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Change Is Good: A Traveler’s Story In Quito, Ecuador

Charged by the bright equator sunshine, I felt motivated to make my first month in Quito, Ecuador count.

At first, everything was beautiful and intriguing, from the lush flowering trees that filled the boulevards to the volcanos looming around us like stern parents. One afternoon I planned to meet some friends for a tour, which required taking a taxi to an unfamiliar part of the city.

I furtively waved over a cab from the main street, parallel to my own depa, feeling emboldened by adventure but a little shy, considering the Spanish I would need to harness in order to communicate with my driver. Ride-sharing services hadn’t peeked their heads out from under the capital city’s strong taxi union, and all conversation would be mandatorily face-to-face. There was no clever app savior.

A yellow car noticed my raised arm and pulled over to pick me up.

The door slammed closed, and the driver and I greeted each other, engaging in a sort of verbal wrestling match, as I struggled to convey my intended destination. He was a pleasant Ecuadorian man who looked to be in his forties. We both smiled a lot, and I sweated, hoping good intentions would make up for missing nouns and verbs. He nodded in agreement with my jumbled directions.

Prematurely triumphant, I sat back into the ragged seat, dust puffing out from under my weight. Quito slid by my backseat window as we drove through the city.

After a pleasant-enough ride, the cab slowed. I shoved my crumpled ten-dollar-bill through to the front seats, waiting patiently for it to be snatched then replaced with my seven dollars in change.

Instead the driver turned around, “No tengo cambio,(“I don’t have change”) he said sheepishly, likely hoping our shoddy miscommunication would continue and I would leave just the same, overpaying due to my own unpreparedness or confusion. But the ten-dollar-bill was all I had brought for the day, and I knew I’d need a taxi to get home later that evening.

“No tengo cambio?” I muttered under my breath, understanding perfectly and feeling annoyed. “Okay,” I said aloud a few seconds later, using the universal response for acceptance or annoyance. Here I hoped to convey both, as in, “Ok, I hear you, but no way am I paying the gringa special for this $2.78 cab ride.”

I gestured for the man to park the taxi. Once the vehicle stopped, I stepped out onto the curb. Not wanting him to think I was blowing off our contractual agreement where he drives and I pay, I beckoned him to follow me just across the street. We hurried in time to the crosswalk shriek. I was determined and he was utterly confused, literally scratching his head in my wake.

Old storefront canopies sandwiched new elastic ones, with people beckoning out from under their shade: all verbal promotions and flattering names. With forced confidence, I stepped into the panadería I had spotted from the car, and gestured toward the display.

¿Cual quieres?” (“Which do you want?”) I asked.

He shrugged, then pointed out a chocolate pastry from under the fingerprinted glass. I ordered two. The man at the cash register stole a long glance as he handed them over to us, an unlikely duo. I wrapped one of the treats in a napkin, and passed it to the taxi driver who was just a few paces behind me.

Once the register pushed closed, the cashier placed the change from our pasty purchase into my open palm. Like an erratic mime, I carefully counted out the exact amount I’d read on the taxi meter just a few moments earlier, handing it over to the startled taxi driver, who by now had begun taking careful bites into his bread as he watched me from the corner of his eye. He accepted the change with a smile that reflected back my perceived strangeness.

More awkward smiling filled any gaps in understanding, and now, I too triumphantly bit into my pastry and turned to leave. We stepped back into the sun; I approached my nearby friends and he left shaking his head and chewing.

Gracias, señorita,(“Thank you, miss”) he said, polite and chuckling as he returned to his car.

I considered the driver recounting this to his family later, the silly and freckled tourist who stubbornly refused to be taken for a ride. I was a character in this story over dinner: an extranjera with a peculiar set of principles.

More months in Quito perpetuated this incident: in most cases it was the responsibility of the patron to provide accurate change or people just wouldn’t do business.

At first, this was maddening to me.

With time and enough taxi rides, I came to understand that I was the foreigner participating in this different and established culture. When I turned the situation over in my hands, I saw my own privilege glaring up at me. My visa, pasted carefully into my passport, said “hey, stay here for awhile.”

How generous of the school, where I taught fifth grade, to open its community to me. For Quito, to share its classic card game, cuarenta, and allow me unlimited opportunities to taste delicious, fresh guanabana juice for breakfast. What luck I possessed to travel throughout Ecuador by bus and plane, soaking up treasured moments on the coast, in the Amazon, and in the Andean mountaintops.

