How I Transitioned into My New Life in Ecuador

Deseo que siempre tengas:

AGUA – para beber

FUEGO – para calentar

AIRE – para respirar

TIERRA – para vivir en ella

These words were written on a sign in an ecological toilet in Kinti Wasi, a community based in rural Suscal, in the province of Cañar. It was started by women who want to preserve the wisdom of the Andean cosmovision in its knowledge of agroecology, architecture, gastronomy, and medicine. They live off the gifts from the Earth and in sync with the Earth.


I’ve been in Ecuador for a month and a half now. To better understand everything that’s happening to me and around me, I’ve referred to these words to keep myself grounded as I go through daily challenges.

Easy transitions are all about being adaptable, and being adaptable is all about being aware of how little you need to be content.


I have indeed moved across the world, to live in a culture completely different than my own, where I don’t speak the language fluently yet, where people don’t take their shoes off when they enter the house, and I get a special tax on my purchases because I’m blonde.


Many people would say that this is not an easy transition to make, and a month ago I would agree with them. Now, I think about it differently.

My first week in Ecuador was difficult. I felt terrified of how everything will turn out with my host family and my apprenticeship. I was physically cold all the time because I was not used to the four-seasons-in-one-day climate of Ecuador, and the slightly colder climate of my town Cumbe, located in the Andes. I had a lot of anxious thoughts about my site placement and a lot of doubts, thinking that maybe this isn’t a place where I can be happy.


It all turned around once I realized how simple it all is.


How happy it makes me to sunbathe outside my house for hours in the afternoon, while reading a good book and trying to get my host dogs, Chiquis and Niño, to stop jumping all over me.


How content I feel when the kids from the school where I teach see me on the street and run up to hug me as they call for me: ¡señorita Ivana!


How energized I feel deeply inhaling and taking in the view from the top of a mountain I hiked for hours in Cantón El Tambo, when naturally I should be exhausted.


How blessed I feel to have an amazing host family that embraces me, supports me, and cooks the best food possible.


Huge transitions in life are made easier by taking moments to appreciate all the small things that make you feel fulfilled no matter where you are on this tiny planet of ours.


Realizing how little I need to live and be happy is what made me more adaptable. Some places are definitely more convenient to live in, but it is up to each one of us to find happiness within us. Changes in our environment are always demanding because we’re leaving our comfort zone, and since our ultimate goal is to better ourselves, we can’t do it without a little bit of a challenge.


As I continue to adapt and embrace my life in Ecuador, I will continue embracing the words from the beginning of this blog: No matter where I am, all I really need is some Water – to drink; Fire – to warm up; Air – to breathe; and Land – to live on. Everything else is a matter of convenience, or lack thereof.

Me, relishing in the freshness of the air and tranquility of the Cumbe area, after successfully finishing a 2-hour-long hike with my host family, started at 5:30 am


¡Hasta pronto!