Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - My Year In Review

Hola!!! how have you lovely people been.......wait, I guess I should first ask if there is anyone out there to begin with seeing that I have been MIA for a while now. What can I say? having a full time job has kept me busy and my focus has been on other things so my travels have been significantly limited, this in turn has affected how much I post on here. Looking back at 2015 I realize that a lot of good things have happened in my life and for once I feel like all aspects of my life are in perfect sync. Without further ado let me quickly go over the main highlights of 2015:


Even though I didn't travel as much as I would have wanted, I still got to check out several places so that wasn't so bad.

Galapagos - In March there was my trip to the Galapagos which was pretty good although the heat was out of this world. It was my birthday treat to myself and it was all worth it so no complaints on this end.

Colorado - In the US I got to visit Colorado which was one of the places I had considered moving to. Although my trip was short and I felt like I barely scratched the surface, I still had a good time. My plan in the near future is to do more travel within the US because there is so much to see.

 The olympic museum

Came across a quinceañera ceremony and I spotted the girls below rushing to the party, they had such cute dresses especially the main girl who was being celebrated.

Dominican Republic - This was a memorable trip and the most non-touristic, this trip was all about meeting my in laws and getting to know each other. We bonded really well and I got to fall in love with my husband all over again seeing him around his family and friends and how he interacts with them. I didn't mind that we never got to check out the main attractions of the island because this isn't the last trip for us to the island so we will have plenty of time to explore more of it in the near future.

Career Wise 

Before moving back to the US my wish was to get a job within corporate America and I kept thinking to myself, "I want the benefits and all the perks that come with working in corporate America and please let me not get another accounting job." My wish did come true and I am truly grateful for the job I have. I also can't say enough good things about my manager, having had prior horrible experiences I truly appreciate my current manager. Actually when I came back from the Dominican Republic she organized a small party at the office celebrating my newly married status, I thought it was really sweet of her. A couple of co-workers even chipped in and got me a gift which I thought was really nice of them.

Love Life

In 2015 I got engaged and married to an amazing guy and I am really happy. He truly is a genuinely nice guy and one of the things I love about him is that he is a better person than I am which motivates me to be the best version of myself (does it make sense? Ooh! and I hope ya'll don't think I am this horrible person, I just think my husband is nicer than I am). I always tell folks that if we were not together romantically I would definitely still want him in my life as a friend and I know he would make a great friend. There is so much more I could say about my husband but then again I would end up going on and I will keep it short. He is a good man, he makes me happy and through bad times and good times it's him that I would want by my side.

I could stare at this face all day long, he really is beautiful both inside and out.

That's it folks, 2015 had its ups and downs but the ups outweighed the downs and for that I am truly grateful. It's funny how life works out sometimes, just looking at my life this past year I can't help but marvel at how a lot of things came together for me. I can only hope for even better things in 2016.......wishing anyone who is reading this a very Happy New Year.

PS: I have a couple of trips already planned for 2016 so watch this space.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Hello? Hola? is anyone still out there reading this blog? I know it's been ages but that's what happens when you are busy restructuring your life and taking care of a lot of stuff. So what have I been up to? A lot! but I will try to keep it short and stick to the main points so here goes.......


I did go back to the US and I have to admit that the first few weeks being back were pretty hard for me. I was worried sick of how long it would take me to find a job as I was watching my savings dwindle day by day (living in the US is not cheap when you are jobless), I had to figure out my living situation but that depended on getting a job first, I had to buy a car (nothing fancy but reliable) pretty quick in order to get around and really regretted selling my old car before I left (what was I thinking???) I came back to friends who had moved on and I have to say it's surprising how much things can change in the span of one year, I am talking: marriages, relocations, kids, careers and a whole lot more. In short, it was just an overwhelming time and I am glad it's all in the past but it certainly opened my eyes to a lot of things and major lessons were learned.


Guess who is back in Corporate America?

As luck would have it, within a month of being back I actually ended up getting a really good job offer with one of the biggest CPA firms in the US. Yes, I know!!!! for those who have been reading my blog you know that I had worked as an Accountant and hated it so how ironic is it that I end up in a CPA firm of all places, right?! I am happy to report that the job I am doing is totally different from the past Accounting jobs I have had and I actually enjoy it. I work in Tax & Compliance, there is so much to learn and as you can see from the picture above, a lot to read as well! sometimes I feel like I am back in school all over again. All in all everything in the career front is good and I am fortunate enough to work under a really good manager so no complaints here.

