We had planned to write about our amazing trip to the Amazon next, but before we leave Ecuador we wanted to share a little more about our version of slow travel. Our experience here in Ballenita has shown us more of the pros and cons of this lifestyle than anywhere else we have lived over the past year. The pictures also provide an insight into this region; Santa Elena, La Libertad, Ballenita and Salinas.
We regularly receive comments that “we are living the dream” and in many respects we are. We love our current lifestyle and are so happy that we chose to make this happen. We want to continue to experience as much as we can of how life goes on in communities across the globe. This includes the good and the not so good aspects of daily life in our temporary homes.
What we tend to write about and photograph are the road trips and adventures that we take while we are living in a location for an extended period, so it often looks like we are on a permanent vacation.
However our slow travel lifestyle isn’t all beaches, stunning cities and rainforest adventures. The vast majority of our time is spent on normal everyday activities.
Staying in one place for a month or two at a time can be wonderful or it can be a disaster, depending on many factors. Generally optimistic by nature, we tend to focus on the positive aspects of an area and minimize the downsides. Photographs can be deceiving as we are drawn to the beautiful, quirky or different and tend to overlook the not so pleasant.
Nowhere more than here in Ballenita, Ecuador has this been the case. Take a look outside the concrete and barbed wire walls surrounding our cozy little home and pool and you will see a very different version of life. Muddy and dusty dirt streets, stray dogs and cats, homes with no windows and the lives of everyone exposed can leave you with a knot in your stomach at times. In fact that is one of the main reasons we have difficulty fitting into the expat lifestyle in Central and South America.
We choose our locations based on a number of factors including climate, access to services, public transportation, green space, walkability and of course cost. We typically stay at least one month or more to cut down on rental and travel costs. We prepare most of our own meals, enjoy our own company and like a fair degree of privacy.
Once we settle into our accommodation we lead a pretty basic and normal life, based as much as possible on the local culture. We enjoy our coffee in the morning outdoors and our ideal setting is with a nice view and the sounds of nature, although the city view from our patio in Lisbon was wonderful. Breakfasts (and all our meals) are preferably outdoors as well so we have a preference towards warmer climates.
An average day involves a good walk and/or swim, picking up groceries, some computer time for photos, writing, communications and travel research, some down time for reading and relaxing in the afternoon followed by an evening meal. These are activities and a lifestyle that is transferable most anywhere.
We have enjoyed walking and explorations in the immediate vicinity in an urban and rural environments as both have plenty to offer. Marketplaces, beaches, interesting neighbourhoods and country roads are probably our favorites.
While we enjoy outdoor living and warm temperatures we find that many places here in Central and South America are too hot for many activities during the day so we tend to get up early and enjoy the early morning and late afternoon hours. The birding is best early in the morning and everyone is drawn to sunsets.
In our accommodations we look for enough space to be comfortable, decent cooking facilities, an outdoor space, reasonable peace and quiet and good internet. It is sometimes hard to meet all of these criteria but we scour Airbnb, property management sites, holiday rentals like VRBO and Homeaway and for the most part we have been very pleased with what we have been able to find within our provisional budget. However many countries are outside of our price range so house sitting augments our budget and allows us to splurge every now and then.
We try not to plan too much sightseeing and leave down time between our road trips and adventures. This allows time to reflect on our experiences, interact on a local level and ensures we don’t get run down. Everyone can relate to those two week vacations where you returned home more tired and stressed out than when you left.
In fact other than being too cold in our apartment in Lagos, Portugal, we have been very pleased with what we have had until arriving here in Ballenita. We have disturbing (on several levels) neighbours, many stray dogs and cats in very poor condition, far too much garbage littered everywhere, poor internet and a town that while very friendly isn’t all that appealing for exploring and walking. We don’t regret coming here but will be ready to leave in another couple of weeks.
Is this a lifestyle for everyone – of course not! You need to be adaptable, tolerant and willing to embrace different approaches to all aspects of life. We spend all of our time together so you need to be very comfortable with your traveling partner. But the rewards are immeasurable and overall it has been a wonderful introduction to several countries and their way of life and we couldn’t be happier.
As we move forward over the next year we expect to be based out of Portugal but won’t give up exploration, experiencing life to the fullest and travel to as much of the world as we can.