My first time in South America: Ecuador

In September & October of 2016, I had the true privilege of traveling to Ecuador to visit some dear friends. In addition to it being a place of unbelievable beauty and visual delight, it was also a place where I felt at ease, so thrilled to be exploring a new place alongside people that know me well. 

Teleferico – 14,000ft
Ceviche: Ecuadorian style with popcorn

Ecuador’s land mass is quite small, yet they have an insanely diverse range of landscapes. Drive just two hours outside of Quito and you could find yourself in any type of terrain: farmland scattered with rows and rows of green onions, misty hot springs, desert-like sandy mountains resembling the middle east, snow covered volcanoes, canyons formed by rushing lava, sweeping green expanses.

View from our hobbit home
Cotopaxi volcano

Color is everywhere. The buildings cheerfully splash your eyes with bright pinks and yellows and mint green and orange, some orderly and some at random, painted in incomplete squares or rectangles on the side of a building. The fruits..oh the fruits (!) piled high at the street markets, thrust into your car window at the intersections, filling cartons upon cartons at each neighborhood tienda. Big, green waxy beans fill black-rimmed enamel trays, waiting to be weighed and bagged and sold to the market’s customers. Clothing is happy hues pulled together to form outfits, a start contrast to the all black look of so many Scandinavians.


They live at a refreshingly slow pace of life. Bills get delivered to your house by hand and must be paid at a separate location. Online bill pay doesn’t exist in Ecuador, partially because the government strives to employ as many people as they can. This leads to a different vibe in the workforce that involves lots of tipping of gas attendants and parking garage car watchers and grocery store baggers. The electricity could go out at any moment, and it did while I was there. Water, too, is an inconsistent luxury that could go out for hours at a time, which it did.

Hobbit homes at Cotopaxi
Hobbit home hostel at the Secret Garden

And the people. The people are marvelous, so kind, so inviting, so warm, so present. I felt instantly like a friend, like one of the group. They embraced me fully, without knowing me at all, and showed love with smiles, conversations, prayers, and kindness.

So many friends remarked how Ecuador gets in your blood, how it grabs ahold of you and doesn’t fully let you go. I get this now. Even though I was only there for a few weeks, I feel connected to the people, the place, the life there. I don’t ever want to forget it. Now that I’ve seen it all, how can I not think about them? How can I not wonder how they are, those people living life everyday so far away from me?

Downtown Quito
Downtown Quito


My name is Elisabeth Fondell. I quit my corporate retail job in May of 2016 and have been on a self-appointed sabbatical ever since. In the pursuit of reclaiming my life, I’ve spent this sabbatical filling my days with travel to illuminating places, thought provoking words, poems, pottery, and the pursuit of wholeness.
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