Personal Changes:

I didn't realize how much weight I had gained until I came back to the US, goodness gracious! the old clothes I had in storage no longer fit and I just felt so out of shape. I started eating healthy and went back to the gym which felt really good especially when the results started showing.

As you can notice from the picture above, I cut my hair so the hair you see in the picture below is no more. Actually that's one of the first things I did when I came back, I just wanted a total change and my hair was the first casualty of these new changes.

Romantic Life:

What can I say? last time I touched on this topic was to announce that I was engaged. Well, what can I say this know how life is, unexpected things happen and one never knows about tomorrow so I am here to announce that we are..........still together and doing great actually! hahahahaha! Ooh! ye of little faith, how many of you were thinking that I was going to say we broke up? nope! we are still going strong and there is a good surprise coming up so watch this space.

Okay, I think I have covered the major points so let me start wrapping things up and get back to packing. Ooh! I guess I forgot to mention that I have an exciting trip coming up huh? I will give you a clue, it's a Spanish speaking Island in the Caribbean and it's neighboring country is French speaking.

Random Thoughts Of The Day:

You really don't know who your friends are until you go through a rough patch in life.

Selling everything and going off to travel sounds so bold and exciting but let me tell you this, it's overrated!! especially if you plan on coming back to the same country you left. All I can tell you is this, DON'T DO IT! (sell your stuff that is - but of course do travel!) keep your stuff in storage or if you have a generous friend who offers you space in her garage to park your beloved car for a year and space in her spare room to keep your personal items.......take her up on that offer, it will save you so much money in the end. I promise!

It really is expensive starting life from scratch. I practically had nothing when I came back and buying everything from scratch including getting an apartment took a toll on my bank account.

I didn't realize how good my Spanish had become and I am proud to say that I am still keeping it up and improving on it. Thanks to my cable package I do have a couple of Spanish speaking channels and I watch the shows and movies on there which I really enjoy, I chat on Skype frequently with one of my Colombian friends who is pretty good at correcting my grammar and I always end up learning new vocabulary from her, of course my fiancé is also a good source of maintaining the language so that helps a lot.

I still do miss living in a Spanish speaking country and being surrounded by the language. There are a lot of Spanish speakers where I live but unfortunately I have yet to make any Spanish speaking friends. Ooh! well.....

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Till We Meet Again

Well, what can I say? my big South America adventure has come to an end and it's time to pack my bags and move on. It's been quite an unforgettable adventure and I am happy I got to experience it. There is a lot I will miss but I will be back again to make more memories and experience new adventures.

I will miss.....

Speaking Spanish all the time - I really do love the language and I will miss hearing it everywhere I go. I suppose all is not lost because I will still continue speaking Spanish a lot given that my fiancé is a Spanish speaker and that's the language we use to communicate.

The People - I have really met incredible people during my stay in South America and that has been one of the main highlights of my travels. If I wrote about all of them I will end up going on and on so I will keep it short by saying, I really appreciate those I met that left a very positive impression on me.

My Barrio - I really like the neighborhood we live in, it's very chill, safe and family oriented. I will miss the hilly main road that always makes me feel like I am getting in a good work out whenever I am walking around the neighborhood running errands. I will miss the noise of kids who get off school at noon for their lunch break making the neighborhood look and sound so vibrant with all their chatter.

The Fruits - The abundance of fruits here will make any fruit lover like me very happy because there are so many different kinds of fruits which I have had the pleasure of sampling. We don't even buy fruit juice because we always make our own juice from some of the fruits available and I have become quite the fruit shake maker always experimenting with different fruits to get different flavors.

My Favorite Dog - One of our neighbors has this really sweet, friendly and very chill dog. The dog likes greeting everyone and when you leave your door open when he's been let out to play, he will walk in and calmly sit next to you or just lay down on the floor waiting to be petted. Speaking of the dog, I have a weird story for you guys. One night when we were fast asleep the TV which is located in our bedroom suddenly turned on by itself. The remote was nowhere near the bed so its not like one of us accidentally lay on it and turned on the TV. To say I was freaked out is an understatement, my fiancé on the other hand was not even fazed even when it happened a second time on a different day. I was convinced we had a ghost in the house and I was freaked out, he thought it was just an electrical glitch or something since he had previously opened the socket to fix something. I had this bright idea to test my ghost theory by having the friendly dog visit our house and if he got unusually scared then for sure it would mean there was a ghost in our apartment. The fiancé thought it was hilarious but he humored me, I was actually pretty serious about it. Haven't you heard about animals with their intuition? anyway, I carried out my plan and the dog never acted scared or anything. He was very comfortable hanging around our apartment as usual so I finally had to agree with my fiancé that it must have been an electrical glitch after all phew!

