thoughts of climbing mountains in Asia, snorkeling in Australia, eating a baguette under the Eiffel Tower, and riding on the back of your lovers Vespa through Rome. In our more modern times we call it “wanderlust.”

By the time I was old enough to read, and obsessed with traveling, I would check out Lonely Planet books from the local library in my very small town. I would sit on my front porch planning dream trips to Paris and wondering if life would ever really take me there. I once told my parents I would sleep on a park bench in Paris just to be able to stay there. The view of the Arc de Triomphe was all the luxury I needed.

traveling

Immense Freedom

Fast forward to the present day and it was this memory that came to mind while I was sitting on an airplane, on my way to Scotland for the second time. I looked out the window and felt this immense sense of freedom come over me when I noticed we were above the clouds, surrounded by blue sky for miles.

After touching down in Edinburgh and realizing it was pouring rain, I wasn’t looking forward to my subsequent bus rides. I hopped on the Airlink 100 that would take me to the city center. It was easy enough, and a double-decker bus as well. I lose my cool traveler facade whenever I get to ride on one of these.

traveling

However, after reaching the center I still needed to find the stop for the X95 bus that would take me to my destination, Hawick. I looked out over the Waverley Bridge and took in the very Scottish sights before me. Hot guy in a kilt playing the bag pipes? Check. 10 Whiskey bars within walking distance? Check. Torrential, down pouring rain and 25 km/hr wind? Also check. Unfortunately. From what I read on Google Maps, my bus stop was on top of the very tall North Bridge. Though I could see it in the distance, getting up there proved to be very tricky, especially since I got hit in the face with rain every time I looked up.

traveling

A Very Scottish View

After walking around aimlessly for 15 minutes, I asked hot guy in a kilt if he knew how to get up to the top of the bridge. “Oh, a bit lost are you, love?” he said. He then pointed me in the direction of a very large hill covered in cobblestones that had quite the river of water pouring down from the top. I tried to convince him to ditch the bag pipes and carry my bag up for me but my feminine ways don’t work when I look like a wet, stray cat. This cobblestone hill proved to be my Everest.

traveling

By the time I got up to the North Bridge I spent 2 hours trying to figure out where my bus stop was, still in the pouring rain. The handle came off my umbrella and it proceeded to fly up and over the side of the bridge. This would have been funny if it wasn’t so tragic. By the time I found my bus stop I had to wait another hour. I stopped in a nearby Boots and bought myself a face mask for later, to lift my spirits. After getting on the bus, and a 2 hour ride to Hawick I took the longest, hottest shower of my life. It’s these kinds of travel days that I can look back on and laugh about or use as a good story over drinks at a pub, at least after my sneakers have fully dried.

traveling

Little Moments of Misery

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from traveling in this “wanderlust” age is that it’s not always about perfect, Instagram-worthy shots (most of those are fake to some extent anyways.) It’s not even about the big picture, adventurous times. Traveling is about those little moments of misery that you would never post on social media. Yes, you read that correctly.

Walking through the pouring rain in Edinburgh, loaded up with my wet belongings, completely lost, wasn’t my finest moment (I almost had a temper tantrum in public.) But, moments like that have taught me how smart and resilient I am. Those moments have taught me that I can do anything on my own when I really need to.

What is the most important thing I have learned between the time I dreamed of traveling and now, as a seasoned traveler? You don’t always want to show people the tough, unglamorous times, but that is where the real magic happens.

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Spontaneous Travel in Life and Switzerland

Spontaneous Travel

Spontaneous Travel: Avoid the Planning

Have you ever taken a trip that was the exact opposite of spontaneous travel, where you planned every little thing? Hotels, restaurants, toilets, and even, God forbid, gone on a tour? Now, tell me this. How much time did you spend on your trip feeling anxiety over the schedule and what you were supposed to do next? Maybe you worried so much about the next activity or location that you didn’t even take time to be present and enjoy where you were actually doing!

Spontaneous Travel

The Best Meal Ever

Here is the great thing about spontaneous travel: Everything is so surprising and unexpected that you can’t help but pay attention. The greatest meal I have ever had was at a restaurant near my hotel in Italy. I was tired and had been traveling all day so I went there because it was close by.