Travelers like me are gifted with a token of goodwill and welcome, and I was learning my role: to find the very best method of appreciating the gesture. Complaining about cab rides didn’t fit easily into that equation.And anyway, while my two-cents were irrelevant, I had better bring them along to pay the check. If I wanted to benefit from the taxi services, I needed to come equipped to compensate them, or who knows how many pan de chocolates I would gift in stubborn collateral?

Advice Solo Travel Stories

Overcoming Getting Robbed in Paris

On December 1st, 2018, I woke up to a robbed hotel room. My camera, lenses, laptop… everything I require for my livelihood.. gone.

A normal seeming day turned into a whirlwind disaster that felt like the ultimate cherry on top of a very challenging year for me. After dinner I came back to my hotel room, I awoke, glanced around and noticed something I had overlooked before resting. Over $8,000 worth of my gear was missing. As the blood rushed to my head, my blood turned cold. How had this happened? My heart shattered as tears began to fall.

Today, I wanted to share my experience of getting robbed abroad with the hopes to share the lessons I’ve learned from this horrific event.

Needless to say, I’m still so thankful that I was not hurt or violated physically. So many things could have gone even worse than losing material objects… but, it goes without saying that this type of incident was an ultimate violation of security and safety. The courage I once felt from being able to explore Paris on my own was replaced by anxiety and fear. I found myself feeling so afraid walking the streets of Paris when I once was empowered by living in Paris alone. I began to question everything. As an advocate for solo female traveler’s safety, I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I was devastated. The overwhelming sense of sadness and loss was so hard to deal with.

Even worse, I received absolutely zero help from the hotel (La Pigalle Paris) or the French police. No cameras in the hallway to view, no remorse or apologies. Nothing. I felt completely isolated, violated and betrayed. How could any place not show any concern for their patrons? “Here’s your police report, there’s nothing else we can do at this point, it’s just for insurance purposes”.

The one take away from this lesson that I want to really push for is this – never skimp on travel insurance. It may seem like a frivolous expense to add when planning your adventures… but it can be a literal life-saver when you’re traveling in a foreign country.

A $50 policy can include $500,000 of Medical Evacuation coverage! But it’s important to read the fine print (or talk to someone in the industry) to really understand what you’re purchasing. For example, most comprehensive policies include thousands of dollars for Baggage Loss coverage but it’s important to note there’s almost always a special limitation on cameras and electronics (usually around $500). Do your research. Trust me when I say, it’s worth it.

The wonderful folks at Yonder Insurance were a guiding light throughout this whole horror. And I’m so thankful for the time and effort they put into assisting me through this. Their kindness and attention they gave to my case restored so much of my hope. I couldn’t love or recommend a travel insurance company more! Do yourself a favor and book a plan with them next time you’re traveling.

The businesses I respect the most are the ones with heart and soul and Yonder is defintely one of those businesses. Founders Terry and Ryan returned from a trip to Myanmar where they witnessed the struggle of the refugees, with a commitment to provide a week’s worth of food to a child refugee for every policy sold. So you can travel well, and do well when you go Yonder.

In addition to giving Yonder a HUGE thank you, I’d also like to give a big shoutout to Adorama, who kindly helped me with replacing some of my equipment. It’s the companies like this that helped me change my perspective and feel more grateful than ever for the good people in this world.

I hope if you’re reading this that you can see just how important your safety is while traveling. There certainly are beautiful moments and life changing experiences to be had while abroad, but its so, so crucial to be prepared and informed on safety and never overlook your well being when exploring. Now that some time has passed, I can look back at this experience and acknowledge how much personal growth has occurred for me. I’m still so empowered by traveling solo around the globe, and I have a keener sense of personal and material security. My anxiety and fear has slowly adapted into deeper awareness and less nervousness. As days and months pass, I’m reminded what joy and beauty comes from travel… and that although this experience was painful and sad, I am capable of moving past it with grace and courageousness to learn more from this world.

Thank you so much for reading my story. I hope from the bottom of my heart that none of you ever have to experience getting robbed while abroad (or any other type of safety issue).


Have you ever had to overcome getting robbed while abroad? How did you deal with the repercussions?

P.S. more safety tips for female travelers can be found right here!

Journal Stories Travel Planning

Introverts Abroad

Our world is becoming increasingly extroverted. We are always chatting, texting, calling, Snapchatting, Tweeting, or emailing people about our lives. And for introverts, it can be tiring.

Introverts are people who need time away from others in order to recharge, whereas extroverts gain their energy from social events. Classic introverts tend be more reticent, work independently, and have a smaller, but closer, group of friends.