PS: When I was in Galapagos the TV turned on by itself one night, I was so scared I couldn't go back to sleep. Thankfully the next day I got a different room but I was still so paranoid that I never got a good night's sleep. What's up with that??!!

Salsa Classes - I had taken a break from salsa for a while before taking it up again after I got done with my Spanish classes. I ended up taking classes from Academia Salsa & Merengue (Directed by Silvia Garcia) the school is located on the corner of Mariscal Foch and Amazonas. I would highly recommend the school to anyone visiting Quito and is interested in dancing. My instructor Piedra was the best!

There is a lot more I will miss but I will stop here because there is packing to be done and a lot of other stuff.

That's it folks, I hope you have enjoyed following me on my journey because I have enjoyed writing this blog. There is only so long I can live off my savings so it's time to get a job and start seeing the figures on my bank account going up instead of down. I will take a break from writing on here as I focus on other things. This doesn't mean I will forget you because I will definitely be back so this is not goodbye but its more like, until we meet again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cost Breakdown For My Galapagos Trip

A trip to the Galapagos isn't the most cheapest but there are ways you can manage to cut costs depending on how you want to tour the various islands and how long you want to stay. Without further ado here goes my cost breakdown:

Tour Expenses - Since Galapagos was meant to be my birthday treat, I wanted to have a stress free trip and have someone else plan the itinerary for me as I followed along enjoying the ride. Having worked at a travel agency here in Quito, I was fortunate enough to get a discount of $100 so I ended up paying $400 for a tour that normally costs $500 (better than nothing right)? the tour price included: excursions, 3 meals a day, hotel stay, transfer in and out of the airport and a guide. I chose the cheapest tour which lasted 4 days and 3 nights, perfect length of time for me because I didn't want and I couldn't afford to be gone for too long. 

I opted for a land tour meaning I would be staying in a hotel and only taking boats to whichever island I was to visit. The other option was to take a boat tour meaning I would be staying on a boat and only stepping on land for any excursions included in the itinerary. Let's just stay staying on a boat for majority of the time wasn't my cup of tea, I wanted the flexibility of being on land so that I could do my own thing and go wherever I wanted during my free time. 

NOTE: The boat tours are more pricey, the cheapest is about $600 but the advantage of these tours is that you get to visit more islands. For my tour I only got to visit two islands, Santa Cruz and Isabela which happens to be the largest island.

Flight Prices - Everyone including the owner of the travel agency I worked at in Quito told me that flights to the islands are usually pricey and $400 would be the cheapest price I would get. I went online and true to what I had heard, most flights were charging $400 and upward between Quito and Galapagos. I had even checked the Prices from Guayaquil to Galapagos but they were not any cheaper (Guayaquil is closer to Galapagos) I almost gave up hope until I came across a flight for $275 through expedia.

The map below gives you an idea of how far the islands are from mainland Ecuador.

Photo courtesy of google

Island Expenses - I had to pay $20 for a transit card at the airport in Quito, without this transit card you can not be checked in. At the airport in Galapagos I had to pay an entry fee of $100 which is mandatory for everyone, of course its cheaper for countries that have certain relations with Ecuador. When I visited Isabela island I had to pay an entry fee of $5 as a foreigner (nationals pay $2).

Total Price - Minus personal expenses I spent $800 and this price included: Tour, flight, transit card and entry fees. My personal expenses were not much and only added up to about $20 

Lessons Learned

There are two airports at the Galapagos so you can fly either to Baltra which is the main airport or San Cristobal. Most flights do fly to Baltra and from Baltra you can take a boat to the island of Santa Cruz which is the main starting point for a lot of tours and has more accommodation options.

Photo courtesy of google

Galapagos is an one hour behind continental time in Ecuador so be sure to adjust your watch.

Contrary to what I had thought before, you can actually do Galapagos on your own without any tours. Santa Cruz has many accommodation options and serves as the main base for a lot of tourists. Once you book your hostel/hotel in Santa Cruz, you can take day trips to explore other islands by yourself and return in the evening.

