We have arrived in South America!

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After 5 years of anticipation, Marina and I are finally in South America. Specifically, we are in Quito, Ecuador. I am currently lounging in our gigantic room with sleeping space for at least 3 people, after consuming a hearty complimentary breakfast. Of course WiFi is available for free and is one of the quickest I have ever used at any hotel in the world – I just had a skype conversation with my friend Travis while eating breakfast. All this for $15/day. Keep in mind that this is a relatively expensive accomodation around here. Marina just purchased 5L of bottled water for $2.50 – a far cry from the $10 mini-pretzels you get at North American hotels.

Although we have not even been gone for 24hrs we have already met dozens of fantastic and friendly people. During our transfer in Bogota, Columbia, I gathered all the Canadians in the terminal for a great chat about travel experiences, reasons for travelling, etc. Naamah, Gary, Brent, Julia and Andrew were all great to talk to – it is interesting how similar all our the stories were. Naamah just finished med school in northern Ontario and is taking a break with her partner, Gary, before starting residency in the fall. Brent just finished his business degree in Calgary and is also taking a break before settling down to a career, etc. And of course there is us – both just finished our respective degrees. All of us were broke, in debt, aware of the eventual need to ‘settle down’ and yet we were all embarking on undefined journeys. I got the feeling that for many of us – all type A, not planning something ahead of time is very unusual and a bit anxiety provoking. That is certainly how I feel. I have tried to plan and control every possible variable in my life. This trip is a way to challenge myself to do things on a whim, make decisions with minimal information, and simply go in whichever direction is most enticing in that moment.

Take for example the fact that we almost didn’t make our Ecuador flight yesterday. As we went to check in for our flight, we were informed that Air Canada would not let us board the plane unless we could prove onward travel out of Ecuador – a tough thing to do given we had not planned anything. We had to spend a good hour with the extremely helpful Air Canada rep, William, who managed to get us on a flight out of Ecuador to Peru in early June. Since the flight is refundable, we will likely cancel it and then buy another flight locally for much less. After a 5 min sprint through the airport, we just barely made our flight – both covered in a healthy dose of sweat. And all this happened before we even left Toronto :) While all this was happening, we both held our composure extremely well – even as the minutes to our flight dwindled down. Composure during trying and stressful situations is not a personal strength. It is one issue that I hoped to address during this trip, and I thought it would be a good time to start right there. The beautiful thing was that despite not getting upset, not being pushy to get my way – my usual tactic in similar situations – everything worked out fine. I am, in fact, typing these words from Ecuador. Simply being patient, collected, polite and friendly to all those who tried to help us led to the same outcome (if not better) than being angry and demanding. An eye opening lesson.

While on the flight from Bogota to Quito, I met a wonderful Columbian girl – Diana, who helped sort out some of my limited Spanish. After a good hour chatting, I found out she was flying to visit her partner in Quito whom she hasn’t seen since January. Right as we were getting off the plane, she suggested her boyfriend, Jefferson, drive us to our hostel – thus avoiding us having to catch a cab in a foreign land at midnight. And that is how we finally got here early this morning – helped by complete strangers we had just met only hours ago. Based on my one encounter with the people here – namely Diana and Jefferson – I think we’ll get by just fine. A few broken Spanish phrases, some wild hand gestures and a sincere smile can go a long way.

We’re off to explore Quito and possibly book our flights to Galapagos for tomorrow. The altitude makes walking rather tiring – we’ll see how long we last.

Peter


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