And now for a word to our sponsors.

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I must confess that I often let myself fall prey to certain propaganda that is circulated through U.S. capitalism. One of the few movies I own is “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith, which supports the idea that with enough elbow grease and determination any one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and obtain the American Dream. The problem with the American Dream that I’ve come to realize is that, well frankly, it’s boring. And lonely! One of our favorite sayings is that the “journey is the destination”. When one is pulling themselves up by their bootstraps the journey is often difficult, lonesome and full of suffering. The alternative is much more attractive: invite family and friends to participate in attaining ones goals. This approach brings in characters to the story with whom memories can be shared and the plot will thicken. The goals and destinations can then successfully become secondary rewards.

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For those of you who don’t know, when Melissa and I decided we wanted to go to Ecuador for three months we put together a budget and realized that we were about $3,000 short. After a good bit of conversation and hesitation we decided to put together a kickstarter campaign to raise the money we still needed. As we raised support from friends and family for our trip my pride made it difficult for me to allow and invite our community to be part of the process. Old habits die hard. Financial and emotional support poured in for us. Now looking back I can see the unique experience that comes from being enabled by people to carry out ones dreams.

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Benefits include but aren’t limited to: accountability, increased motivation, creative inspiration, deeper authenticity and humility, and greater confidence. You can’t get that stuff flying solo. Lastly, it filled our beings with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It’s that gratitude that this closing blog is meant to convey. To everyone that told us to go for it or dropped a dollar in our pocket, thank you. We saw you in every mountain, village, lake and sunset. We saw you in Rio as he ran around the town square or ate ice cream or played with the dogs on the farm. We felt your support when things got tough on long travel days or we when we just missed the comforts of home. Thank you for writing stories with us, thank you for pursuing happyness with us. Thank you. IMG_0257

Five Reasons Not To Travel With Kids: Debunked

 It´s an easy trap for new parents to fall into, to think, “we will keep living our life the same way, having a kid isn´t going to slow us down.”      It´s honestly a silly notion to think that having a kid isn´t going to change you or the way you live. It´s in our psychology after all, neuroscientists have shown that the adults brain, both male and female, is extremely plastic right after having a child (see: Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth ). So if you are a new or pending parent try to avoid the idea that life will remain the same, it will save you a significant headache. Instead, take the opportunity to embrace change and look forward to new beginnings. Perhaps learn a new language or embrace a new diet, take the opportunity of never sleeping to start reading again. Or, if you are really motivated, completely hijack your life by quitting your job and move your family to a foreign country, somewhere obscure, like a mountain village in South America that nobody has ever heard of.   Ok so not your everyday parenting advice right, but why not? Here´s 5 reasons why most people avoid traveling with a kid and five answers to how to make it work:

 1. Health:

 There are plenty of destinations in the world that have the same health hazards as the US and many developing countries have good health care available for emergency situations. Plenty of countries in Southeast Asia and South America don´t require extra vaccinations and some only do if you visit select areas. Many times if you just avoid the deep jungle there isn´t any risk of contracting a horrible disease. When traveling with your child most of your child’s time is going to be spent directly with you and as a result will have much less of a chance of catching some undesirable bug.   2. It´s Expensive:

 I think this is one of the biggest myths about having kids. Babies and infants are not expensive, teenagers are expensive. So if you want travel do it while your kids still travel for free. It´s not impossible to be a budget traveler with kids. Now days there are plenty of options to find a work stay or volunteer opportunity that covers your living expenses (yes even with a kid) while still affording plenty of time to explore. If you get creative you can travel for less cash than an average monthly living expense in the States. Rent out your house on Air B&B, put your car insurance on storage, cancel your cell phone bill and get out of the country!  3. It´s Dangerous:

Yes, actually, it is dangerous. In the words of the great J.R.R. Tolkien “It´s dangerous business, Frodo, stepping out your door.” There will be risks that you have to decide if you are willing to take. How different is this than everyday life? That all depends on the choices you make at home and the choices you make when traveling, but living in a foreign country does not mean living a more dangerous life.  4. It’s too hard:

 I am not going to say that traveling with a toddler is easy, but I’m also not going to say that living with a toddler is easy. If you have a toddler then your life is probably more difficult than it has ever been otherwise. Hopefully, the rewards of seeing your child grow and learn energize you enough to balance out the struggle. The same applies for traveling. You will probably have to change the way you travel to accommodate having a toddler. You´re not going to take overnight buses and crash in two dollar hostel rooms like you did with your college buddies. With a child it´s best to pursue quality over quantity and stay in one place longer. But, on the plus side, having a baby in tow tends to break down cultural barriers, allowing you to experience a foreign culture in a much deeper way then was possible before.  5. It´s Irresponsible:

