Quito: My Home Away From Home

Reuniting With An Old Friend

As the small beach town of Montanita disappeared behind us, I found myself gazing out the bus window, as the sun set beautifully off on the horizon. As I traveled on toward Quito, I reflected on the emotional roller coaster I’d experienced over the past week and how my recent lows had led me to a very good place. I felt at peace, and to me, that sunset represented a beautiful new beginning.

Not long after arriving in Quito, I met up with my good friend and soon to be host, Martin Jara. A smile broke out across my face as soon as I set eyes upon him. Martin had been one of my closest friends during my semester abroad in Sweden, several years earlier.

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Brunch with the Jara’s

It had been 3 and a half years since we’d last seen each other, but when I reached out to him a couple weeks earlier, he did not hesitate to offer me a place to stay. He didn’t waste any time welcoming me into his family. Within hours of arriving in Quito, I was at a brunch, sharing a delicious meal with his relatives.

Later that same day, I was exploring the historical centre with Martin and one of his best friends, Julio. I have to admit, I didn’t have super high expectations of Quito before I arrived. It’s not usually mentioned when travellers talk about the highlights of South America. Nevertheless, I fell in love with it.

Quito Historical City

Historical City of Quito

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My original plan was to stay in Quito for 5 days. I ended up living there for 5 weeks. This was my 2nd mini retirement. I was able to slow down and get into a bit of a routine. Most days involved spanish class, salsa class and time spent working on this blog. Meanwhile, Martin and his amazing family and friends, made sure that I felt at home, every moment that I spent in their city.

My time in Quito was made up by more than just writing, salsa and spanish though. In the month or so that I spent with Martin, we made some really great memories together. There’s far too many to mention here, but here are some of the most memorable…

An International Canada Day

I went out on Canada day with Martin and my friend Sanne, who I’d met in Antarctica. We didn’t meet a single other Canadian, but it didn’t matter. We had a great time together.

It was that night, when I saw Martin dancing and having fun, while I danced nearby, awkward and self conscious, that I realized how much I wanted to learn how to dance. I wanted to be able to just let go and enjoy myself on the dance floor.

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At an Irish Pub on Canada Day

The Best Beer In Ecuador

We had a wild night at the open house that Julio hosted at his brewery. I got quite drunk and started approaching every group of people in sight. I wanted to speak spanish with everyone. They would try to talk to me in english and I would respond with, “No entiendo Ingles. Solo hablo Espanol.” (I don’t understand English. I only speak Spanish). Be sure to try Andes Beer if you are ever in Ecuador.

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Me and Julio at Ande’s brewery

Becoming A Master Chef

Cooking has been a passion of mine, for most of my adult life. I had the privilege of taking a couple cooking classes with Martin’s wonderful mother, Margarita. Martin and I both set the intention that we will study cooking together at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, someday.

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The Big Party

Near the end of my stay, Martin’s business partner and best friend, Alex, threw a party for his birthday. He hired a professional event company to set everything up. I was leaving a few days later, so this was a great send off party for me as well. Many of the amazing people who I had met during my stay in Quito were there and we partied the night away.

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Climbing to 4700 Metres

I woke up the morning after the party and climbed to the top of Pichincha mountain. The combination of the altitude and the hang over didn’t make for the most pleasant of times, at first. However, the fresh air and picturesque views were the perfect hang over cure for me.

Quito Pichincha

Looking down on Quito

Cotopaxi Quito

A nice view of Cotopaxi

Pichincha Quito

After getting lost a couple times, I finally reached the summit of 4700 metres. I found myself all alone, at the top of the mountain, surrounded by fog. I was a bit nervous about finding my way back down because there wasn’t a clear path and I could only see a few feet in front of me. I just kept following the human foot prints on the dirt and eventually made my way out to clearer skies.

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And to top off the wonderful hike, I made some new friends on my way back down.

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A Home Away From Home

What I will remember most of all, is how the Jara family welcomed me into their home and into their family. I was a complete stranger when I arrived, yet Martin’s parents invited me to stay with them for as long as I wanted, and made me feel like I was their canadian son.

I am so grateful for everything that they did for me. I was treated like a king during my stay in Quito. I lived with them, in one of the nicest homes I have ever seen, and was spoiled with delicious meals each and every day.

But most of all, I am grateful to have had the chance to experience how open the Jara family was with expressing their love and affection for each other. It was a beautiful thing to observe and be a part of.

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Gratitude For My Grandparents

And it didn’t end with just the immediate family. The entire Jara family, in Quito, was very close and saw each other regularly. This reminded me of my family and made me grateful for what my grandparents have done. They have kept our family together. I used to take for granted, that my grandparents brought our entire family together 1-2 times every month.

Now I’ve come to realize that this isn’t a normal thing. What I experienced growing up with my family and what Martin experiences with his should not be taken for granted. I’ve spoken to so many people who rarely see their family.

I now know that my grandparents have been two of the greatest mentors I could ever have hoped to have. There is so much that I wish to take away from the example they have set. They are true role models when it comes to leadership within a family. I will aspire to do what they have done, with my own family one day. And if I can do even half as good a job as them, then I’d consider that a success.

Time To Say Goodbye

The day finally came where it was time to leave the city of Quito, which will always have a special place in my heart. It was really sad to say goodbye to all the people who had recently come into my life and to leave the place I had come to call home. However, the Jara’s told me I could come back any time and I know that I will return again soon.

I recently posted a photo of my time in Quito, and Martin commented on it, saying, “You made yourself a family.” That’s exactly what I did.

Riding The Emotional Lows: The Other Side Of Travel

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