Spirit Cultural Exchange offers individuals the opportunity to help with a variety of volunteer projects in Ecuador while immersing themselves in the local culture. Volunteer projects are available throughout the year for a minimum of one week and are offered in many different fields. We hope you enjoy reading the blogs of our summer 2015 scholarship winner Alex E.
Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
My name is Alex and I am wanderlust.
A few months back, the opportunity presented itself to volunteer in Ecuador, a country I have longed to visit for many years. When I received the scholarship to come to this beautiful country for one month, I was beyond ecstatic, so much so that I asked very few questions. I was less concerned with where I would be staying, what foods I would be eating, who I would be surrounded by, etc., and more focused on the excitement of exploring the unknown. It is for that reason, just four days into my trip, I have had countless happy surprises.
I assumed I would be staying alone with a host family that spoke little to no English. I even thought I might be the only non-native anywhere close to where I'd be staying. However, it turns out there is an amazing network of volunteers throughout the city and that has already been an amazing adventure.
My First Day
Upon my arrival Saturday night, I was greeted at my house by two volunteers I now consider good friends, Katie (New York) and Alannah (British Colombia). We made plans to go to the downtown, AKA Old Town, of Quito the next day.
Sunday, I wake up, eat an Ecuadorian version of pancakes, and before heading out the door to explore the unknown, we wind up meeting with three more volunteers, Tom (England), Brody (England), and Nikki (North Carolina). I actually met Nikki at the airport and we exchanged information to ensure that no matter what, we could get lost in the city of Quito together.
We take the bus and begin our journey to the Basilica, and let me just say, wow...
After climbing what felt like an endless amount of questionable stairs and ladders, my breath temporarily escaped me as I stared off into the beauty of Quito - though in fairness, that may have simply been the incredible altitude of Ecuador... I can't imagine there is a better view of the city, except for perhaps one of the mountains to the West of Quito.
Tom and I become as good of friends as two people who just met can become. We were described as having a strong "bromance," a brotherly romance. Why this is relevant is because Saturday was Tom's last day in Quito before heading off to the Amazon. At first, I was sad because someone I knew I could connect with was leaving so soon, but then I reflected on it more that night.
When you travel, you give up the luxury of stability for the adventure of spontaneity. You are going to meet a lot of amazing people but they aren't always going to be around forever. People come and go, and that's true for life in general. Sometimes, you just have to take the great memories you've made and move on, always remembering the good times. Perhaps it's a cliché, but I feel it's a good reminder.
I am going to connect with a lot of people from all around the world and they will shape the way this trip changes my life. As long as I can remember that, their memories are all I will ever need.
The reason I added the Louis Stevenson quotation is because it is a reminder that life is about change and adventure, or at least I'd like my life to mimic that idea. I don't need to be caught up on exactly what my accommodations are, who I will meet, what exactly I will do. Instead, all I have to remember is to keep moving and exciting things will happen, and they already have
What to Look Forward to
Monday I began my week of four-hour one-on-one Spanish lessons, however, I think I'll reflect more on that in the coming blogs. For now, just know that it's a really exciting time for me and has actually become a major highlight of my day.
I'll also do my best to reflect on my experience last night of winning trivia at an Irish bar with complete strangers, as well as the Ecuadorian cocktail and salsa classes I'll be taking this week at the school next to my apartment.
Thanks for checking out what I've got to say!