It seems daunting to be an introvert who has the dream to travel intrepidly. There are the fears that you won’t make friends or be to overwhelmed to take real adventures. But this is your time, and you can choose to enjoy it however you want.

You Won’t Make Friends

If you are an introvert, you might fear that traveling is exhausting enough on its own, let alone having to meet new people. First timers seem to believe that no one will want to talk to them when they are traveling. However, it is almost impossible not to make friends while traveling abroad. If you are staying in hostels, couch surfing, or volunteering, you will be surrounded by new people who are just as curious to meet you as you are to them. You can probably find the other travelers who also don’t need to go out dancing until 4am every night if that is what your body and energy needs. And you don’t have to make friends with every person you meet. You will find your tribe of like minded travelers, and they are looking for you as well. However, this is also a time to experiment with who you are! Maybe staying up until 4am is exactly what you need every once in a while.

You also might feel an ease of social pressure because if you mistake a social cue, you might never see that person again. Since most of your interactions with other travelers are short lived, you might be able to be more of yourself.

As women especially, people tend to be curious of the female traveler who roams alone. If you travel alone, you seem more approachable instead of being surrounded by a pack. So open yourself up to the moment when you are feeling social.

You Will Be Overwhelmed

There is the fear that you will feel more worn out or be too overwhelmed by all you are ingesting. Introverts tend to experience novelty fatigue faster because they feel more intensely and tend to be empaths- people who absorb others’ energies more. This can make one exploration day feel like 12.

Remember to take your time and travel at your own pace. If you find that exploring or doing activities one day is enough, then go snuggle up at a cute bookstore or coffee shop the next. You can control your own schedule because this is your time.

Introverts tend to know when they need to take time for themselves. Podcasts, books, music, or journaling are great ways to take time to yourself and recharge without feeling completely alone. Know when you need that time to yourself.

But What Will Everyone Think?

Don’t be concerned about other people’s Instagram stories or all their Facebook likes. Just because you stayed in a museum while your friends trekked across the savanna doesn’t mean that they had a better experience than you. There is no right way to travel as long as you come out feeling energized and satisfied by your own adventures. Everyone has their own limits and needs and it is important to be mindful of your needs. No one else will know how to take care of you better than yourself!

Personally, I find that my most joyful experiences are when I am meandering through a city at my own pace. This allows the place to open itself up to me organically. I like to take in the unique milieu of a city or landscape without the influence or perception of someone else. It keeps me present and being present leads to happiness.

If you are an introvert, be proud, and take care of yourself! I used to feel embarrassed that I needed time alone and felt obligated to travel with people when I would have rather been alone. However, I’m much more comfortable with myself and expressing my needs for solitude with a city and know how to respectfully decline invitations to explore with others. Once you accept yourself and learn how to articulate your needs, politely, you can go anywhere.

You can, peacefully, enjoy your travels on your own terms.

Journal Stories

5 Female Travelers Your History Books Never Taught You About

It’s funny. Open up any history book from high school and you’ll probably see names of navigators, adventurers and explorers… all of which are men. In a world where more and more women are choosing travel and adventure as a means to celebrate life, dig deep into self-actualization and learn about cultures around the world, shouldn’t we be celebrate our fore-mothers? Who exactly are the women who began traveling the world before it was accepted as an equal domain? Today, we want to spotlight five female travelers your history books never taught you about. It’s our hope that showcasing these early badass travel babes that you’ll feel inspired and encouraged to see the world even more.

Jeanne Baré (1740-1807)

The First Woman To Circumnavigate The World

Born in the Loire Valley, this French explorer began as a lover of nature. In her early years, she gathered herbs for medicine and began training to be a herbal medicine doctor. She fell in love with another botanist and plant-lover, who took her under his wing as a teacher and aide… eventually inviting her on an expedition to discover new worlds as the crew’s “naturalist.”

Being a woman, Jeanne took on the name Jean, wrapped her chest in linen every day and hid her gender from the crew. However, she was outed while on the ship while in Tahiti, but was given allowance to continue on their journey until Mauritius. Sadly, Jeanne’s lover (and then husband) died while on the island and she returned to France with his body… completing her trip around the globe.

Jeanne is a prime example of a strong, fiercely curious and brave lover of nature. Her love for studying plants and the world did stay in the confines of her homeland.

Bessie Coleman

The First African-American Woman To Earn A Pilot’s License

Bessie Coleman’s career began as a manicurist in a Chicago barber shop. While working there, she would hear the amazing stories shared by the pilots who had returned home from World War I. These stories ignited her passion in flight, and she quickly began applying for American flight schools to begin her dream of becoming a pilot herself.

