Ecuador Part Two: Quito

24th November 2015

In case you missed the first update, we went to Ecuador and fell in love. Thanks to the fact that we squeezed in more outdoor activities in eight days than we probably have in the last eight months, I’m breaking the trip into a few parts. Today’s adventure is the capital city of Quito.


While Ecuador is roughly the size of Colorado, it takes approximately ten hours to get to one side to the other thanks to the changing topography of the country. For that reason, rather than break the recap of our trip up chronologically, I’ve decided I’d go geographically.


We started and ended our trip with a day in Quito. After stalking blogs and Instagram of the UNESCO World Heritage Site city, I was more than excited to experience the history for myself. I had read through a few sources that you should plan to spend roughly three days exploring the city as there is so much to see.

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As pretty as parts of the city were, we found it quite easy to cover in a day. If we were museum aficionados or weren’t so tight with our wallets when it came to attractions, we could have easily spilt it into a few days, but alas, not us.


I read that taxis in the area can be a bit sketchy and after having a taxi driver nearly fall asleep at the wheel on our ride in the night before (random conversational Spanish to the rescue,) we did play it a little more carefully than our usual travel style while in Quito. Luckily, taxis are not at a shortage, nor are the expensive, and it was quite easy to have the hotel hail one for us.

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Quito is large, boasting a population of 1.6 million, but the centers of the city are split into old town and new town. Our hotel being in the later, breathtaking architecture in the former.

I use the word ‘touristy’ quite loosely here, as we were quite surprised to find very few tourists anywhere where we visited. That was certainly a big plus, and nice surprise, for Quito.

Taxis in Quito don’t typically follow a meter, so agreeing upon a fare after getting in is customary. We agreed on a $5 fare and took the 15 minute ride or so into old town.

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Old town certainly lived up to the charm. We started in Plaza España where a crowd was gathered. It turned out the president was making a fairly regular appearance, which we found pretty cool. I can’t imagine Barack (or any other American president for that matter) to be allowed to just hang out in the city center with little security to be seen.


By far the best stop we made was the Basilica. I had read online that you can visit the massive towers, and while there was no signage advertising it, a quick question to a random employee manning a table turned out to be the entrance we needed.


For $2 we were granted a self guided tour that came with very little restrictions.Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.57.17 PM

We climbed more than our fair share of terrifying staircases (definitely not up to code in the States). The final climb to the main spire was so terrifying that my crawl of a descent was greeted by laughter from both my my darling husband and a line of waiting Ecuadorians, lovely.

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We also climbed inside and up a spiral staircase to the top of one of the two clock towers, where we plotted our future home a la Hugo.


From there, we wandered into church after church (my favorite addition to any trip) as well as through the winding cobble stone streets and many outdoor markets.


After getting caught in a torrential rainstorm on our walk back to the hotel (when they say Ecuador can experience all four seasons in a day, they mean it), we dried off and grabbed a spot on a patio for happy hour in Plaza Foch, before meeting and having dinner with our tour group.

After finishing our adventure tour, we returned to Quito for a day. With luck, we pulled into Quito just as the Ecuador – Uruguay World Cup qualifier was getting under way. While we were bummed we couldn’t attend the game live, we stumbled upon the next best thing: an Irish pub.


With our flight leaving close to midnight the next day, we had an entire day to kill. Not our best planning. We spent the day doing quite a bit of slow meandering through Quito’s numerous parks and stopped for a trip to the Quito Observatory.


Another $2 stop, it was well worth taking the time to explore South America’s oldest observatory. While we didn’t recognize much, we did take plenty of pictures with the hope Erik can decipher them over the holidays.

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We are certain we did however correctly identify the clock from Lost.


After more meandering, lingering over lunch and then desert for dinner, it was to the airport and homeward bound. Stay tuned for the next part of this saga (I promise the pictures are worth the scrolling) as we head up, up, up and into the Andes.


Quito must sees:

  • Plaza España: go for the people watching
  • Basílica del Voto Nacional: take the $2 tower tour
  • Mercado Artesenal: crafts, chocolate, coffee and gifts
  • Quito Astronomical Observatory: $2 tour in the middle of Parque de la Alameda
  • Plaza Foch: happy hour starts at noon
  • Quito Teleferico: we skipped this, but heard the hike and views are incredible

The Problem with Fear

20th November 2015

Growing up, my parents taught us that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. With four kids, all of which seem to have inherited the quick and occasional Irish temper, it was repeated with a relentless fury in our household.

When that advice didn’t stick, it was usually thanks to the screaming of the “s word”, a reigning master insult we would each throw across a room more than our parents would have liked. For the record, the “s word” was likely defined by the atrocities of “stupid” or “shut-up”.

On the upside, it turns out calling my brother Erik stupid approximately a bazillion times didn’t change his upbringing by so much as a fraction. Of my three siblings, Erik is my closest in age and, statistically speaking, probably received the highest frequency of this foul language. Today, Erik is an astrophysicist and possibly the most rational and humble human being I have ever met.

