One of my goals for this trip was to find a place that felt like home. I’ve never enjoyed cold weather – even Vancouver winters get too chilly for me, and the grey skies bring me down. I’ve often thought that I should relocate somewhere warmer, but before this trip I had never taken any steps in that direction. The problem is that I’m not sure what kind of place I’m looking for. There are many places in the world that are warmer than Vancouver in the winter; I need some more specific requirements for my future home. The good thing about travelling, though, is that I have the chance to see, explore, and spend time in many places, evaluating each of them as the potential location of my house and home for the next few years.

Costa Rica was beautiful. Wild yet accessible, it was a hotspot for tourists from all over the world. I found, though, that it wasn’t foreign enough for me. There were lots of English speakers everywhere I went. Many of the travellers I met wanted exactly that – a place to visit that gave them a taste of another country with none of the inconveniences. I can respect that; when you’re on vacation, you don’t want to have to put a huge amount of effort into arranging every activity in a language you don’t speak well. I, however, want to be forced to immerse myself in Spanish. I’m frankly disappointed when the waiter addresses me in English. Costa Rica’s tourism industry is too well-developed for me, and so Costa Rica isn’t going to be home for the next few years.

Ellen admires the view at a very well-maintained, very tourist-oriented, very expensive volcano in a park in Costa Rica

Ellen admires the view at a very well-maintained, very tourist-oriented, very expensive volcano in a park in Costa Rica

I didn’t stay long enough in Panama to evaluate its potential as a home, but certainly the San Blas islands were paradise on Earth. Unfortunately, they were also prohibitively expensive. With no fresh water source, a limited ability to grow one’s own food, and little economic activity outside of selling trinkets to tourists on sailboats, the tropical paradise will probably be nothing more than a wonderful vacation destination for me.

Heaven on Earth, but inaccessible and expensive for long-term living

Heaven on Earth, but inaccessible and expensive for long-term living

Cartagena, on the other hand, astounded me with its architecture and friendly people. The old town centre felt welcoming, safe, and removed enough from North American culture to appease my appetite for the unknown. People spoke to me in Spanish almost exclusively, and were matter-of-fact in their assumption that I would understand them. The locals were used to tourists, but shared the city on their own terms. I could see myself living a year or more in Cartagena, but the heat there is intense. Ellen and I found ourselves exhausted and sniping at each other around midday each day, until we decided to institute a mandatory siesta every afternoon. If I decided to live in Cartagena for very long, I’d have to figure out a job and lifestyle that allowed me to avoid the heat of the midday sun and get my work done in the early morning and in the cool of the evening. I left the city with the idea of living there someday resting in the back of my mind. Certainly, I will go back to Cartagena someday.

The most wonderful time of day in sunny Cartagena

The most wonderful time of day in sunny Cartagena

More than anywhere else I’ve been, though, Ecuador has the potential to be home. Mindo, my base of operations for the last six weeks, is warm in the morning but not too hot, and cools off in the afternoons with its regular rain showers in wet season. Everywhere I look feels alive. Birds sing, chirp, and flutter between trees. Insects buzz and hum in every direction, and I never tire of examining the spiders, beetles, butterflies and caterpillars that I find wherever I look. Trees are always green, fruit can be harvested year-round, flowers bloom in every season, and even in the rainy months the sun shines every day. The Ecuadorians I’ve met have been friendly, cheerful, and chatty. My host at the farm, Genny, assures me that if I were to look for a teaching job in Quito, I would have no trouble finding one, and could probably find work in any large town in the country as well. I hesitate to look into teaching jobs, though, as my heart is much deeper into writing at the moment. At every turn I am inspired with book ideas, and yet I am so busy taking it all in that I’ve barely written a word. Luckily, I don’t need to do either at the moment. My travel funds have not run out yet, so I can put off finding a job for a few more months. Finding a home, on the other hand, is an endless pursuit. So far, the farther south I get, the closer to home I feel. I can’t wait to see where I end up!

Home sweet home someday?

Home sweet home someday?

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