We’ve been in Quito now for exactly two weeks, and what we’re learning about longer term travel is that a large part of it is about navigation.
We have to learn to navigate in a new place, where things are very different from what we were accustomed to in Albuquerque. Culture shock is certainly a bit of an issue, but not as much as it will be in other places down the road. Throw in a bit of a language barrier and it makes things even more interesting.
Some examples of things we’ve had to navigate this week:
1. Shopping at two local mercados, where tourists usually do not shop and where nobody speaks English. Loads of fun to see what there is to buy, especially the tropical fruits and vegetables that are not familiar to us. It’s always fun to learn new names and do a bit of bargaining, especially in a new language. We discovered a new favorite fruit, the granadilla, which is related to the passion fruit. And we have also discovered Tomates de Arbol, a tree variety of tomatoes that makes excellent jugo.
2. Shipping documents back to the US. It’s always fun to try and do things that tourists typically don’t do, like visit Fedex. This is even more of an adventure when even the taxi driver isn’t exactly sure where it is and where nobody speaks any English once you get there and you have to try to explain to them in broken Spanish that we need to ship documents back to the states…even more fun when you can’t remember your new address. But the documents will be there tomorrow. Woohoo!
3. Navigating the Farmacia. Kyle has a bit of a cold this week, which meant we needed to visit the local pharmacy for some cold medicine. Visiting the farmacia here is very different from going down to Walgreens in the states. Everything here is behind the counter and you have to ask the pharmacist for it. This means you need to know what you want and know what to ask for…all in Spanish, of course. Decongestante was not on any of our vocabulary lists until today. But we got what we wanted and Kyle is feeling much better this evening.
4. The Lavanderia – We’re traveling with a lot of lightweight merino wool clothing (& yes, we do know that we owe you a packing list…coming very soon, we promise!). The wool clothing is great for long term travel, but it cannot be put in a dryer. So today, when we dropped our clothing off to be washed, we needed to explain to the woman that they cannot go into the dryer. Once again, not your typical conversation, and all in Spanish. We’ll pick up our clothing tomorrow and hopefully we managed to communicate effectively and it will all still fit.
What we’re learning along the way is that one of the things that truly defines whether or not you will make it as a long term traveler is this ability to navigate. You have to be able to roll with the punches, to try and figure out how to find your way around in a new place and a new life. You need to be flexible, and optimistic, and willing to mold yourself into new roles while learning to understand, respect, and practice new customs. It requires quick evaluations of situations, fast on your feet thinking, and a lot of flying by the seat of your pants. A smile, loads of patience, & a willingness to embarrass yourself a bit when you mess up don’t hurt either.
But we’re discovering that we really love this! It’s hard and stressful at times, but the rewards and experiences we’ve had in just this very short time are absolutely worth it. And with the willingness to navigate comes a huge payout in fun & adventure and new friends and good stories. And we’ll continue to share those with you here.