When no American flight schools would admit Bessie because of the color of her skin, she learned French, moved to Paris and began studying with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. There, she graduated and became the first African-American woman to earn an aviation pilot’s license.

Bessie’s tireless pursuit of her dreams, despite the racism and oppression forced upon her, is incredibly inspiring.

Junko Tabei

The First Woman To Scale Mount Everest

Junko Tabei, a five foot tall, 92 pound Japanese woman conquered Mount Everest. During her ascent, an avalanche burned her team’s camp and left her briefly unconscious. After coming to, she finished the climb. But Junko’s amazing mountainous adventures don’t just stop there. She is also the first woman to complete all Seven Summits – the highest peaks on every continent, and reach the highest peaks in 70+ countries (including Antarctica).

What’s most staggering about Junko’s successes is her own story. After graduating college, Junko created a women’s only climbing club and was told she should be “raising children instead.” But no negative words stopped Junko’s drive. A mother of a young daughter, editor of a science magazine and English and piano teacher, Junko hustled hard to fund her travels. She also created one of the first all-women expeditions. After learning she had cancer, she showed no signs of stopping her mountainous hikes. All the way up to her death, at age 77, she managed to hike halfway up Mount Fuji, just as she had done for years each summer.

Junko’s physical strength is mind blowing, but her tenacity and mental strength might be even more so.

Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir (980 – ?)

First European Mother & Explorer In The New World

Born approximately around 980, Gudrid lived in Norway until her early adulthood. During which time, she became one of the first Norse visitors to Vinland, a colony we know now as North America. While there, Gudrid gave birth to the first European child born in the New World.

However, Gudrid and her Norse adventurers struggled to maintain friendly relationships with the natives of North America, leading eventually to a large fight. Despite the Vikings winning, they feared a larger attack would be unavoidable and decided to retreat back to Greenland. Gudrid’s legacy carries on from there. She converted to Christianity, eventually met the Pope and told him of her amazing adventures in the New World.

As the first European mother in the New World, Gudrid beat out Christopher Columbus’s grand discovery by centuries, and her stories have been immortalized in Norse sagas and iron sculptures.

Nellie Bly (1864-1922)

First Woman To Travel The World In 72 Days

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, Nellie Bly was an American investigative journalist who became famous for going undercover to expose the abuse at Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. This stunning article made her a nationally known name. But Nellie wasn’t pleased to stay a celebrity figure, she had other goals in mind.

Inspired by the novel “Around the World in Eighty Days,” Nellie imagined turning the story into her own reality. That year, she began her journey of almost 25,000 miles. She traveling alone by steamship and train for a majority of her trip and finished even earlier than she predicted – clocking in at 72 days since her departure.

Speed may have been on Nellie’s side, but making her daydreams come to life is strong proof of a hardworking motivation that many of us fail to tap into ourselves.

In Her Footsteps

Uncover the history, the lives and the locations of the women who trail blazed the course of the world. In Her Footsteps is a deep dive into the heart and the history of women’s activism, history and creativity through the places female pioneers lived and discovered. You’ll find familiar names right next to unfamiliar places! It’s like an adventure through historical women’s lives through the lens of the places that most inspired them. Jane Goodall’s explorations in Gombe, Tanzania to the Empress Dowager Cixi’s summer palace in Beijing, the creative workrooms of Frida Kahlo… we know Dame Travelers love this one!

Travel Books We're Loving In 2020


We hope you enjoyed learning about these female travelers forgotten by your history books. Take their grit, determination and passionate pursuit of adventure into your own life, and know that there have been some absolutely fierce fore-mothers to look up to along your way.

Asia Photography Stories

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

The most quiet and still of places still echo their history. In the peace and tranquility of a sleepy morning, the remnants of a place’s ancient past are like passing shadows. You can imagine the people’s feet walking down the same path as your own. You can fathom the centuries of sweat and laughter and joy that filled the air. The unwritten bliss of travel is the ability to imagine how tiny and fleeting your imprint in a place’s history truly is. Suzhou’s quiet channels, ancient gardens and aged alleyways are just the place to remind yourself just that. Suzhou is a gem hidden and distilled in its ancientness. Suzhou is lost in time.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Lovingly called “the Venice of the East,” Suzhou is known for its ancient pagodas, temples, stone bridges, still canals, flowing water, and architecture that could send anyone into a frenzy of imagination. Just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, the city is located on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta, which fills the Grand Canal with peaceful waters. It’s the perfect, easy trip away from the city. With Cathay Pacific’s seamless flights from the US to China, visiting Suzhou is so a no brainer. Every step of the journey to Suzhou, from Cathay Dragon‘s comfortable flights to bullet trains and everything in between, reaps the benefits of our modern society. Although, I, like anyone, found myself lost in nostalgic, romantic notions of what Suzhou might have looked like in its beginnings.


