Galapagos (day 5)

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Hola friends. How are you today? Are you ready for more Galapagos? Is anyone sick of it yet?

Before we get started I wanted to share some things that have been on my mind.

First, I feel a bit overwhelmed right now. We have a lot going on, plus our impending move. How do you stay focused and positive when you feel like there are not enough hours in the day? I try to make sure I still get plenty of rest (not always easy), water and exercise. So far I am failing in a couple of those areas. Someone asked me a question about something we are planning for December and my remark was, “um, I can only look about one week ahead at a time.” Right now I am working about three months ahead and filling in the middle as we go along. And frankly I am failing in many areas. We know when we are moving to France (and the flights are booked), however we don’t know when we are leaving Equador. Ha! I know, this system would not work for everyone, but it seems to have worked for us so far. This is by no means a complaint about our life, but it is a realist view. Whether you are a slow traveling family like us or a family living in the same house for 30 years we all have responsibilities. I have always been honest on this blog and I will continue to do so. The next six weeks here in Quito will be filled with goodbyes, social engagements, adventures and it will also be filled with long days and late nights to wrap it all up. Here we go!

Second, I am feeling a great pull to be outside more. Ever since we hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu (and now Galapagos) I have grown increasingly bored with four walls and a roof. I want to be out in nature more, hiking/walking, exploring, learning and just being with my family. Will and I have talked about this in great detail and we have plans to move this goal forward in the coming months. That does not mean we will become unemployed and live off the land, however it does mean that we are going to continue to live without a car (even in France), eat on our patio (this was a must during our housing search in Hyéres) and be more active outside (overnight hiking trips, hiking part of the Camino next summer and a grande finale-more on this in about a year). Do you feel the pull to be outside more or less as you age? How do you feed that urge if you have it?

Finally, I am truly inspired daily by the people I meet online and out in the world. We have come a long way in this world as human beings. I love that so many people are choosing to live a life that works for their family and not succumbing to social pressures. Bravo! Congrats! You get one shot at this…live your dream.

Ok, Galapagos time!!!

Have you ever hiked on lava? We have done it before, but on a smaller scale. We started day 5 off with a hike on several miles of lava. In some spots the lava was adhered to the ground or other pieces. However in many places it was loose. It sounded like we were walking on glass. It felt similar as well. If you watch the video you will hear it crunching under Will’s feet as he talks. We spent a couple of hours hiking, learning and observing. I think the most interesting part of the hike was that we were hiking on black lava and then all of a sudden a pool of water with greenery would come into sight. It just goes to show you that life does eventually come back to areas destroyed by natural disasters, of course it takes many years, but it does happen.

After the hike we returned to the boat for lunch and a bit of rest before we took off for our afternoon snorkel with the turtles. Yep, we got to swim right beside huge turtles! It was an open water snorkel which means we had to jump off the dinghy. And as you can see from the video (Will’s face) and my (bad) language it was incredibly cold, even with wetsuits. Needless to say the kids and I did not last very long in the water. Will, however was the final person to exit the water (he will do anything for “the shot”) and it took him two hours to completely warm up afterwards. He did get to swim with the turtles longer than we did and check out his footage. I mean, when in life do you get to swim with turtles that close! We had so many experiences on the cruise that I knew were “once in a lifetime” moments. I am still trying to hold these memories close to my heart even today.

After our turtle time we headed back to the boat to warm up, dry off and prepare for our dinghy ride through the mangroves. Again, we saw more turtles, some rays, fish and much more. Our dinghy drivers were full of adventure and they managed to sneak us into some pretty tight spots which yielded amazing sea life. I just love the mangroves and all the diversity they offer. I don’t know how long we were in the mangroves, but I could have stayed another two hours. I guess one can never get tired of watching sea life in their natural environment.

Of course when we returned to the boat (it was still anchored, phew!) and ready to serve us another fabulous dinner.

I wish I had boat excitement and stories to share from the evenings, but as I stated before I was exhausted by 8:30. I would go down under to put the kids to bed with the hope of emerging each night to chat with the other travelers, but I only made it back up one night. I know, pathetic, but I felt great, fulfilled and I slept well. What I wouldn’t give for a one night like that back here on land.

Ok, gotta run. Keeping this short and sweet today.

Besos,
Jessica

 

Galapagos (day 4)

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Hola friends!

How was your weekend? Did you adventure? Our plan was to hike to Pichincha volcano, but that got derailed by Will not feeling well and two tired kids (ok, I was a little tired as well). We had a very active social weekend (two big kid birthday parties) and everyone wanted to keep it low key on Sunday. We still made sure we got out of the house, however we stayed local and started our “Quito parks tour” which has been on our list since we arrived. We hit two this weekend and we plan to finish the rest next weekend. Of course, there will be a post in a couple of weeks with Dronie footage!!!!

I cannot believe we are leaving Quito in six weeks! Where did the time go? We will be in Equador for eight weeks however. Our plan is to travel around Equador during that time. I am dying to take the kids to Cuenca and the Amazon. And then it is the USA for 5-6 weeks, however we still have not booked our flights, but we have our flights to France. We tend to book the end and then fill in the middle at the last-minute. Weird, I know.

So, you did not miss something, there was no day 3 post. If you read this post you know that we decided to skip the Day 3 adventures in order to reduce our costs and get some work done.

Day 4, here we come.

I have to admit that day 4 was my least favorite of the entire cruise. That is not to say that it was bad, but it definitely did not compare to swimming with sea lions or coming face to face with a turtle underwater.

We started the day off the usual way…a big breakfast and the sharing of travel stories. Next we boarded the dingy for a short trip to the town of Puerto Villamil where we jumped in a van and headed to see flamingos. We have only seen them in captivity at Disney and in other theme parks so it was nice to see them frolicking in their natural environment.

After the bird watching we headed to the mangroves for snorkeling. This was probably our least dramatic snorkel, but it was nice to snorkel in a mangrove. It was my first time in the water in a mangrove and I was surprised at how cold it was. Yes, I get cranky in cold water. I will do almost anything for my kiddos, but cold water, um, nope. Luckily the hot latino (who was born in Miami) is tough as nails. Phew! There was a beach right next door so we spent a little over an hour chilling with the land loving sea lions, taking photos and chasing water iguanas after the snorkel.

Later in the day we visited the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center that is a preserve for tortoises. The guide was informative. He explained the purpose of the facility, the recent lack of funding and so much more. The kids even got to see a baby tortoise that fit in the guides palm. On this same tour I learned (unrelated to tortoises) that the schools in Galapagos do not have libraries. The local children have very little access to books. I am still thinking of a way to help them, among my many other projects. Books have played such an important role in AvaLars life that I cannot even envision a childhood without them. This broke my heart. Well, I will continue to think on it.

