We thought the day would never arrive. But we finally DID arrive in Quito, Ecuador at 11:15 pm on January 4th, 2017.
The day began in Newnan, GA at the home of Chad’s parents, Tom and Nancy. You’d think after months and MONTHS of preparation we’d be sitting calmly awaiting our departure.
What were we frantically doing until literally the last minute before we left? Let me tell you:
- Editing and printing a Last Will & Testament Chad downloaded from US Legal Forms the day before.**
- Notarizing the Will, Power of Attorneys, and life insurance beneficiary forms.
- Mailing thank you notes and miscellaneous other pre-departure letters
- Packing, repacking, reweighing (to get below 50 lbs), getting rid of unneeded items, repacking, name calling and blaming each other for taking too much stuff, and starting the cycle over again.***
- Exercising (we got our minimum Scientific 7-Minute-Workout in just to maintain our sanity)
- Celebrating the loss of Serena’s first tooth (Thank you, Nana!)
- Eating at our old southern-home-cooking favorite Goldens on the Square in Newnan.
- Making our final list and checking it twice (did we forget the girls!?)
** We don’t plan to kick the bucket on this trip, but if you can’t update a Will before going overseas for a year, when will you?! And the idea of potentially leaving our precious girls without clear instructions for their financial and guardian care didn’t sit well with us.
*** Despite the reality you’ll see in the picture below, we still identify ourselves as light, backpacking-style packers. Ha! I guess it could be worse for a 1-year trip, but it’s safe to say this mountain of stuff made us feel less comfortable than normal when traveling.
Easy and Fun 5-Hour Flight – Atlanta to Quito
Whoever put T.V. screens on the back of every seat is brilliant. The first 3 of 5 hours in-flight were easy with everyone eating food and watching their favorite show. During the final 1-2 hours, we all got a little rest.
Immigration Control, 12:30 AM, 3 and 5-Year-Old Kids
The main concern we had about the trip into Ecuador was how our young girls would handle the long day of travel. We did have our moments. Here was our crew standing in line to go through the immigration checkpoints at the Quito airport.
Luckily, there are kind people everywhere. We were still two rows from the front of the line, and a lady at one of the immigration desks saw our exhausted faces and waved us forward. This was one time we didn’t feel bad cutting in line!
At the desk she just reviewed our passports, asked us where we were traveling, how long, and why. Within a couple of minutes we were on our way!
Shuttle to Hotel and Dancing Fairies
The other thing we weren’t looking forward to was finding an airport taxi at 12:30 am in a new place, with a mountain of luggage, and two kids crying and tugging at our sleeves. So, we decided the day before to call our hotel in Quito and book a shuttle through them.
Our shuttle driver met us with a sign “Carsons.” It felt good to be welcomed. I (Chad) forgot to send a request for “Open Road Carsons” on the sign, but perhaps it would have been lost in translation anyway!
The airport was 45 minutes from the actual city of Quito, so we still had some travel ahead of us before we could finally lay down to sleep. We arrived at the hotel sometime after 1 am. The girls transformed from tired zombies into dancing fairies at 1:30 in the morning (to their parents’ “delight”). But after the initial excitement wore off, we all got to sleep.
An Americanized Hotel & Travel Hacking
We typically like to stay at a local hotel with a little more character. Why travel to another country to feel like you’re in America, right? But all we really wanted was to sleep and recover in a comfortable place for the first few nights, and Holiday Inn Express was the place perfect for that.
Plus, we booked 3 nights almost for free with reward points on our IHG Rewards credit card. In case you haven’t guessed, we like to practice something called travel hacking.
While we don’t go as crazy with travel hacking as others, we definitely strategically opened certain credit cards in the 12 months preceding our trip to rack up on the best sign-up bonuses to pay for flights and hotels. Who wouldn’t want to travel for $.10 on the dollar or better?!
The next morning when we woke up, we took the elevator to the rooftop terrace at our hotel. Here was the view awaiting us:
New Travel Priorities – Playgrounds, Parks, & Paddle Boats
What should we visit first in our new city of Quito? The historic center with beautiful old buildings? The mountaintop view of the entire valley? Museums or ancient ruins from almost forgotten civilizations?
No. First things first.
PLAYGROUNDS. PARKS. PADDLE BOATS.
These are the new centers of our travel world. And mom and dad must admit that when the girls are happy, we are happy.
So, here are a few scenes from our explorations into Parque La Carolina during the first day in Quito.
We planned to be in Quito only a few days before moving on to our final destination and home for a year in the city of Cuenca. But we extended our stay an extra day to take in more of the city.
Local Ecuadorian Food
We had an expensive but yummy dinner of typical Ecuadorian food in a charming restaurant called Hasta La Vuelta.
Spontaneous Art & Play With a View
While roaming around the narrow, ancient streets of Quito, our girls pointed up to a big statue of the Virgin Mother (with wings) up on a hill. They wanted to go see it.
So, we took a taxi up the hill and unexpectedly spent the entire afternoon at this landmark called El Panecillo (literally translated as the little bread roll, which the hill apparently looks like).
We took in the views for 10-15 minutes, even as the rain started coming down. But the reason we stayed for 2-3 hours was the spontaneous art Serena and Ali began to create.
We arrived soon after new years’ eve, and this location apparently was a prime spot for fireworks and sparklers. Littered all over the ground our girls found HUNDREDS of little left-over, thin, pliable, metal sparklers.
Sanitary considerations aside, it was a lot of fun as parents to watch their imaginations run wild. They ran around at first saying “here’s one, here’s another, here’s another.” Then, once their little hands were stuffed full, they sat down on benches to form their little art creations. We later assembled them on our hotel table to show off.
The Journey Continues
This leg of our journey was really about simply getting here. As we’ll share in future posts, detaching ourselves from our house and our lives in order to travel for a year to Ecuador was MUCH harder than we expected. So, it was a sigh of relief just to be here and recognize the accomplishment.
We plan to return to Quito and explore much more in the future. But for now we are anxious to journey on to Cuenca to begin some of our most pressing tasks:
- Explore our new city to make sure it is a good fit
- Find local school possibilities for our girls
- Get on-the-ground, local feedback about neighborhoods for potential long-term housing
- Enroll the girls in Spanish classes to begin getting more comfortable with the language
So, we rounded out our few days in Quito with another playground and some adult refreshments. And then we took a short flight from Quito to Cuenca.
Coming Soon With the Blog
As we get settled into our new home, we hope to post more updates. In addition to general updates like this one, we also plan to write some of the following posts:
- Why a 1-year Trip Abroad as a Family?
- Why Ecuador?
- School Search in Cuenca, Ecuador
- Housing Search in Cuenca, Ecuador
- The Pre-Trip Checklist to Get Out of Town
- What We Packed
- Language Learning Progress (the kids and Chad)
- Cost of Living Updates in Cuenca & Ecuador
We hope you’ll stick around and follow along with us. And we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
See you next time!