Ecuador packs a lot into a relatively small place. It is the most bio-diverse country on the planet relative to its size, which is roughly equal to Colorado. Ecuador owes its incredible biodiversity to its stunningly varied geography: you could travel from a tropical beach to the Andean highlands to the Amazon rainforest all within a single day’s drive. Situated on the Equator, elevation is an important determinant of climate. Snow-capped volcanoes stud the majestic Andes, which run up the spine of the country north to south, giving way to cloud forest transition zones on either side. Ecuador’s natural bounty, vibrant culture, and friendly people have made it one of the most desirable places to live in the world, ranked #1 on International Living’s top retirement destinations for several years running. It’s safe, has a well-developed tourism industry, and even uses the US dollar for currency. The indigenous people of the Andes held pachamama – roughly translated as ‘Mother Earth’ – as their most sacred deity. Today, you’ll find pachamama and ‘Nature’ with assigned rights in Ecuador’s constitution, being the first nation to do so in 2008. Yet it continues to be one of the worst offenders of environmental degradation. Ecuador is in the midst of an economic boom. The pressure to develop its considerable natural resources has led to deforestation, species extinction, watershed contamination, soil depletion, and much more. These factors, and many more, make it the ultimate experiential classroom for the study of sustainability.