Our final stop was at a beach for some snacks and chill time. AKA, fly Dronie time! The kids and I ate, frolicked, laughed, dabbled in the water and then we watched Will and his girlfriend.

It’s not a cruise without some drama, right? I remember my younger days of cruising revolved around alcohol and who was hooking up with who. Now, well, the drama involves crashes and kids overboard. No, really! Let’s start with Largo. He is an eight year old boy and he climbs, jumps, stretches, etc. He is basically fearless on all levels. Well, he was leaning over the side of the dingy and fell in. Luckily it was not the big boat! Phew! He was unharmed and in swim gear. Apparently there were a couple other near misses (while we were docked) on the third level. I think this is probably information Will should have withheld from me. Needless to say he was not allowed on the third level without supervision after that. In tomorrows video you can get a glimpse of the lack of adequate railings on the third level.

And next up was the boat collision. We were docked, or so we thought. Apparently our boat was tied to a buoy and the ropes broke. No one noticed until we heard screaming in Spanish. Yep, we had drifted and we were inches away from hitting a gorgeous catamaran. And then, crack, smash, we hit. The catamaran was hooked to its buoy still so it was obvious we were the guilty party. Oops. The worse part was that the catamaran was at rest it appeared to only have one teenage boy onboard. He handled the situation like a champ and did his best to move his boat, but it was too late.

And that’s it folks. Pretty chill day until boy overboard and boat crash. Again, we slept like four babies being rocked to sleep.

OUR ITINERARY (the map above shows where we were on each day)

  • San Cristóbal (day 1): lunch and boarding
  • Lobos (day 1): Lobos (hike to see wild life)
  • Santa Fe (day 2): Santa Fe (swimming with sealions)
  • South Plaza (day 2): Rocas Gordon (land iguanas)
  • Santa Cruz (day 3): Puerto Ayora (Charles Darwin Station and Highlands, we skipped this to work)
  • Isabela (day 4): Puerto Villamil (flamingoes, tortoise reserve, snorkeled in mangrove, beach time, boat crash)
  • Tortuga (day 4): Tortuga (turtles, dah)
  • Isabela (day 5): Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay (hike on lava, swim with turtles, dingy tour in mangroves)
  • Isabela (day 6): Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca (hard hike to viewpoint, snorkel with sea life, dingy ride in caverns, Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Fernandina (day 6): Punta Espinoza
  • Santiago (day 7): Puerto Egas (hike, snorkel (penguins), hike, snorkel with sharks)
  • Rabida (day 7): Rabid (I forget)
  • Seymour (day 8): Seymour Norte, Islote Mosquera (Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies mating and babies)
  • Baltra (day 8): Baltra port (back to land, boo hoo)

Have a fabulous Monday.

Besos,
Jessica

Weekly Round Up + Friends Weekend

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Hola friends. It’s Friday! Wait, it’s Saturday. Where did the week go? Getting back in the groove after two weeks off is tough and then throw in a sick husband, altitude adjustment and two more aftershocks. Wowza!

Are you adventuring this weekend? We are planning to visit the Teleférico again and then hike to Pinchincha volcano. I am a bit nervous since the last time we visited I had an intense headache for two days following because of the altitude. However I am dying to see the view from the volcano and Will is ready to see what Dronie is really made of.

Oh and a special shout out to my high school girl friends. Several years ago (when I still lived in Boston) we started an annual “girls weekend” for rest, relaxation, catching up and well, some drinking. It’s this weekend and it’s the first one I am missing. Boo hoo! Love you girls! And no dancing on the bar without me. Besos.

ROUND UP time!

YOUTUBE CHANNEL: Will has a youtube channel where he shares all of his amazing videos from our family travels. We previously used Vimeo, however he has found that youtube is a better route for us. Go subscribe! You don’t want to miss his latest videos.

INTERVIEW: An Epic Education Interviewed US! If you have an hour to sit and listen you can learn about:

  • Our background and how this party got started.
  •  Initial planning, and how that compared to moving to subsequent countries.
  • Thoughts on medical care abroad.
  • Working and Money management.
  • Our gear for family travel and location independent work.
  • Creating a “mobile office”
  • Why one child is homeschooled, while the other is in a conventional school.
  • Our favorite resources.
  • The importance of our US phone numbers and how we kept costs down.
  • and much more.

FOR THE LOVE OF LEARNING: Remember when I was going to be interviewed about “languages” but we had technical issues? When it was rescheduled I was on a flight so I could not participate, however it is still an amazing podcast. Take a listen when you have time.

GALAPAGOS: You all know we are back now! This week I shared three posts. The first was an overview and tidbits from our trip. The second post was a recap of our first day on the cruise. And the final post for this week was about day 2 on our cruise. Next week I plan to share a post about Galapagos every day! Plus we have more videos to share! Oh and just in case you are really loving the videos the Farm also went live this week.

FRANCE UPDATE: Now that our Galapagos trip has finished we have to start planning for our next big more. FRANCE! We are days away from signing a lease for one year in Hyéres! I am so excited I can barely contain myself. It has a fabulous patio for entertaining (you know how we love to have friends over), a pool, french windows/doors (its France, right) and tons of French charm. I cannot wait to share the pictures with you. Next week we will start to email the school and register for next year and then we will begin to tackle the list of items necessary in order to apply for a one year visa.

SEE US LIVE!: We are toying with the idea of doing a speaking engagement in Miami and my hometown (Jay, Maine) when we are back in the states this summer. Do you think people would want to listen to our journey, our why, how we make money, our fears, what we miss about life in the US and so much more? We would also add in a 30 minute Q & A so you can ask us all those personal questions. Ha! I am thinking of giving away a couple of books that we have been featured in, t-shirts and maybe some travel gear. So, my question to you is… would people come?

 

SHARING TIME!

BOOK CHARACTERS: What do you think of this post? Should we have more diverse characters in books? I love the idea. And since I am working on writing my first children’s book I will definitely take this into consideration. I am thinking a rainbow-colored character to represent a hybrid of all the different cultures. What do you think?

DO YOU CONTROL YOUR KIDS? Guilty or not?

A GLOBAL LEASE: Great idea! Would you consider doing something like this? I know we would do it for sure.

 

EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK!

FRIENDS WEEKEND: Several weekends ago we went to Isinliví with friends to celebrate a birthday. We had a fabulous time venturing beyond Quito and exploring a new area. We stayed at the fabulous Lulu Llama hostel! I highly recommend it. Our plan is to return once more before we leave Ecuador so we can enjoy some of the hikes in the area. On our way home we took a detour to Quilotoa volcano. OMG! We have seen a lot of volcanos and I am not easily impressed. Well, Quilotoa was worth it. It is amazing and the hike down to it is  breathtaking.

Hope you are having a fabulous weekend.