 It doesn’t have to be irresponsible. Having a kid often creates a time of transition for a family, if this is the case use the opportunity to take some time off and travel. Take a sabbatical, or extended vacation. Plan it out ahead of time. Put off buying a new car or house for another year and instead invest in traveling. Nothing is more valuable to a family then building strong relationships together, traveling isn’t the only way to do this but it certainly is a good way and worth while the investment if you are willing. Not to mention that it is responsible to expose your child to new cultures, the more of us that are raised with a healthy worldview and understanding the better chance we have at living in a country that upholds social justice and thinks beyond the confines of their own small community  Lastly, it isn´t as rare as you may think to travel or backpack with kids. If you are still unsure, start talking about it to your community, you may be surprised at how much support you will find. As someone who was exposed to traveling overseas at a very young age and has now taken his own family on an international adventure, I strongly encourage any young family thinking about traveling out of their home country to pursue their dreams. It won´t be the same with kids and they will probably slow you down, but whoever said that was a bad thing?                                                                             

Rio Grande

“Los ojos! Los ojos!” Exclaim his admirers, in every market, village and bus ride, and Rio just eats it up. If by chance someone isn’t praising his beauty, he starts waving to the passerbys, as if he just claimed the crown of the Miss Ecuadorian Pageant. The attention is great for all of us, Melissa and I are used to a much different kind of attention, such as a blatant silent stare or increduous efforts to get into our pocketbooks. Rio attracts quite a different crowd and making connections has taken on an ease that is quite refreshing. 

  Travelers often find themselves in the paradoxical position of being outsiders with the intention of having an insider experience. In times past these experiences have resulted from some combination of luck and charm. In general babies perform universal behaviors, so when someone on the bus sees Rio waving or breast feeding or trying to walk, they immediatley relate to the same experiences they have with their own children. All of a sudden we are no longer outsiders, we are part of the global village and cultural differences are forgotten. Conversations then have a common thread and flow freely, it’s really great! So, all that being said, we have now figured out how to fund our travel bug, Dohse Baby Rentals: “Tired of being ignored by the locals or worse given a grimace and a smirk? For only $100 a day you can rent a baby to instantly have the “in” you’ve always wanted!”  

 Other aspects of traveling with a baby have been quite challenging. Sleep training has all but gone out the window, and though Rio seems to be enjoying himself and has adjusted quite well the the nomadic lifestyle we can tell he notices. The third time we packed up his bed he gave us a bit of a fight and tried to pull it back out. We’ve found that he has a three hour time limit on buses and a 12 minute limit for eating at restaurants. By now he’s eaten all kinds of market food and has traveled on trains, planes, buses, taxis and even dune buggys. He’s slept as high as 12,000 feet and can sleep through pretty much anything, including all night Quechua festivals. Most of all he has made plenty of friends, and it’s a complete joy to see him interact with so many people and see all the cultural differences and boundaries set aside for play.      

                

 

Finding Stories

I believe that even google with all of its storage space, information and acccrued knowledge does not have enough energy to record the vast amount of stories that have been written in our world. Sometimes I imagine God a brilliant,crazy haired, cigarette smoking, eccentric, madly typing the stories of every individual that walks our planet; overpopulation, in fact, is just the unintentional consequence of Gods over-efficiency at the typewriter and infinite creative ability. This image is accentuated by travel, especially as we move further away from the familiar. Sometimes every hour feels like it could be a short story in of itself. Updike, Salinger and Marquez have got nothing on the divine orator.     The last week has taken us into new and wild places, where we can only speculate at the stories of some of the people we cross paths with. What I wouldn’t give to be able to, not only know, but to feel their history, worldview and life experience. All we get are snippets and to be honest that’s probably more than we deserve. Even the snippets though are fascinating.     The story of the owner of an old spanish colonial ranch that has been passed down through generations who struggles in her relationship with the indigenous people that surround her. Or the Quechua painter who in the 70s started a new art form that has become renown worldwide by his son, yet he still humbly paints away in his home town which is so small and isolated, that even the locals haven’t heard of it.

    
 In Quito a young gay man who worked at our hostel explains what happens when he holds hands with his boyfriend at a club and about his joy over the new law that passed, called “free union” which is equivalent to the civil union laws of the U.S. All of these stories could easily make millions as a New York Times best seller novel. Really, they are incredible and yet they are just another beautiful life being lived. This is true everywhere, it’s just revealed with ease in the midst of foreign contrast. This is true of those who lost their lives in Charleston and as we travel it would be easy to ignore the sorrow that is felt back home, but alas, we cannot and we hold the memory of their stories in our heart as we sit in the market and eat empanadas or ride the bus over the highlands. Kyrie Eleison.

