Design work is great and I love my job, but sometimes it’s healthy to detach from the pixels, disconnect from the interweb, and learn something new. My PARALLAXploration to Ecuador allowed me to get a taste of a life that’s almost completely different from the one that I usually live. I was out of my comfort zone, got my hands dirty, ate very little meat…and it was awesome. Ecuador is a beautiful place and I learned a lot about myself and others on my two-part journey.
Part 1: Off the Grid, Working in the Rainforest
Traveling over 16 hours by plane, bus, and taxi to my destination in the rainforest created quite an adventure for me. I gathered a few loose directions from a handful of blogs before my trip, but since I don’t speak or understand Spanish, I wasn’t ever sure if I was going in the right direction. All I knew for sure was that I was in search of a small monkey sign at coordinates:1°03’22.6″S 77°53’51.8″W. I instructed various different drivers to take me to “El Mono,” which was where I would take the path to Saraswati Ahimsa Vana – the Ecological Reserve where I would stay and volunteer my time.
The community at the Reserve consisted of travelers from all over the world. It has been about 5 years since the Reserve started their organic farm, currently reforesting 26 hectares (approximately 60 acres) of secondary rainforest with native plants and trees from the Amazon and returning natural feeding grounds to hunted animals. They always welcome visitors and enjoy teaching about Ecuadorian culture, simple thinking, and high living.
I was very inspired by the people that I met during my stay. They seemed very positive, free, and detached from all the wants and needs from the material world. The Veidic principles that they follow – honoring food while preparing and before eating, chanting, following a vegetarian diet, practicing Yoga, etc. – really impacted me. Since I returned, I’ve continued to learn about their principles and have looked for ways to apply them in my own life.
The actual work I had to do on the farm consisted of wheel barrowing heavy bags of organic coffee bean compost picked up from the local villages and spreading it around the plants and trees to nourish the soil. I also had the pleasure of working with steaming piles of organic compost filled with maggots and bugs. We used shovels and pitchforks to move the compost around, allowing it breathe and speed up the composting process. After all the dirty work, it was always nice to take a dip in the natural pool that was built to channel water from the nearby rivers.
Here is a breakdown of what a typical day looked like on the Reserve:
- 5:00 am – Chanting
- 6:00 am – Yoga
- 7:00 am – Breakfast
- 9:00 am – Work on the farm
- 11:00 am- Juice break
- 1:00 pm- Lunch
- 2:00 pm – Free time
- 7:00 pm – Dinner
Spending 5 days living in the rainforest gave me a fresh perspective on simplicity. I traveled light, ate small portions, and did less. Life slowed down and I was able to appreciate the the environment around me. #hammocklife
Other things I learned:
- A person can create warm water using a composting system with running water.
- Fermented lemons can used for natural soaps.
- Swallowing 5 papaya seeds can help with parasites.
- Hitchhiking is fun.
- Dry toilets are like luxurious porta potties.
- I can handle a lot more bugs that I thought.
- Make sure you have small denomination dollar bills when you travel to Ecuador or you’ll have problems purchasing things. Many places could not provide change.
Part 2: Home sick in Quito
For the last part of my trip, I was able to spend a night and 1 full day in a beautiful part of Quito, Ecuador. I used Airbnb for the first time and stayed in an old artsy home with 5 cats in the Historic Center of Quito. The home was called La Casa de las Tias. It was built in the sixteenth century and belonged to one of the founders of Quito. It has been beautifully remodeled throughout the years, but most of the history has been preserved, including an original fresco painting you can barely see in the kitchen done by the Quito natives back in the day.
While in the city, I learned:
- Although I was lost 100% of the time, if you look confident and act like you know where you are going, you won’t draw too much attention to yourself.
- Coca tea, made from the same plant used to make cocaine, is popular in South America and has a lot of health benefits.
- Being so close to the equator and living in high altitude quickly takes a toll on your body.
During my day there I managed to check out a few museums and churches, but I was only able to able to explore for a short time until the high altitude caught up with me and I started not feeling well. I ended up finding my way back home and resting because my stomach was getting very upset. I later found out that I’d caught a parasite in the rainforest. It was not the greatest way to spend my last day, but I was able to have great conversations with my Airbnb host, Francesca. She was kind enough to take care of me and share some amazing home remedies to take away the sickness. (The journey home wasn’t quite as pleasant…) But I guess it was all part of the experience, right?