Besos,
Jessica

Galapagos Cruise (day 2)


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Hola friends! Did you read the day 1 post? And see the video? Were they helpful? Reach out to us and let us know what you think! If you have specific questions or something you would like us to address comment or PM me.

We slept WELL on the cruise! I don’t think I have slept that well since before Largo was born, no joke. We were like four babies being rocked to sleep. This was a theme that continued throughout the entire cruise. We are back on the mainland now and our sleepless nights have resurfaced. It could be that we are having trouble adjusting back to the altitude or the earthquake at 3:00 am the other night, either way we are tired and miss boat life.

Every morning we started the day off at 7:00 am with a hearty breakfast made by the boat chef. There was always some type of protein, bread, fruit, cereal and of course, coffee, tea and a fresh squeezed juice. We usually had about 15-30 minutes to get our act together after our meal and then… adventure time.

Our first order of business on day 2 was to gear up with our wetsuits, snorkels, underwater cameras and the Go Pro. Let me just say that it is not easy getting into a wetsuit (see video), however I was so glad I had it. I know I said it in a previous email, but I will say it again. Rent the wetsuit!!! I am actually getting chills just thinking about how cold that water was. The currents are coming up from Antarctica, need I say more?

Have you ever swam with a sea animal in their natural environment? On the morning of day 2 we swam with sea lions! Sea lions are incredibly friendly and playful. It was an unforgettable experience. They did twirls, raced and I think they even smiled at us. Watching my kids swimming next to sea lions is a memory that I will forever cherish.

We were continually reminded that we were in their environment and we must respect their space. Observe! Don’t touch, taunt or get in their way. I am happy to report that my children were very respectful and let the sea lions show us around their home. Please if you do visit refrain from touching them or taking anything from their environment. These animals are beauties and we can learn a lot from them if we just watch patiently.

After our sea-lion adventure I could have stayed on the boat the rest of the afternoon and felt fulfilled. When in my life will I ever swim with sea lions again? Grateful, truly grateful! We returned to the boat for a fabulous lunch while we cruised to South Plaza Island… land of the land iguana.

Ok, I must admit I have never been that attracted to iguanas. They always kind of creeped me out, but after visiting “land iguana island” as I like to call it, I grew a whole new appreciation for these large lizards. We watched them slither, eat, chill and much more. We spent most of the afternoon scooched down, silent and with our mouths wide open. Fascinating creatures. They are apparently big fans of the cactus flower. The iguanas will eat them with the prickles still attached. Tough buggers.

As you can see we observed and learn a lot about these lizards. I also learned that when I am scooched down watching them through my lens I need to be aware of what is crawling behind me. These lizards are fast and can be a bit scary when they creep up on you. Ha! We probably saw over 200 iguanas just in that one afternoon. At the time I had no idea that we would stop at another island and see approximately 400 marine iguanas.

I have a whole new appreciation (and fascination) for these unique creatures. It is amazing how we can change how we view something when we sit silent and watch. Have you had an experience like this? When?

Day 2 was a favorite for Avalon and I for sure. The boys loved it as well, however they had another day they preferred (more on this later).

What a day! We had an amazing dinner and retired early. Our hearts and bellies were full!

OUR ITINERARY (the map above shows where we were on each day)

  • San Cristóbal (day 1): lunch and boarding
  • Lobos (day 1): Lobos (hike to see wild life)
  • Santa Fe (day 2): Santa Fe (swimming with sealions)
  • South Plaza (day 2): Rocas Gordon (land iguanas)
  • Santa Cruz (day 3): Puerto Ayora (Charles Darwin Station and Highlands, we skipped this to work)
  • Isabela (day 4): Puerto Villamil (flamingoes, tortoise reserve, snorkeled in mangrove, beach time, boat crash)
  • Tortuga (day 4): Tortuga (turtles, dah)
  • Isabela (day 5): Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay (hike on lava, swim with turtles, dingy tour in mangroves)
  • Isabela (day 6): Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca (hard hike to viewpoint, snorkel with sea life, dingy ride in caverns, Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Fernandina (day 6): Punta Espinoza
  • Santiago (day 7): Puerto Egas (hike, snorkel (penguins), hike, snorkel with sharks)
  • Rabida (day 7): Rabid (I forget)
  • Seymour (day 8): Seymour Norte, Islote Mosquera (Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies mating and babies)
  • Baltra (day 8): Baltra port (back to land, boo hoo)

I hope you are enjoying our recap! Please share our posts!

Have a fantastic day!

Besos,
Jessica

An Epic Education Interviewed Us!

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Hola friends! Good morning! Ok, we are going to take a small break from Galapagos today. I know, boo hoo, but I have a special surprise that I am very excited to share with all of you. Another interview!

An Epic Education Interviewed us!!! Jason has some amazing podcasts on his site that you might want to take an evening to listen to, of course after you listen to US! Ha!

Grab a cup of coffee and a comfy seat! And if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us!

In the podcast we share the following:

  • Our background and how this party got started.
  •  Initial planning, and how that compared to moving to subsequent countries.
  • Thoughts on medical care abroad.
  • Working and Money management.
  • Our gear for family travel and location independent work.
  • Creating a “mobile office”
  • Why one child is homeschooled, while the other is in a conventional school.
  • Our favorite resources.
  • The importance of our US phone numbers and how we kept costs down.
  • and much more.

Have a fantastic day. I will meet you back here tomorrow with another Galapagos post and a VIDEO!

Besos,
Jessica

Galapagos Cruise (day 1)

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Hola friends! Good morning. We had a mighty big aftershock here in Equador last night at approximately 3:00 am. I believe it was a 6.7 and we definitely felt it in Quito. I shot out of bed and yelled “get in the doorways.” It lasted about 30 seconds. Afterward we gathered a couple of items and headed to the street where we remained for almost an hour. We live in a high-rise so we don’t mess around with being in it during a shake. And yes, it is chilly at 3 am in Quito. Hoping the families at the epicenter are unharmed. My heart aches for Equador.

Are you ready to take a day by day walk down Galapagos “memory lane” with us? I hope my memory cooperates. A professional blogger would have taken notes, not me. Ha! However I do have photos to refresh my memory. Phew!

And now we have VIDEOS to accompany most of our adventures! Cool, right? And check out our videographer. Hot! Hot! Hot latino! Please subscribe to Will’s youtube channel to follow us on the front lines. He is getting so good at this! Great job honey!

Lets start by talking about our boat and the itinerary.

OUR BOAT
If you read yesterdays post you know that we booked a last-minute, on site cruise for seven days once we arrived in Galapagos. We had heard that this was possible, but not always available. Since we planned to be in Galapagos for 16 days we figured our odds of finding a last-minute deal were greater and if not we would just make do on our own. With seven-day cruises as much as $3,300 per person (when purchased in advance) we were only left with the last-minute option. Who can afford this anyway?