Note: All text highlighted in blue leads to a link with more information about that place or activity.

  

Quito

The city in the clouds. From the airport we wound our way through the fog at one in the morning into the sleepy town of Quito. Under the watchful eye of the virgin of immaculate conception we unloaded into our hostel. The smells of the panaderia nearby wafted into my nostrils along with a heavy wave of nostalgia transporting me back 14 years to my last stint in South America. I wasn’t expecting such a visceral memory and tears welled up in my eyes. Our room at the Community Hostel was on the third floor and was pretty much all windows looking out towards the Basilica de la Vota Nacional, a neo-gothic church made famous by its syncretic use of local flora and fauna in its architecture, for instance, in  place of gargoyles condors and tortoises keep gaurd.       We of course hit the ground running, with a three-hour walking tour starting at 10:30. Rio slept in the ergo like a champ as we explored the highest capital city in the world. Rio, in fact, has been a champ the entire time. He is a little more easily bothered when Mamacita leaves the room, however if she is in sight he is making friends fast and sure and we have already been given a phone number from a local woman at breakfast for a play date!    We have already  been faced with some of the, shall I say, joys of travel? First thing we did upon arrival is give Rio a drink of water offered to us, only to immediately freak out because we were not told if it was filtered or not, thankfully it was and our trip will continue as planned. Next, our iPad was disabled while traveling which I will tell you has almost made me swear off Apple forever, as I spent an entire day visiting internet cafes to fix it. Lastly, tonight we took a taxi that didn’t have the “safe” orange license plate and after Melissa and Rio unloaded the driver promptly kept driving with me still inside. Melissa was certain that a kidnapping had just taken place and I was uncertain exactly what was happening, turns out, he was only finding a better spot to pull over out of the way of traffic, it just happened to be around the corner well out of sight from Mel and Rio.

Over all though we are adjusting quickly and it is joy to be out of our comfort zone and facing new learning environments. We are already getting a sense of how the exploration section of our trip will need to have  a slower pace and we are glad that most of our time here will be spent in one location. Banos is next on the list where we are told we will find waterfalls and hot springs!

Note: All text highlighted in blue leads to a link with more information about that place or activity.

Checklist

Travel Desk

I thought it might interest some people to see what a to do checklist might look like for preparing to travel. Here is ours to date:

Accomplished:

  • Get River’s passport – We had two babies with us as we waited 2 hours at the post office for a very flustered postal worker to receive our application (note: locations to drop off passport applications vary from city to city, in Denver select post offices provide the service).
  • Investigate Visa needs. (Ecuador is free for the first 90 days)
  • Get immunizations (covered on the previous blog)
  • Find clean water solution ( We bought a Steri-Pen Ultra, the one that you can re-charge. It’s heavier but you don’t have to worry about batteries -better for traveling when you have electricity, worse for doing treks etc.)
  • Buy tickets- We missed the best deals by a week and so ended up paying 900 each. Also, we bought the insurance from US Airways to cover the trip because it was cheaper then buying it with our travelers insurance. Since we will be checking luggage we thought it worth our while.
  • Get travelers insurance- we went with International Medical Group because they had an affordable adventure sports rider which I will need if I want to be covered when I climb Cotopaxi
  • Meet with Dave and Josh and Ellie to discuss their experiences in Ecuador- They were both very helpful. Thanks guys!

Pending

  • Finalize packing list -we are still figuring out exactly what is coming and staying I will post a blog with our finalized packing list.
  • Book first couple nights in Quito -I’m still looking for our best Hostel option. It’s obviously going to cost us a little more with an infant, as we will be needing private rooms. It looks like somewhere around $30 a night is going to be typical. $20 a night is our goal, sin pulgas.
  • Put car insurance on “storage only” -We can save almost $60 a month by changing our auto insurance policy.
  • Cancel monthly subscriptions- we don’t have many but we will save $30 a month.
  • Look into cell phone usage in Ecuador- Some countries all you need is an adapted sim card and you can use your phone, I need to investigate this more.
  • Get electric adapters: my guess is everything runs on 220 so we may need adapters.
  •  Practice Spanish -I’ve been listening to Radio Ambulante which is kind of a Spanish version of This American Life. I’ve also been watching Dare Devil on Netflix because you have the option of watching it in Spanish. I did break open the text book as well….but I’m reluctant to read it.
  • Figure out Electronics: we need to decide on cameras and some sort of computer device, not sure if it will be the IPAD or an old heavy computer or maybe just smart phones (a friendly reminder of how much privilege we have).

