Each year our daughter goes to sleepaway camp, which gives us the perfect opportunity to take an “alone trip.” My other half, Alex, told me that he would take me anywhere that I wanted to go. I knew this was too good to be true, because he followed it up with “What do you think about going through Ecuador on a motorbike?” I had already begun dreaming of the beaches of Tahiti or climbing the Sydney bridge, which came to an abrupt stop. I appeased him and watched a quick video on YouTube about Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental. I had many questions about my ability to be able to do this trip for 10 days in a developing country on a motorcycle but became intrigued once I saw “Pack for a Purpose.” I want to give all my heart, soul, and every belonging that I own to kids in need. Right away he had me. I’m not sure if it was part of his master plan, but I agreed to the trip because of Pack for a Purpose.
We rented a motorcycle through Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental and did a self-guided trip. They gave you the option to donate supplies at their office or to take them directly to the school. That was my non-negotiable. If I was spending 10 days on a motorcycle and wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row, we were taking the school supplies to the kids. The hardest part was going to be the packing. How many supplies could we fit on a motorcycle and still have all the gear we needed? We brought a separate bag to hold the extra supplies for the kids. We brought pencils, pens, crayons, colored pencils, rulers, glue sticks, balls, and frisbees. We wanted to bring items that the kids could use for school, but also wanted to give them items to play with. I went to Target and bought as much as I could pack in the bag. I couldn’t wait to stop at a school and meet the kids.
Our bike adventure had planned for us to stop at a school on day 8 of our trip. We had a full agenda of places to see that day, but our travel contact let us know that some of the roads were washed out from landslides and we would need to reroute. I was really bummed because there was a school that had been selected and they were expecting us. We also didn’t come all the way to Ecuador to bring back a bag of school supplies so we were going to have to do a little work to find a school and practice up on a few Spanish words. As two foreigners, we knew we were going to have to explain why we stopped at the school and the exchange of school supplies. We laughed because we weren’t sure how it was going to turn out.
As we were riding through a very remote area, we passed a small elementary school. The kids were outside playing so we turned around and drove back. As we parked the bike and started taking off our gear a few of the town residents were watching, not sure what we were doing at the school. The teacher came out and we tried our best to communicate. We showed them the items we had brought for the kids and communicated our best (Google translate was not working due to lack of cell service). The teacher brought us into the school and we were able to interact with the students. They knew a few English words and were happy to share them.
They all told us their names and they just smiled. They were so happy. One little girl had a puppy. In comparison to what we have, they don’t have much, but they have each other. I tried my best not to tear up as I was standing with all of them. We were both so happy to stop and interact with the kids. As we got back on the bike there was one little girl that followed us out to say goodbye. She waved until she couldn’t see us anymore. We talked about how we hoped all the kids went home that day to talk about the experience they had with the Americans. We hope that they see the kindness of other people and that they continue to go to school and enjoy it. For us, stopping at the school was a reminder about the important things in life. We couldn’t communicate well, but we were able to see the pure happiness of these kids and the kindness and respect that we showed each other. I will never forget this part of our trip. For me, it was the highlight.
Ecuador was an amazing country with an incredible array of diverse natural beauty. The people are kind and happy. The food is phenomenal. It is a country that we plan on visiting again. Whether you are boating down the Amazon basin, exploring the rainforest, climbing the Andes Mountains, or on the Pacific Coast there is beauty every place you look. The people also contribute to the beauty. I encourage all of you to do what you can to visit Ecuador and contribute by Packing for a Purpose.