We arrived in the Galapagos on April 29th by lunch time which gave us several days to shop around for good deals. We checked into our hostel (which I booked less than 24 hours before), dropped off our bags and hit the pavement eager to seal a deal. Most of the seven-day cruises that I saw left on Sunday morning. The four and five-day cruises tended to leave mid-week. After several hours of questions, agencies, learning (lots of learning) we had pretty much settled on the cruise we wanted. The prices for the last-minute cruises did not vary more than $50 per person between the different agencies. However, there were higher and lower end boats to sail on which affected the price. We decided to sleep on it and get up Saturday morning with a decision.

Saturday morning we returned to Academy Bay Diving (ask for Sandy) in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz ready to hand over some cash and make this dream a reality. We decided on a seven-day cruise which ended up being $1500.00 each for Avalon, Will and myself. We paid $1120.00 for Largo (under 11 get a 20% discount). The total for the seven night cruise was $5620. The cruise stopped back in Puerto Ayora on day 3  and we were given the option to skip this day and pay $250 less per person. We jumped on this deal since it would give us a chance to check in on our clients at the internet cafe, do laundry and let Avalon take her two online classes. Honestly if you can get this option I say take it. The other two cruisers went to Darwin (which is free) and the Highlands (under $5 each). Both of these you can do on your own if you decide to spend an additional day in Puerto Ayora, however I did not think either one was worth it (more on this later).

If you pay for your cruise by Paypal the agencies charge an additional 5% and if you use credit card they charge an extra 8%. However if you pay by cash there are no additional fees. Bring lots of cash if you plan on doing a last-minute cruise. I spent almost a week before and after the cruise trekking to the ATM (with four different) cards to withdraw my $300 limit on each, per day. I would then deliver my cash to Sandy at Academy Bay. They were kind enough to let me finish paying for it after the cruise. They did hold on to my passport until it was paid in full.

Can you get the cruises lower? Well, I tried and this was the best deal I could get. I am a ruthless negotiator. I presented several different scenarios, but the one listed above was all they would go for. Of course you could try your hand at it, but don’t be too stubborn because they do sell out with these last-minute prices and you don’t want to be “that” close.

During our research we learned that there were several different classes of boats. The higher the class, the more money and the more people. Even if we could have afforded the luxury class it would not have interested us. The luxury boats had close to 100 guests and the average age was over 64. I don’t mind being on a cruise with seniors, however we were cautioned against it since we have kids and they tend to want to be more active on adventures. There were very few kids on the islands in general and the ones we did meet were only doing day cruises. We had the opportunity to chat with several seniors that said the kids would not have enjoyed their cruise. We settled on a tourist class boat that held 16 passengers. It was intimate, personal and perfect for our family.

Our boat was fully air-conditioned. We had private bathrooms and cabins (the kids in one and Will and I across the hall). The cabins had hot/cold water and plenty of space. The decks were comfortable, spacious and plentiful. The EDEN (our boat) was custom-built in 1996 for Galapagos cruising, and completely refurbished in 2010. Additionally, there was a library, TV/VCR area and restaurant/bar. It was the perfect boat for us and a boat I would recommend for families, as well as backpackers.

 

OUR ITINERARY (the map above shows where we were on each day)

  • San Cristóbal (day 1): lunch and boarding
  • Lobos (day 1): Lobos (hike to see wild life)
  • Santa Fe (day 2): Santa Fe (swimming with sealions)
  • South Plaza (day 2): Rocas Gordon (land iguanas)
  • Santa Cruz (day 3): Puerto Ayora (Charles Darwin Station and Highlands, we skipped this to work)
  • Isabela (day 4): Puerto Villamil (flamingoes, tortoise reserve, snorkeled in mangrove, beach time, boat crash)
  • Tortuga (day 4): Tortuga (turtles, dah)
  • Isabela (day 5): Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay (hike on lava, swim with turtles, dingy tour in mangroves)
  • Isabela (day 6): Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca (hard hike to viewpoint, snorkel with sea life, dingy ride in caverns, Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Fernandina (day 6): Punta Espinoza
  • Santiago (day 7): Puerto Egas (hike, snorkel (penguins), hike, snorkel with sharks)
  • Rabida (day 7): Rabid (I forget)
  • Seymour (day 8): Seymour Norte, Islote Mosquera (Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies mating and babies)
  • Baltra (day 8): Baltra port (back to land, boo hoo)

 

DAY ONE
On day one we left Puerto Ayora (on the island of Santa Cruz) on the 7:00 am boat. There are only two boats to San Cristobal per day from Santa Cruz, 7:00 am and 2:00 pm. The boat ride lasts two hours and it can get pretty bumpy so if you get sea sick this might be a good time to take your meds. The cost was $30 per adult and $20 per child (I think). Not cheap at all. The good thing is that you get into the port three hours before you board the cruise which gives you time to explore. We chose to hunker down at a restaurant and catch up on some work. The kids ate and played with other worldschoolers while I checked email and other business.

At noon we boarded a dingy that took us to the boat for a lovely lunch, information session and a meet and great with the other two guests. Shortly after lunch we took a mini excursion to Lobos for a hike and our first viewing of the wild life. We saw crabs, blue footed boobies and sea lions. It was magical and just what we needed at the end of our day to prepare us for what the next seven days would hold.

Once we returned to the boat we had time to rest and explore while cruising back to the port of San Cristobal to pick up the hot latino. Yes, he insisted on making a dramatic entrance (check out the video). Actually, he was in the states for work so he had to meet us in the Galapagos. Luckily the timing worked out perfect and he was able to hop on the 2:00 pm boat from Puerto Ayora. He arrived just in time for dinner! The kids were happy to take him on a grand tour of “our” boat.

Day one was relatively uneventful since it was a shortened day, however it was still full of chilling on the deck, enjoying Ecuadorian delicacies and socializing with fellow travelers.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS
On that first day we had time to get better acquainted with the other two guests. As I said previously Eden was a boat that could occupy 16, however there were only six of us for the first three days. It was pretty cool to have the whole place to ourselves even though we all seemed to gather in the same areas and share travel stories, which of course I love.

I must say that both of these other cruisers were amazingly inspiring individuals, interesting and so kind to our kids. They treated AvaLar as equals and involved them in all the conversations. I would like to publicly thank Donal and Nicole for their ability to recognize that children are equals. They are not property that is meant to be seen and not heard, they are not dogs who should be obedient (I hate this word) and they should never ever be held to standards higher than adults just because they are kids. Both Donal and Nicole were fabulous with them and I cannot be more grateful. These are the people I want our kids to be exposed to as well travel. People who are traveling solo, living large, fighting fears, dreaming big, full of life and accepting of all ages, races, genders, religions and lifestyle choices. Thank you Donal and Nicole, from the bottom of my heart.

