As my sunburns heal and my tan lines fade away I begin to reflect on the surreal experience that was traveling to Ecuador. I knew going into this trip that South America was going to be an entirely new world for me, and one that I couldn’t fully prepare for. As much as I like to prepare myself for all situations, I understood that a huge part of this trip would be learning how to welcome change and accepting adjustments. We were warned prior to our departure that Ecuador is does not run on the strictly scheduled, planned to the minute lifestyle that we lead here. As a person that strives to be busy I knew that this was going to be a challenge I would have to overcome in order to thrive during our short trip.
Since we began our trip in the capital city of Quito we were able to adjust more gradually to our surrounds as we were steps away from countless shops, restaurants, and the bustle of people we have grown to expect in Pittsburgh. As we left the city and explored the mountains that separate Quito from the Amazon Rainforest, the differences truly began to set in. At one point we had to stop the bus to allow a farmer and a group of alpacas to cross the road. At another point, as we reached the top of the mountain and ascended through the cloud forest (one of my favorite parts of the trip) where we couldn’t see the road five feet in front of us and to the side which looked down a cliff. Looking back these moments don’t seem real as they aren’t remotely close to something that I would encounter on the streets of Oakland.
Although this all took some adjusting, it was exciting to experience these exciting differences as an entire group. When we arrived in Quito we were surprised to learn that a group from Florida International University would be joining us while they studied anthropology. We also discovered shortly before departure that there was a second Pitt group going on the trip in order to study the ecology of the rainforest. Although there wasn’t a strong focus on the business and marketing aspects as we originally expected, it was fascinating to learn about the people and the culture as well as the thriving ecosystem that makes up the rainforest. As a part of these teachings we had the opportunity to go on fabulous hikes, create ethnic bowls from clay we dug from the ground, and eat chocolate that we made from scratch. All things I would never have the chance to do from the comfort of my own home.
Although I could talk about this experience and what it taught me to no end, I will sum it up by saying this trip showed me how to take a step back, relax, be patient, and be appreciative of what you have. Although these aren’t the traits I envisioned myself taking away from this experience, I think they will help me be a more effective student and leader as I work to pull myself back from the workaholic attitude that has been instilled in me and refocus on the passion that motivates me to succeed. I believe that by implementing these philosophies (and eating lots of Ecuadorian chocolate) I can work on achieving the crucial combination of work-life balance in my career to come.
Thanks for all the amazing memories, Ecuador! Until next time, you will be missed.