In the days that have followed Paris, my mom’s voice has been on repeat in my head with each media report, Facebook post and sideways comment. While I’d like to respond to each and every post fueled by hate with a retaliation of more than scary s-words, my experience thus far has proven that it’s likely not very conducive to getting anything accomplished.

So as I sit here, trying to decide whether it’s more productive to open my mouth, or not say anything at all, I’ve reached this conclusion: hateful comments aren’t at fault for or a solution to what’s unfolding in the world around us.

Here’s the thing about hatred, negativity and tempers: we control them. Individually. Erik did. Which is why my words didn’t inhibit his ability to turn out to be a stable, loving and brilliant brother later in life, despite my best efforts.

The outside world, myself included, doesn’t have the power to control our reactions. When you take a step back and consider this human superpower to self control emotion, it’s a pretty incredible gift. It’s why above all of the heartbreak you’ve stumbled upon breathtaking stories like this in the days since Paris.

We were designed by our Creator to think, to love and to act individually. So what if instead of channeling our actions into an influenced spirit of hate, we sought to better understand what was causing it to rise up inside of us in the first place?

We can blame hate on the actions of others, but if I categorize hate as an emotion I control, then I’ve made the conscious decision to allow it to control me. If hate is a conclusion I somehow reached, then there must also a way I can reverse it.

It starts by understanding that hate is simply fear, dimensioned.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of hearing from professional Red Bull kayaker Steve Fisher speak at an Atlanta Creative Mornings event on the topic of action, and subsequently, of fear. If you think you understand fear, pause now and watch the trailer for Steve’s last project here.

While the rest of us may deem him insane, Steve breaks down what he does for a living quite simply.

Fear is an assessment of risk.

Fear is subjective.

Fear isn’t calculated.

Risk is calculated.

We assess risk by understanding it; breaking it down into statements, actions and the likelihood of a particular outcome. By understanding risk, we grant ourselves the permission to dissolve fear.

Ultimately, like hate, we individually have the power to control fear. We grant fear the power to inhibit us from taking action, or in the case of those horrific actions take in Paris on Friday night, to succumb to it. We can’t change someone else’s fear, the same as our inability to dissolve their hate. We can however choose to dissolve our own fears and fight for their opposites.

I know from experience that someone else’s hate cannot control my happiness, the same way my hateful words couldn’t control Erik. In the light of the what’s unfolded in the world around us, I refuse to succumb to fear. I refuse to share an emotion with a group of individuals who haven’t taken the time to calculate, understand and connect with what’s driving their own irrational emotions.

I choose understanding.

I choose curiosity.

I choose conversation.

I choose community.

I choose faith.

But not fear. Not isolation. And most certainly not hate.

We have a long, and very hate filled, road ahead of us. I’m certain our superpowers of emotion will be tested again and again in the days to come. If we control any of what the world throws our way, let it be how we control our fear. Let it be that we face our fears and channel them into a search for more ways to help, not hinder. Let it be that we open our ears to new conversations, not hide in old ones. I’m hopeful in doing so, we may collectively find a power and resilience to fight for good, together.

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Ecuador Pure Life: Part One

16th November 2015

After eight days away and two spent sleeping to recover, P and I are home from Ecuador. We’re rested, thankful and still quite mesmerized by a remarkable week spent in South America.

FullSizeRender 16When we began planning this trip four months or so ago, I had two wishes: get out of my comfort zone and get outside.


When we stumbled upon a trip to Ecuador on the Clymb over the summer and the itinerary and price fit the bill, we booked it on a whim. It wasn’t until the night before heading out that I frantically looked up weather patterns in the cities we would be visiting, so to say we were going into this one blind was an understatement.

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While our packing may have been slightly sub-par (when the packing list calls for rain pants, pack rain pants), the trip in its entirety blew our expectations away at every turn.

We booked the trip with Ecuador Pure Life, which meant they took care of all of our reservations, activities and transportation. Phew. We traveled with a driver and tour guide for the entire trip, making our language barrier much more manageable (thank goodness for snippets from college rushing back), and I couldn’t have hand picked a better group of fifteen strangers as companions.


I’ll save all of our adventures for a few posts to come (seriously there were SO many activities), because, by far, the best part of the entire trip was the people. The people we traveled with. The people we met. The people who guided us.


Of all of the places I’ve been in the world (which is not an exhaustive list), the Ecuadorians are the most welcoming, humble and positive group of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.


Ecuador Pure Life works to carefully select local guides, restaurants and partners across the country, leaving us with a balance of sketchy activities (like P’s bridge jump), to authentic Andean and Amazon home stays and to no shortage of gas station ice cream runs.

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While we’re happy to be home (and so are our animals), eight days away to a place unknown with people who became family was just the retreat we needed. Friday night, as we sat in the airport and watched the news from Paris unfold, we were comforted in knowing that while there are bad people in this world, they are far outnumbered by the good.


Thank you Ecuador for welcoming us to into your homes, for inspiring us to have deeper conversations with people unknown, for challenging us to be more curious (but maybe not so curious to eat live grubs) and for encouraging us to embrace every adventure that life throws our way, together. For the best eight days we can remember, thank you.


South America, we’ll be back, maybe not for the grubs, but as for the rest, count us in.