So who are these mysterious passengers? Donal is a gentleman from Ireland who currently calls London home. He is a civil engineer with a zest for travel who decided to take eight months off after working on the development of a new piece to the London Tube public transportation system (yes, really). He had some amazing travel stories that had the kids mouths wide open and their tongues begging for more details.

Nicole is a woman from Germany who had struggles with disruptions to her daily routine until she discovered horses. Now she travels for up to a month a year taking horseback riding tours all over the world. She is a secretary in her everyday life. Nicole is currently riding a horse to Machu Picchu.

Here we go! Do you have specific questions? Hopefully we will answer all your curiosities by the end of our series on Galapagos. What do you think of the video? Is it a nice addition? We plan to video as much of our adventures as possible going forward.

Have a fantastic day.

Besos,
Jessica

Galapagos! Lets get this party started!

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(The photos above are all from my iPhone. I will share photos from my professional camera starting tomorrow!)

Hola friends! I’m back! I’m back! I’m back! Well, we are all back! I guess that sounded a bit like I left the family in Galapagos. I am sure they would have been fine with it. We are quite enjoying Quito so it is nice to be back, however I did not miss the pollution, altitude adjustment and dryness (holy dryness!). Plus, that “back to reality” feeling after a great trip, although reality really is not that bad.

What a trip! It is going to take me weeks to work through all the images and gather myself. In the meantime I am going to share random thoughts and tidbits today that I believe are worth a mention. Sorry if I sound all over the place, we have a lot on our plate right now and my ability to multi-task is dwindling. Ha!

As most of you know by now we were in the Galapagos for 16 days from April 29th until May 15th. We spent several days in Puerto Ayora getting our self acquainted (we did not have time to research before we left), waiting for Will to arrive, negotiating a cruise deal and just resting a bit (it was much-needed). Then we hopped on a seven-day cruise and had the time of our life. Finally, we closed out our time in the Galapagos on Santa Cruz island taking in the local sights, resting, beach hopping and sleeping (a lot). It was a fabulous trip and I definitely have some thoughts on how to “do” Galapagos. I am sure the list below will grow as I sift through all the photos, my notes and memories from our trip. Be sure to revisit this post in a couple of weeks for the updated version.

RANDOM STUFF:

  • GO ON A CRUISE: I am going to say this over and over, probably in every post I do. Save the money, skip other vacations and make it possible to do a cruise. Do not go to the Galapagos and do the day trips. I am sure someone will disagree with me on this, but I am telling you it is a different experience altogether on the boat for a week. We did both. If you go and book the last-minute deals you can get it for half price during off seasons. Trust me when I say you need to do the cruise. There will be more on this later.
  • DISCOUNTS: During our visit we were able to negotiate the price on a lot of items. We got a seven-day cruise on the Eden boat for less than half the normal price by doing it last-minute upon arrival. Also, I was able to negotiate a lower rate at our hostel and the internet cafe. Of course you need to be willing to do a longer stay in the hostel or several hours at the cafe, but it is possible.
  • BRING CASH: If you think you might book a last-minute cruise then bring a lot of cash with you. The agencies in Galapagos charge up to 8% on top of your bill if you use a credit card or paypal. Crazy! There are four ATM machines (that I know of) in the town of Puerto Ayora, but if your cards are like mine they have a $300 a day withdrawal limit. When you are a family of four taking a seven-day cruise it takes a lot of trips to the ATM to get that bill paid. However, the agency that we booked with did let me leave my passport with them and continue to pay the bill when we returned from our cruise. Just bring extra cash and make it easier on yourself. I was making several trips a day with four separate cards to get money out and it was a bit of a pain, plus the fees can add up. However, it is still better than putting it on a credit card with the extra 7% they charge at the agency.
  • GEAR: Rent wetsuits if you plan to go on a seven-day cruise in May around the western part of the Galapagos. The water was cold, very cold, however I am a cold water wimp. Our boat had wetsuits for rent, but the options were limited. They did not have 5mil or kid sizes. If you are spending this kind of money on a cruise then go the extra mile and get the wet suit. There is a lot of snorkeling and the suit will make it much more bearable. Even with the wetsuits the kids still got cold and could only stay in the water for a short time. It was that cold!!! Even Will (who is a tough latino) said it was cold.
  • LAUNDRY: Don’t pack a lot. Laundry is $1.50 per kilo in Puerto Ayora and they can turn it around in a couple of hours. We did this several times. We even landed back in our port for a couple of hours on the cruise and made another run to do laundry so we could avoid hand washing on the boat.
  • SNACKS: There is no way around it, the Galapagos is expensive. We found several ways to save a bit here and there. One of them was making sure we had plenty of snacks brought from the mainland (well actually Trader Joe’s). Since an ice cream can cost between $3 and $5 you want to make sure you have snack bars, nuts, dried fruit, etc. We even brought rice and packaged soup for cooking at our hostel. They told us we could only use the microwave once and that was it, ugh. Well, we tried.
  • $100 PER PERSON: You must pay this when you arrive in Galapagos before you collect your luggage. Children are $50 each. Cash only. Apparently the money goes to funding the parks on the islands, none of it goes back to the mainland (as it did in previous years).
  • INTERNET: It’s terrible, period. Everyone I talked to had bad service in their hostels. Luckily there is an internet cafe in Puerto Ayora which is a little better. The price is $2.50 per hour. Again, that is negotiable if you plan to stay for several hours. Will spent his second week working from the cafe and it was sufficient, however we don’t recommend it. Just take the time off while you are in the Galapagos and vacation baby!
  • TIPPING ON THE CRUISE: Well, we are notorious for reading living books and watching documentaries before we go on a new adventure, however we NEVER read guide books. So you can imagine we were pretty surprised at the suggested rate for tipping on the cruise. Read up and be prepared. ATM access is very limited after the first couple of days on the cruise.
  • TRANSPORTATION: We flew into Baltra and it was a good decision for us. We exited the airport and hopped on a bus that took us to a ferry and then another bus which dropped us right in the center of Puerto Ayora. It cost us a total of $3 per person and it took approximately 1.5 -2 hours. I hear you can get a taxi to town after the ferry for $20 for four people, but that just seemed like too much for us when there was another viable option. Once we were in PA we walked everywhere except when we went to some distance beaches which were not worth the expensive cab ride (more on this later).
  • MEDICAL: Well, you know us. If we don’t try out the local medical care then it is not a Sueiro family adventure. Ha! Two days after arriving back to civilization Largo suddenly had ear pain. You all know what that means! I was just so happy it did not happen on the cruise. We were not around any hospitals or towns for five days, it could have been ugly. Almost immediately Will propped Largo up on his shoulders and they walked the four blocks to the hospital. They were back with a diagnosis, prescription and smiles within an hour. Oh and it was all FREE! Another amazing medical experience in a foreign country.