The owner loved the U.S. and had all kinds of American paraphernalia on the walls. He brought the most mouth watering pasta I’d ever tasted. He called it carbonara but it looked more like tortellini stuffed with cheese and bacon and cooked in oil and cloves. Of course the noodles were homemade (not like those touristy restaurants in Rome that tell you they’re serving homemade noodles and then you see 10 boxes of Barilla stacked up in the kitchen.) He told me it was his mothers recipe as he put his hand over his heart and looked to the sky. For dessert I ate tiramisu that must be what clouds taste like. At the end of the meal he gave me limoncello and a free bottle of wine on which he signed “to my USA friends.” These are not the kinds of memories you acquire through picking your restaurant 5 weeks in advance.

Spontaneous Travel

Plans Don’t Work Out Anyways

The same can be said for life. You can be so busy planning for the future that you forget to pay attention to all those unexpected little moments that can only be enjoyed in the present. At 25 I still have no idea how my life will turn out and I’m okay with that. There really is no point in planning every little thing in life because most plans don’t work out at all or not how you expected.

Spontaneous Travel

A good example of this is when I started traveling through Europe for the second time (sorry, that will be my only travel snobby line in this article, I swear.) It was New Years Day 2015, and I made a decision that would change the trajectory of my entire life.

I dumped my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend and left all my possessions in Ecuador where I was living at the time. I had no plan, no job, and no specific location to call home. It was one of the most unplanned times in my life and yet it also lead to one of the best years of my life.

Spontaneous Travel

Spontaneous Travel

Take a Chance on Fate

You don’t need to have everything planned in order to live your life. Take a chance on fate and be surprised where it leads you. You could have a fabulous Italian meal, meet your future husband, or find your real passion.

 Last week, my fiance asked me to go on a quick road trip with him to Switzerland and I almost fainted with happiness as I had really been craving some travel. We left that weekend after he picked me up from work. The first night we were very tired from driving and I quickly picked a hotel 10 minutes away from us on booking.com before Jan’s phone battery died. 

The Romantik Hotel Le Vignier turned out to be the first successful, spontaneous decision of our trip. We woke up the next morning to a spectacular view over Lake Gruyere and thanked our lucky stars we had paid the extra 13 Euros for a room with a view. The rooms were modern, the beds were like sleeping on a cloud, and did I mention the view?

Spontaneous Travel

We had just one full day in the Swiss Alps and we were determined to make the most of it. We first put Grindelwald in our GPS and set it to “avoid highways.” We drove through mountains that looked like postcards right in front of our eyes and we didn’t see another car for the first half hour.

Spontaneous Travel

After spending about 20 minutes in Grindelwald and realizing how touristy it was we decided to change course. We sat at a cafe and Jan looked on Google Maps for the smallest, most remote road he could find that you could still drive on and we set out for it. Being in a flat country like Netherlands, he’s pretty enthusiastic about mountain roads. Driving on this very steep dirt road lead us to a view over Lake Brienz that was so blue nobody would believe I hadn’t saturated the hell out of the pictures.

Spontaneous Travel

Spontaneous Travel

A Surprise River

Eventually, we parked our car and walked down to a river coming down front the snowy part of the mountain. Clearly remote, and not often touched, we walked down by the rocks like giddy school children. The spray from the water brought with it the chill of winter and ice. It was so loud you couldn’t even hear yourself speak and we felt the full force of nature.

Spontaneous Travel

Spontaneous Travel

None of this would have been accomplished by looking at Trip Advisor let alone sitting on a tour bus. It is true that human beings love order and plans; we like to know what is coming next and we like to be comfortable. But, it’s also true that we crave excitement, and new experiences. We love the feeling of adrenaline in our veins and unexpected surprises.

Next time you’re on a trip, “avoid highways” and enjoy the slower, but unknown scenic route. And if you can, try to do this in life a little more as well.

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I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

I Moved to Quito, Ecuador

Landing in Quito, Ecuador

Maybe there was a part of me that was on autopilot. Not only was I numb to the fear of such a foreign place, but it hadn’t yet hit me that I wasn’t going to university next year like all my friends. No, I was doing something better, I was going on an adventure; the world was Peter Pan and I was Wendy. I was still just a teenager floating around, apathetic. I still surprise myself at how quickly I adjusted to life in Ecuador, how normal it became. Yet, I had just entered a country that would later feel like a prison to me.

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