And that about sums it up for now! next up will probably be our packing list. Cheers.

Finding Our Feet.

Surprisingly enough no one has yet to confront us about taking our 1 year old baby to South America. My supposition is that this is a result of our non-confrontational society, maybe it’s that our reputation precedes us, or that the world is so small now that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I will say this, i think it is a big deal, and nothing to sneeze at. There are some real risks involved that we have to honestly weigh and grapple with. I’m sure many of those reading this have spent their time traveling in developing countries, i’ve joked with many about dangerous buses on mountain passes with only two lug nuts on the wheels. Well, what does it mean to subject an infant to those risks? Someone who has no ability to voice their own objection? So far however, we have been only encouraged to make this trip, even by our pediatrician! We are especially encouraged by the peace that we have in our hearts about this choice, even given the weighed risk, we even feel that somehow it is important for Rio Grande (the infant) that we go.

So with the heavy-revi out of the way let’s move on to the decisions and questions that have developed as we prepare to travel with a one year old. First of all:IMG_2895IMG_2896

Diapers.

Based on a quick google search “diapers in Ecuador” we will be able to buy disposable diapers while we are down there. However, we need to do this on the cheap, and my guess is that western style diapers aren’t that cheap. For all of you not familiar with cloth diapering it’s a crazy world, and i for one can not possibly keep up with all the different names for all the different types. Names like “Bum Genius” “Bummies” “Soft Bums”, it’s ridiculous. After exploring our options though we are going with “pre-folds” because they dry the quickest and we are not sure about laundry facilities.

Next decision:

Baby Wearing.

1. The backpack

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Good for longer hikes, which we will do a lot of, but also very bulky, we’re not sure what we would do with it on the bus.

2. The Ring Sling

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Super sexy and probably the most similar to what the Quechua moms will be using when we get down there, but it is not as supportive for longer days of exploring. It does fold down nice and small though, which is a huge plus.

3. The Ergo

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Probably our best bet as it can work on the front and back and folds up super small. We don’t feel that it will allow us the opportunity to do the longer hikes that may present themselves during the trip.

Lastly and a little more serious are immunizations. There are three recommended immunizations by the CDC.

Hep A:

A food born version of Hepatitis. We were going to wait until Rio was older to get him the Hep A immunization here in the States, however, we decided to get it for him now since food is a big unknown when traveling.

Yellow Fever:

This is recommended when traveling east of the Andes and below 7,000 feet in elevation. Mainly in the Amazon. This is where we have chosen to let traveling with an infant limit our experience. I’ve had a great longing to see the great Amazon river and experience it’s culture. Still, we feel like it opens up to much health risk for an infant. So we will not be going to the Amazon and not getting Yellow Fever shots.

Typhoid and Malaria:

These are also only recommended if traveling to the Amazon. The Malaria immunization is actually a pill that you take, which Rio is not old enough to have, and based on what we know of Malaria medication, we probably wouldn’t want to take it either. He is also not old enough for a Typhoid shot, which makes our decision to not travel to the Amazon even more obvious.

I’m sure that as we near our departure many more unthought of dangers and dilemmas will rear their ugly heads, but what would any journey be without a few trolls to outwit? Please let us know if you yourself have any wisdom, thoughts or concerns on these decisions as we are certainly open to suggestion.

Thanks for reading!

And so it begins. Again.

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Nearly 4 years since we last left the country and we are finally getting ready to embark on our next cross cultural experience. This time though, it’s different. This time, we have an adventure seeking, curious, full of energy-for-life one year old who has expressed his sincere interest in accompanying us as a third companion throughout the journey. This will clearly be a transformative aspect to the way have to travel and so given the new nature of our story, i am extremely excited to be able to share our experience via “the wandering”. I also thought i’d start the story a little earlier this time, as it might be interesting to at least a reader or two to see the preparation aspect of this journey, since there will be quite a few extra details to go over as we progress towards our departure. First, the synopsis.

Destination: Ecuador.

Time Frame: June-August

Purpose: Sabbatical for Melissa and refinement of our Spanish language skills.

Significant Activities: We will be doing a work trade for room and board at a hostel in Otovalo for two months. We will spend three weeks traveling around Ecuador and i might bag a peak or two involving some mild mountaineering. Hiking, trail running, market going and nursing with Quechua mamas are on the top of our list of goals, oh, and iguanas (Rio Grande, the one year old, has expressed his sincere desire to ride an iguana, if possible).

So whether friends or family or fellow baby-beta-seeking travelers, i once again welcome you to wander along with us though this incredible little journey we call life.

Next up: Diapers, shots and baby wearing (i told you, it’s different this time).