 

ISLANDS WE VISITED ON OUR SEVEN DAY CRUISE:

  • San Cristóbal (day 1): lunch and boarding
  • Lobos (day 1): Lobos (hike to see wild life)
  • Santa Fe (day 2): Santa Fe (swimming with sealions)
  • South Plaza (day 2): Rocas Gordon (land iguanas)
  • Santa Cruz (day 3): Puerto Ayora (Charles Darwin Station and Highlands, we skipped this to work)
  • Isabela (day 4): Puerto Villamil (flamingoes, tortoise reserve, snorkeled in mangrove, beach time, boat crash)
  • Tortuga (day 4): Tortuga (turtles, dah)
  • Isabela (day 5): Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay (hike on lava, swim with turtles, dingy tour in mangroves)
  • Isabela (day 6): Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca (hard hike to viewpoint, snorkel with sea life, dingy ride in caverns, Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Fernandina (day 6): Punta Espinoza
  • Santiago (day 7): Puerto Egas (hike, snorkel (penguins), hike, snorkel with sharks)
  • Rabida (day 7): Rabid (I forget)
  • Seymour (day 8): Seymour Norte, Islote Mosquera (Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies mating and babies)
  • Baltra (day 8): Baltra port (back to land, boo hoo)

 

ISLAND WE VISITED ON A DAY CRUISE:

  • Floreana: Black beach, Asilo de la Paz, fresh water source, Scales Forest and pirate caves.

 

WHAT TO BRING:

  • Sunscreen (lots of it).
  • Snorkel gear if you have it.
  • Hat.
  • Water shoes (Keene’s are fine).
  • Sneakers.
  • Flip flops. If you are tight on space then I say skip these. You need the water shoes for water landings on the cruise. You need the sneakers for tough hikes. You can always wear your water shoes to the beach. Trust me, flip-flops are not good on the volcanic rock. I slit my toe on the first day and never wore my flip-flops again.
  • Travel towel. If you think your hotel/hostel (they have them on the cruise) won’t have them. I know I was glad to have mine when we were land based since our hostel only gave us three towels for four of us.
  • One sweater shirt or warmer cover. It got cold at night in May.
  • Bug spray. We brought it, however we did not need it in May and in the areas we visited.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Waterproof cases. We have several of these for different devices and we always carry ziplock bags as well.
  • Daypacks.
  • Water bottles. We did not bring ours. Fresh and free water was hard to get. We just bought it. We were caught about drinking the local water.
  • Shirts and shorts. Depends on how long you are staying and if you want to have laundry done there (it is affordable). We brought 3-4 outfits each for the days.
  • Pants and long sleeve. We brought one of each and barely wore them. However, my long sleeve shirt came in handy on some cooler water taxi rides.
  • Swimsuit. One is fine.
  • Undergarments.
  • Raingear. We skipped it. It never rained once during our visit.
  • Swim Goggles. We did not use these at all because we had snorkel gear.
  • Extra SD cards. You will take a lot of photos.
  • Camera. Regular, waterproof and Go Pro.
  • Dramamine. I used a pressure point bracelet and it worked fine. We never used the dramamine. Will and the kids never got sea sick and I only got sea sick on the day cruise.

 

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY:

  • My suggestion would be to stay at least ten days (of course longer if it is in your budget). Do a seven-day cruise and then hang out in Puerto Ayora for a couple of days to go to Las Grietas and Tortuga Bay (my favorite beach in the world). If you want to stay longer and finances permit I would say do the seven-day cruise (western route) and then a four-day cruise to Floreana and Espanola. We did a one day to Floreana because the combo was sold out and I don’t think it was worth it for the price. We did see everything the Galapagos has to offer in regards to wild life on our seven-day cruise. If you go on a longer or different cruise you can see varying topography and cultures on the islands.
  • I saw ads for 12 day cruises. Hey, if you can afford it then do it.
  • If you can only afford seven days then fly in, do the cruise and fly out. You will see a lot.

READING MATERIAL:

  • Books: Wonders of the World: Galapagos Islands by Jean Blashfield. Ecuador: Enchantment of the World by JoAnn Milivojevic.
  • Documentary/Movies: Floreana Affair, Galapagos: The islands that changed the world, BBC Documentary on the Galapagos
  • Talk: Ask other travelers what they have done (our best resource yet).

Ok, I think this is a good start. Does it sound overwhelming or manageable? I remember feeling completely lost before we went. Probably because I did not have time to do any research. However, you can get acquainted pretty quick once you arrive. I’m a curious and friendly person so I picked a lot of brains when we landed. I still think that the best resource you can use is chatting with others.

Tomorrow I will share the price we paid for one week on the cruise, the details about our boat, some of the cast of characters and day one on the open water.

Have a fantastic day.

Besos,
Jessica

Weekly Round Up + Hello Galapagos!

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Hola friends! I am writing to you from Galapagos! This is a dream come true and I can’t believe we are actually here. Pinch me. In a couple of hours we will be off the grid for just over a week. Well, except for Tuesday when we dock in a town and catch up on work. I won’t be posting this week, however you can follow our travels on Instagram (click the camera icon on the upper right hand corner to follow). I promise to sync up whenever I can get a connection.

Our goals for this adventure are as follows: have fun, learn, have fun, adventure, have fun and do it all on as little money as possible. Ha. I know that last one is funny, but we are doing our best. We already got a cruise for half price by buying it once we hit the ground here instead of pre-booking.

I am going to keep this week short and sweet because I hear our boat calling us! Ha!

ROUND UP time!

DRONE: Will has finally got himself a girlfriend. He has been threatening for a year now. Her name is Drone or as I like to refer to her, Drona (working on my version of Spanish). In just a couple of hours they will join us here in Galapagos. Get ready for him to blow the roof off his Go-Pro videos!

HUMAN RIGHTS: This post hit number two for most likes on GGG, outside of the Inside A Traveler’s Walls posts. Wow, you are an amazing audience filled with kindness and acceptance. Love you!

GRANDPARENTS: And if you missed this post you might want to go check it out. Thanks for all the love and support on my posts this past week. You guys rock.

NEW FOLLOWERS: I see there are quite a few of you. WELCOME!!!! It is going to be a little quiet here this week because we are off the grid, but I promise to be back next week with gusto. Don’t forget me!

 

SHARING TIME!

BOOK CHARACTERS: What do you think of this post? Should we have more diverse characters in books? I love the idea. And since I am working on writing my first children’s book I will definitely take this into consideration. I am thinking a rainbow-colored character to represent a hybrid of all the different cultures. What do you think?

MAKING THE WORLD OUR CLASSROOM: My friend Lainie and her son Miro did a Ted Talk. It’s amazing! Watch it!

GENEROSITY: Would you do this if you lived here? I know we would. We love to feed people!

EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK!

