Hey everybody, if you’ve been keeping up with my Training Log, you know that I’m living in Ecuador for the next few months. While the primary purpose of moving my cat, my partner, and myself to Quito this spring is to train at high altitude, I also love the Ecuadorian culture and people. After spending a good portion of my adult life in Quito, I have been eagerly welcomed into a training group of elite South American runners, and enjoy linking up with many local friends for food and entertainment.
At STRIVE, we realize that not every participant has the opportunity to travel extensively; in fact, sometimes our program is the first time that a participant leaves their home country. While the volunteer work that we perform in the communities of Iten or Pisac is important for service-learning, cultural learning is also a vital link to creating an exceptional STRIVE experience.
A crucial part of the STRIVE programs is adjusting to the local culture, as the summer high school and college intern programs require the participant to live in a foreign location for an extended period of time. While abroad, not everything happens on the schedule that you think might be the most efficient, but instead of fighting against the local culture, I have learned from it over the years, and shaped my own life around it.
Here are my three tips for living abroad (and respecting the local culture):
- Chill out! Chances are, your bus will arrive ten to twenty minutes late; there may be a strike and you cannot teach at the school that day (and you had no prior knowledge of its occurrence); maybe there’s no hot water for your post-run shower. When you travel, especially for extended periods of time, you learn how to be flexible and to adapt to your surroundings.
- Visit the local market (and eat where the locals eat)! For me, this is a big one. Not only is the food cheaper at the local mercados, the food is consumed en masse by the locals, so you know that it must be scrumptious! The food that is often served in the tourist-y restaurants is frequently overpriced, so if you’re balling on a budget, purchasing food and eating at the local market is the best way to go. Don’t be afraid to venture out and try a new food, whether that be injera or cuy!
- Don’t be afraid to ask the locals questions! Oftentimes when I travel, I am curious about a particular cultural custom (or merely need directions), but might at first hesitate to ask a local a question for fear of sounding like a clueless gringo. Over the years, I have learned to just ask that question anyways — and way more often than not, the locals will happily give me the answer that I was looking for (in addition to more information that you didn’t realize that you were seeking, but is interesting anyways).
Alright, these are my best three tips for living abroad and how to adjust to life somewhere new – whether it be by yourself or with us in either Pisac or Iten! If you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comments section below and I will answer them as soon as possible. Suggestions for a future post can be directed to email@example.com.