 

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

The modernization of many Asian cities have pushed the continent towards new heights. In many ways, China leads the front in progressive invention. The shiny, skyscraper-dotted, modern cities of the east are expected when visiting beautiful China. But to catch a glimpse of the old world in its modern age is a treat for the eyes and a feast for the imagination. Suzhou, although sparkling with modern amenities, flexes its deeply rooted history in its untouched beauty.

Suzhou shimmers in its frozen in time feeling. Lingering in the Shan Tang Old Street, you will see Qing and Ming dynasties’ architecture in between shopping stores and delicious foods. While boating through the canals and winding waterways, you will feel its ancient charm and sacred, historic tea houses and private houses. In between hearing the folklore of King of Wu seeing a mighty, white tiger atop a mountain, you will soak in the wear and age of a thousand year old pagoda. You will imagine the stories and whispers of the people who encompassed the city for centuries. You will get lost in the peace and tranquility of the Humble Administrator’s Garden’s koi ponds, twisting pathways and quiet pavilions. And in between all of these moments and sights you will be bombarded with the overwhelming realization that you are so young and so small in juxtaposition to Suzhou’s history.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Suzhou Cultural Highlights

Boat Ride On Suzhou’s Canals – Prepare to be enchanted. Boating through the winding, peaceful waterways of Suzhou gives you the full experience of the “Venice Of The East.” The old, narrow passages recall an ancient time we can only experience with a vivid imagination and a beautifully preserved place as this.

Humble Administrator’s Garden – What might be the most perfect Chinese garden. The whimsy, the mystery, the restfulness that comes when slowly walking through the pristine gardens is a lot like a meditative moment to savor. Each unfolding scene reveals a moment preserved with great intention, giving you a moment to breathe, be still and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Tiger Hill Garden – A legend best heard by a local who can truly bring it to life. According to the folk stories of ancient China, in 496 B.C., three days after the King of Wu buried his father atop the hill, a white tiger appeared and guarded the tomb. So moved by this moment, the thousand year old leaning Yunyan Pagoda stands as a relic to the story. Below the towering pagoda, sits the Sword Pool, believed to be the spot where the king’s sword rests. There’s a reason that the ancient poet Su Dongpo says “to visit Suzhou and not see Tiger Hill would lead to a lifetime of regret.”

Dongshan & Taihu Lake – Tea lovers, this is for you! For more than a thousand years, Biluochun Tea has been sipped and enjoyed. It’s one of the most famous and requested green teas in China! Seeing a harvesting of the tea leaves is a great way to feel more connected to your favorite drink.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Shan Tang Old Street – A great spot to shop while traipsing through architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Mixing the old world with the new world in a few city blocks.

Pingjiang Road – The perfect vantage point to enjoy passing boats, traditional Chinese music, tea houses and boutique shops.

Suzhou Museum – One of Suzhou’s most popular attractions, located right by the Humble Administrator’s Garden. The Suzhou Museum is free and open to the public to see some of the most ancient ceramics and woodcarvings. Don’t forget to take in the absolutely stunning lotus pool in the center.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Boat Trip To Visit The Village Of Tongli – A preserved water town with more than a thousand years of history. (Have you noticed that Suzhou is rich in ancient history yet?!) For years the Ming and Qing dynasty pavilions, temples, gardens and towers were kept away from the public. Not until recently has “the Oriental Venice” become a wonder to see for ourselves. Find yourself here and prepare your imagination to flourish!

Suzhou Kunqu Opera Theater – The unique, theatrical art that originated from Suzhou features bright costumes, graceful movements and a unique timbre of sound.

No. 1 Silk Factory – Suzhou’s famous fine silk production once dominated the world with its luxurious texture. The secret process to create such soft and opulent silks was under lock and key. It was once so important that it was punishable by death to reveal the secret! Today, we’re able to sideline that punishment. Tour the silk factories and learn the process of silk making, hand weaving and silkworm raising.

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler

Lost In Time In Suzhou, China | Dame Traveler


Lost in time, Suzhou remains untouched, and yet, quietly knows of its age and wear. Rolling, winding canals and waterways and the looming, overhanging trees. Quiet alleys, slow boats floating through canals. Suzhou is not to be forgotten. Find yourself lost in time there.

 

Trip sponsored by Suzhou Tourism.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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