GALAPAGOS: We are here! And you will have to wait for an update when we return.

Besos,
Jessica

Children Are Dying! And Bathrooms Are A Hot Topic?

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Hola friends.

Children are dying and suffering all over the world and we are worried about who is using what bathroom?

Is this for real?

I should be sleeping, I’m exhausted and I have some stomach bug. BUT I must write. I cannot believe what I am reading on social media and it is driving me bonkers. Unlike many parents across the globe I am going to sleep tonight with both of my children in my bed. They are healthy, they have a roof over their head, they have food and an abundance of love. I am lucky and I know it. Are your kids safe, fed and do they have all the love one can garner? Probably.

The other day Avalon, Largo and I bought breakfast for 40 people, kids and adults. They are families of children critically injured from the earthquake here in Ecuador. Some of them have already lost children and others are clinging to hope that their other child will survive. They have very little money, very little food, but a whole bundle of faith. They are living in hostels provided by the hospital because they cannot afford hotels. They are exhausted and so incredibly grief-stricken. Even in my Spanglish I can hear it in their voice, see it in their body language and feel it in their eyes. All they want is for their child to LIVE.

All they want is for their child to LIVE.

Meanwhile in the US we are worried about who is using what bathroom.

I don’t even know where to begin with this post. Honestly folks! Are you with me?

Many years ago a traveling friend told me that travel would change me. It would make me angry, it would make me cry, it would make me get on my soap box, however it would also make me fearless, grateful and enlightened. I doubted her. Today I realize how right she was. I can sit back and worry about what my conservative readers will think. I can worry that I will lose readers. I can worry that there might be some ugly comments regarding this post, but I am not going to. I have to say something. I blog very intentionally. I choose to share with all of you what I see as we travel for a reason. I don’t edit it or candy coat it. I know many of you can’t travel or don’t want to, but you want to know what is going on in the world beyond what the media shows you and beyond your community. You want to know what I see where I am. I’m going to tell you today that there are bigger issues than who is using what bathroom. Much, much bigger. Kids are dying because of natural disasters, kids are drowning in order to escape war-torn countries and kids are starving. It is real! And it is much bigger than a bathroom issue.

Ready for this post? I cannot see both sides of the coin on this one and I am not going to pretend I can. Yes, this is a harsh statement to make, but when it comes to human beings and the treatment of them I take a very strong stance.

I would like to start by saying “Target you are my hero!” Thank you for standing up for equal rights and being the first large corporation to take a stand in the name of humanity. You are truly a pioneer. I have always been a fan, but this brings you to new levels in my eyes.

This whole Target situation has given me an opportunity to discuss transgenderism with my children, as well as how one company (or one person, think Rosa Parks) can set the path for change. I have discussed with AvaLar that someone has to be the pioneer, the one that makes the change even if they are initially standing alone. I have discussed with them that we are all special and our differences make us unique, not weird or wrong. Thank you Target for being a great role model for our youth (the future world changers) and giving my family a point of reference when we discuss large corporations taking an active stand in the name of equality.

I actually read today that there is a petition circulating to boycott Target. If each one of these individuals donated $1 towards children suffering around the world that would be $700,000 (and that number is still growing). This money could actually save and improve lives instead of creating hate and fear. Imagine what this lady could do if she received close to a million dollars. Instead we sit back and worry about who is using what bathroom. We sign petitions and pass fear down through the generations. Who is going to change this world as we age if we teach our youth to fear anything or anyone who is different from them?

Do you remember when Wal-Mart was caught using child labor? People talked about it, even signed petitions, but they still continued to shop there because at the end of the day it was someone else’s child that was affected in some country they had never hear of, not their own. They were saddened, but not enough to give up their beloved Wal-Mart.

Fast forward to present day and people are outraged because Target wants to give all individuals fair bathroom access. Now these same people are worried about the children? Right, because it directly affects their own children or so they think. We are in a sad state of affairs when we cannot have empathy for all the children (and adults) in the world and recognize that everyone is someone’s child, including transgender people.

But this is not about Target or bathrooms is it?

I think the bigger issue here is the fear of the unknown. Since transgender individuals only make up .3% of the population (although there is speculation the number may be higher) very few people actually know someone who is transgender. They are scared of what they don’t know. So lets play a little game. It’s called the game of statistics. I always find this type of education enlightens me in areas that once produced fear. Remember in Jerry Maguire when he said, “show me the money?” “Ok, show me the stats!”

  • 41% of transgender people surveyed in Injustice at Every Turn said they had attempted suicide, compared with 1.6 percent of the general population. Risk increased for those who reported bullying, sexual assault and job loss.
  •  78% of transgender respondents who had endured physical or sexual violence at school had attempted suicide. (source: Injustice at Every Turn)
  • 25% of transgender recipients reported losing a job because they did not conform to gender norms. A staggering 90% said they faced some form of transgender-based discrimination.  (source Injustice at Every Turn)
  • Over the 35 year history of NDOs (Non-Discrimination Ordinances) protecting transgender people all over the world, only one case of a person abusing an NDO and committing sexual assault (in Canada) has ever been found, even by those most interested in demonizing transgender people. Every NDO, every person, every bathroom, every day, every trip to the loo, for 35 years, and it’s happened once in the entire world. (source: Huff Post 11/2015)

Transgender individuals are victims. Look at these stats. These are not people who are looking to go after your child in a restroom. They are just trying to take a pee in the restroom that feels most authentic to who they are. Transgender people need our support, not more people to beat them down or abuse them.

Lets continue this stats party with the details on pedophiles.

  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.
  • About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
  • Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child. (Facts taken from the National Sex Offender Public Website)

It seems that we can conclude that the person who is worried about their daughter in the restroom should be more worried about a family member, a babysitter, a neighbor, a priest or a sport coach than someone who is transgender. Many people are more than wiling to hand their children off to “people they know” and these so called “family and friends” have the potential to be much more dangerous. If you are that person who is worried about your daughter sharing a sink (because they are not actually sharing a bathroom stall) with a transgender individual you might want to rethink sending her to practice with her basketball coach, or to religious study with the priest or to her favorite uncles house because the stats speak more in this area than in the bathrooms with transgender people. And what about the little boys? We have been sending them into bathrooms for years with the pedophiles. But, now a transgender individual wants to use the same bathroom and we are worried. Again, look at the stats!

And who is sending their young child into the bathroom alone anyway? My son recently started using the men’s room alone. I always made him come in the lady’s room with me. And let me tell you I am more comfortable with both of my kids being alone in the lady’s room with transgender individuals than I am with sending them into the mens room with pedophiles. Even when the stats show that the pedophiles are move likely to be someone they know and not someone lurking in a bathroom while mama or papa are standing outside the door.