From talking to some tour guides I found out that there are four islands that you can visit by yourself without a tour guide: Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana and I believe San Cristobal. You would need a guide for the others because they are protected islands. If you decide to visit one of the four islands by yourself then you would pay about $25 for a boat ride, I believe the price varies depending on how far the islands are. 

Had I known what I know now I would have loved to visit a couple more islands. 

If you don't want to do the islands by yourself you can buy tours in Santa Cruz, each tour costs between $100 - $130 depending on how far the island is, these prices can really add up if you are visiting various islands so that's why it's better to buy a packaged tour. I found out packaged tours are cheaper to buy in the Galapagos because you are buying directly from the tour companies.

Bottom Line -  I think it all depends on how much you are willing or able to spend, how long you want to visit and of course good planning. Take into account that yes you can do Galapagos on your own but some expenses do add up so its always good to compare different options and see the cost that each option bears. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Beautiful Surprise

I got back to Quito yesterday and the change of weather was really noticeable. It's cold and rainy here in Quito but I am not complaining since the heat in Galapagos was just too much for me so strange as it may sound, it feels refreshing experiencing cooler weather. Enough about this weather talk because I am sure that's not the beautiful surprise you want to hear, right?

So what is this beautiful surprise I am about to share? well, I will keep it short and sweet. I got home yesterday from my trip feeling tired, sunburned and ready for a long shower only to be greeted with a beautiful surprise, my boyfriend proposed to me. Of course the answer was yes, I am engaged ya'll!!! I have to say the way he set everything up was so romantic that I can't stop smiling just thinking of all the details that were involved.

That's it folks, this is a short post so I will stop here because I can't think of anything else to add on to it other than, love is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Exploring Santa Cruz

Today I had another tour but this one was focused on Santa Cruz island where I am currently staying at. Early in the morning we headed to a private finca where we got to see tortoises living in their natural habitat, the guide instructed us to make sure we had socks on or carry them with us if we had sandals because we would later on need them. I really didn't know what to expect but as soon as we got to the finca I understood what he meant. Turns out we had to wear boots to protect our feet from the elements and since these boots are available to the public, socks do indeed come in handy! unfortunately I chose to wear shorts not anticipating flies and ants so I ended up getting several bites on my legs. 

The finca was really pretty and the area looked so lush with green vegetation everywhere, the guide was telling us that since the area is situated in the highlands, they get more rain and its easier to practice farming. Despite the sun not being too hot, it was really humid and I was sweating buckets! I am not kidding you when I say that sweat was actually dripping from my face and I looked like a hot mess to say the least, a dripping hot mess.

We got to see tortoises in their natural habitat which was pretty cool and some of them where not shy because they are used to humans so you could feed them while not touching or getting too close to them. Apparently they are very sensitive so if you have sunscreen or cream on your skin and touch them, they could get sick from the chemicals. 

We toured around the area and even got to enter some caves that were created by volcanic activities which was pretty cool. Speaking of cool, inside the caves the air was very fresh and the temperature was cool which felt good after coming from the humidity outside. The caves were not so extensive but it was still interesting checking them out.

Look how green everything is, it was very beautiful and the picture doesn't really do the scenery justice.

Later on in the afternoon I got to visit Tortuga Bay which is a beach that has the softest sand I have ever experienced. Walking on the sand felt so good and folks were telling me that it never gets hot even when the sun is out in full force so you can comfortably walk without feeling any heat from the sand. Getting to the beach was quite a walk but when I got there it was all worth it plus I did get some exercise in so all that walking wasn't so bad.

I walked up and down the beach and hang out just enjoying the scenery, it was very tranquil and there were not too many people around. This one couple from Argentina struck a conversation with me and  they ended up keeping me company. Speaking of Argentinians, I have encountered so many during my trips and the couple was even telling me than in all of South America, Argentinians tend to travel more as backpackers so you will run into them a lot. For them its very common to take some time off work to travel for extended periods of time.

Below is a picture of the long walking trail to Tortuga Bay, who can complain about having to walk for almost an hour on this trail? it's very pretty.

Iguanas just chilling on the beach without a care in the world.

It started raining on my walk back to the main part of town from Tortuga Bay but I couldn't resist taking a couple of pictures.

That's it folks, today was more laid back which was fine by me considering how active yesterday was. This is my last full day in Galapagos before heading back to Quito tomorrow, it's been fun although my skin is now paying for it thanks to the intense sun exposure but it was all worth it.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Argentinians have a distinct accent that's just different, they use the shh sound a lot which I think sounds kind of cute. Here are a couple of examples to give you an idea of what I am talking about, they pronounce plaza as plasha and subir (to go up) as shubir.

