A week from today, I’ll be in Ecuador! Touring Quito, adjusting to the altitude (above 9,000 feet), and trying not to spit out French words when my brain knows it should be speaking a foreign language but can’t quite produce “Hola.”
It’s going to be great.
Some of you have asked why I chose Ecuador for Mockingbird’s first official tour. In short: This country has everything! Epic Andes mountains, mysterious Amazonian jungles, smokin’ volcanoes (literally, at the moment), UNESCO World Heritage sites, vibrant indigenous cultures, and of course, those little islands called Galapagos. It’s a perfect introduction to South America – a bountiful sampler platter, if you will.
Aside from those obvious reasons, I wanted to choose somewhere I’d never been before, so we could explore it together. And I was looking for a place where I could put Mockingbird’s two pillars of sustainable tourism and global health philanthropy into action.
Ecuador has made sustainability the focal point of its tourism industry. Ecuador’s “conscious tourism” model is based on ethical and sustainable principles and promotes the values of peace, friendship and respect. One of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, Ecuador clearly recognizes the tangible and intangible value of its natural assets, and it has committed to protecting those assets while developing a tourism infrastructure that will promote economic growth. For example, responsible tourism to the Amazon does double-duty in protecting that remarkable resource; the more tourist dollars flow into the region, the less likely it is to be destroyed.
Unfortunately, poverty remains pervasive in Ecuador, and access to medical care – particularly in rural areas – can be limited. I’ll be visiting a rural community health center and looking for ways that Mockingbird, and our travelers, can help.
Ecuador is also an ideal destination for anyone who wants to expand his or her travel horizons but hasn’t done much, or any, off-the-beaten-travel-path traveling yet. Its official currency is the US dollar. It’s in the Eastern time zone (yes, really – I didn’t believe it either until I looked at a map). The major US carriers fly there non-stop from several US cities. It even uses the same electric voltage and outlets as the US. In short, it’s easy – and yet, it’s a completely different world.
Last but not least, situated as it is along the Equator, Ecuador’s year-round weather is variations of “perfect.” After the steamy 90’s we’ve been suffering through in DC, I can’t wait to wear jeans and a jacket (what does “chilly” feel like again?).
I just need to work on my Spanish: ¿Habla usted inglés?
While I’m traveling, our regular Friday blog posts will be on hiatus. To make sure you don’t miss a moment of my Ecuadorian explorations, use the links on the right to follow Mockingbird on the social media platforms of your choice. (I recommend Instagram and Facebook!) See you south of the Equator!