In closing I want to throw some food for thought out there. Do you love your child? Would you let them be who they authentically feel they are? Or would you try to convince them otherwise? Think about it for a minute. What would you do for someone you love? Would you want them to be able to use the bathroom they felt most comfortable in or would you sit back and worry what people would think?

And if you were to ask the families who have children in the hospital struggling for life if they care who uses what bathroom I can guarantee they would laugh out loud. And then they would say, “I just want my child to live.”

I just want my child to live.

This bathroom debate is trivial stuff compared to what is happening in the world each day. However, I believe it is important because it is an equal rights issue and it should be discussed. And those of us who have a forum should utilize it to create awareness.

And for those of you who think this bathroom debate is just as ridiculous as I do please chat with your children (and grandchildren) about it. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children about people and their differences. Go volunteer at a transgender facility, read books, watch documentaries and learn. We need to spread as much light, love and kindness as possible to combat all those folks who don’t really give a shit about other human beings. And yes, I said a bad word.

Besos,
Jessica

Updated: April 28th. Thank you all for your comments. If you have time take a look, some great points are made. And for the people using the argument that they are being stripped of their rights…what about the rights of the transgender individual? You still have the right to “choose” whether or not you use the restroom and so do they now. Also when you use the word “normal” versus not you have a lot to learn about humanity and treating every human being equally. 

An Indigenous Farm in Ecuador

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Hola friends! Happy Tuesday! I want to send out a special thank you to everyone who commented and shared my post from Friday regarding the grandparents of traveling families. I truly do believe it takes a village and we (traveling families, as well as stationery families) need the love and support of the grandparents. So, thank you all.

We leave for Galapagos on Friday. Yeah! Oh no, so much to do! Well, we will get there, we always do. However, I have a feeling I will be pulling a college all nighter on Thursday. Ha!

We have been socializing our butts off over here. We are beat, but it is difficult for us to turn down an opportunity to hang out with friends and learn how others live. Last night I had to say “lets chill” just so we could get some much-needed rest and a bath. It’s been a week since their last bath and they were looking pretty rough. Will and I can always tell how good of a week it has been by the amount of dirt under their fingernails. Let’s just say they were pretty bad the last two weeks. We are big supporters of a wild and free unplugged childhood and we have been pushing that to the max lately.

Speaking of a wild and free childhood… wow, did we have a couple of wild and free days at that indigenous farm two weekends ago with our friends the Sinclair’s. I think the images above pretty much speak for themselves, however I would like to identify some highlights from our weekend getaway.

  • The bus ride. Yes, the bus ride! We all quite like our bus rides in Equador. The kids enjoy them because they have a movie, they can read, do crafts and snuggle in for a long nap. I like them because I sit back and create in my head. I get a lot of work done on the bus in regards to conceptualizing. I cannot read or work on my computer in a moving vehicle so I am forced to work in my head. And Will likes them because they are… inexpensive. He is such an accountant. Ha.
  • Friends. We loved seeing our friends the Sinclair’s again in a different environment. Since the day we met them our kids became fast friends (and so did we). It is always nice to meet other travelers who are on a similar path in many ways and a different path in others. I love learning and swapping travel stories with other families.
  • The puppies. I know you are probably thinking we were on a puppy farm since most of the pics are of these cute little buggers. The farm dog had recently given birth to five adorable puppies. One for each kid to nurture, snuggle and play house with. These puppies provided hours of entertainment for the kids on the farm. They made them houses, trained them, took them on adventures to the pond, named them and much more. Then one day we went to the market and when we came home two were gone. They had sold them. Needless to say there were tears. How could they sell them while we were gone? We did not get to say goodbye! Then of course there were the pleas for them to bring one traveling with us. It was heartbreaking to leave the puppies behind, but they just don’t work with our travel life.
  • Animal auction. We got a bit of a late start so we were unable to experience the auction portion of the animal sale, but we still had an amazing experience regardless. We saw llamas, cows, puppies, chickens, turkeys, bunnies, pigs, ducks and so much more. This is where the locals go each week to replenish their animal stock. I’m sure you can imagine the pleas for pets after this adventure.
  • Otavalo market. We have been to this market several times, but it never gets old. We always say “no more” and we continue to come home with a bag of goodies. This time we purchased a hat, a sweater, two ponchos, a bundle of scarves, several linens, a cape, jewelry made from Tagua and many other items. We all love the indigenous clothing and crafts.
  • The pond. Just down the hill from the house was a pond. On one of the warm afternoons we took the kids for a swim in it. They loved it! They tossed the soccer ball, pretended they were cave men, laughed, jumped and had an overall good time. No one had bathing suits, but they all made it work and no one missed a beat.
  • Milking the cows. One morning we woke up early to help Mercedes (the house-mother) milk the cows. My kids have done this before, but each time offers a different experience. They enjoyed it just as much this time, however they are not huge milk fans so they only took one taste of it at breakfast.
  • Guinea pigs. In Ecuador guinea pigs are raised for sale in order to be eaten. Cuy (cooked Guinea Pig) is considered a delicatessen here and is very expensive. The kids played with them for hours, but their ultimate fate weighed on the kids. In the US they are considered pets and as much as we travel it is still hard to overcome something you have been used to seeing as a pet being bred as food.
  • Food. Mercedes cooked delicious meals for us as part of our arrangement. We ate local food and were often involved in the preparations as well. Our family enjoyed most of the meals she offered. They were organic and definitely farm to table.
  • Hike. One afternoon we took a hike up to an indigenous celebration site. The bigger kids and Will stayed on the farm while Myka and I took the youngest out in the wild for several hours. We had an amazing hike, a great chat and freedom. There are many hiking trails in the area if you choose to visit make sure Mercedes takes you around.
  • Brick. The primary industry in this small community is agriculture. However in recent years locals have taken to making bricks. The brick cooking buildings are a bit of an eye soar and smelly so they have been met with mix feelings from the other farmers in the community.
  • Adventure. The kids were allowed to run free on the property, get dirty, create, imagine and just be wild. Their creative desires were allowed to run free in their heads all day long. It was magical.
  • Our friends stayed for an additional week. During that time they made humitas and tortillas, sorted beans, learned about quinoa, collected food for the guinea pigs and pigs (weeded, used scythe to cut tops of maize, collected and carried back home), swang on farm swing, walked around the community to see animals and brick making, found a secret rope swing, helped cook in general, cobbed the dry and the fresh corn, washed dishes and did laundry.

We want to go back for another several days in July if anyone is interested in joining us. We travel for so many reasons and at the top of this list is to learn about different cultures and meet new people. The experience we had with Mercedes and her family was amazing, fulfilling and one we will remember forever.

If you are interested in getting off the grid (although they do have wifi, ha) to experience the indigenous culture I highly recommend Loma Wasi. Feel free to reach out to me and I can give you more information .

Besos,
Jessica

p.s and I love this picture Myka took of Will and I. willjessfarm

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