After switching flights due to a broken plane, completely bypassing the group meeting in Miami, flying into Ecuador alone (into the wrong city of course), going to a plethora of different terminals, and taking a seven hour unplanned bus ride, I was exhausted, probably smelled pretty horribly (sorry Thomas) and was a wee bit irritated (note the sarcasm there).
But it was so worth it.
Ecuador was exotic and eye opening and a bunch of other phrases that go with traveling to a foreign country for the very first time. But you could name a billion different phrases and never capture the essence of trudging through the jungle and being caught in a sudden downpour, or the feeling you had when the native Kichwa children smiled so happily at you when you simply held their hands.
Everything we saw, everything we did, taught us something. Whether it was our guide, Miguel talking about how he scrimped and saved to buy a beat up, second hand 2006 van that cost him his yearly income, or learning about the uncontacted tribes that protected their land and heritage by shooting poisonous arrows at people because they preferred to remain uncontacted. Either way we were always learning something and always able to take something away, storing it in our brains for later use, for later analyzation. And that’s what we did. Discussed, and contemplated and tried so hard to come up with solutions to every problem that was thrown at us. But of course nothing is black and white and nothing has a definite answer, and you could therefore argue all night whether ecotourism is good or bad, or whatever issue you have and never come up with an answer that everyone could agree upon.
Even with no answer, and slightly agitated people maybe the biggest lesson Ecuador taught me was that nothing is simple. Sustainability is certainly not, and neither is life. You can’t be sustainable by just farming organically, or biking to school, or of course by flying an 180,000 lb aircraft halfway across the world. For if it compromises you, someone else, or the earth it’s not sustainable. You have to look at the big picture and see an overall outcome before just naming a solution, because you never know what the side effects could be. And even if you think you have a solution, someone is always going to disagree with you, look out for their own interest, point out the moral dilemma, or plain old get in your way. But you have to roll with the punches, and dive into the mess, no matter how sticky. Because if you don’t, who will?
Maybe that was the reason behind taking us to Ecuador, giving us firsthand experience as to how to “roll with the punches.” Because that’s what traveling is! It’s not understanding what people say, getting weird stomach bugs, and little old men who have you fill out their immigration card for them because they are illiterate. Its adventure, and excitement, and a whole lot of sitting around and waiting. It’s something that enlightens you and leaves you feeling vulnerable. And it’s those feelings that leave the lasting impressions. It’s those feelings that keep you coming back for more.