Did you know you can determine the sex of baby tortoises? how do you do this? by the temperature that the eggs get incubated. To get females the eggs have to be incubated at 26 degrees celsius and to get males the eggs have to be incubated at 28 degrees celsius.

Chatting with tour guides will usually teach you some interesting things. I was chatting with the tour guide who took us to the finca to see tortoises and he was telling me that the residency requirement to live in Galapagos came into effect in 1998. Prior to that anyone could land on the island and live without restrictions but to conserve the islands the government decided to restrict population thus introducing residency requirements. All the people who lived on the island prior to 1998 were automatically given residency and anyone coming in after that time could not automatically become a resident of the island and they were limited to the amount of time they could stay on the island. This included Ecuadorians as well.

Apparently the government gave the residents land for free prior to 1998 when residency requirements came into practice so everyone has land and everyone has a job so you will never see beggars on the streets or worry about being robbed. Most people work in the tourism industry which brings in good money plus a lot of them have converted their land into income generating ventures.

Since my hotel room is situated across from the sea, I get to sleep to the sound of waves every night. Today I was moved to another room which doesn't face the sea but the upgrade makes up for it. The room is huge! you should see the bathroom also, it has too much space. Its a very cute room and even the TV is clearer, not that it matters since I haven't really spent a lot of my time in the room.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Year Older In Galapagos

Aaah! so today is my special day because it just happens to be my birthday. I can't believe that I am in my mid thirties! I am celebrating my 35th birthday today and when I think about it, I have 5 more years before I turn 40. I remember being in my twenties and thinking turning 30 was so old, honestly I don't feel any different from how I felt in my twenties. I remember one of my former Spanish teachers being so surprised when I told her I will be turning 35 this year, she exclaimed, "you are turning 35? you don't even have wrinkles!" my reply to her was, "but I am too young for wrinkles." Seriously, isn't 35 too young for wrinkles? I certainly think so.

Today I wanted to do something special so I had arranged to go on a tour of Isabela island which happens to be the largest island in the Galapagos. Isabela is situated 2 hours from Santa Cruz where I am staying so our tour group had to leave really early in the morning because it was a full day tour. We left at 7 in the morning and I was surprised by the number of tours that were taking place at that hour, I guess they all start in the morning so as to take advantage of a full day.

From Santa Cruz we took water taxis that were transferring tourists to their main boats which would take them to Isabela. I can only imagine how much those guys who work on the boats make because there were so many tourists.

Our tour group was quickly situated in our boat and it was snooze time for me. At first the boat ride was really uncomfortable for me because the waves that we were hitting were giving me a funny sensation in my stomach, but I had taken a motion sickness pill prior to boarding so that helped me not throw up. The crew in the boat even had plastic bags handy just in case anyone felt like throwing up. After a while I got accustomed to the motion of the boat and had a pretty good nap actually.

We arrived at Isabela island without any incidence and the guide explained to us that we would spend the whole day exploring the island and visiting the main attractions before heading back to Santa Cruz. At Isabela we had to pay an entry fee which was $5 for foreigners and $2 for Ecuadorians. 

The first thing that was noticeable at Isabela were the number of seals around. There were many seals just chilling on the beach and on the various benches around, they were not scared of people so you could take however many pictures you wanted of them. We were warned not to touch them or get too close because even though they are super chill and not aggressive, if you get too close to them they could lunge at you. Young kids especially are the most vulnerable so parents had to be very careful and ensure that their kids didn't get too close to the seals. They were super cute though and I thought it was really sweet that they had freedom to move around and no one messed with them. Apart from the seals there were also many Iguanas which we were told were also not aggressive. They did look scary though but the guide was explaining to us that they are very docile despite their intimidating looks.

Two penguins that seemed to be playing with each other, they were so cute!

We ventured further into the island where we saw flamingos and visited a tortoise breeding center. As I had mentioned before, there are aggressive efforts aimed at increasing the tortoise population on the various islands in the hope that they will be restored to the same population that existed before humans landed on Galapagos. Those darn humans, right? 

We learned an interesting fact about flamingos and their relation to the flamenco dance from Spain. Turns out that flamingos stamp their feet on the ground underneath water so that the organisms around can float to the surface to be eaten, they stamp their feet moving in circles. How is this related to the flamenco dance? the Spanish observed these movements thus the flamenco dance came to be. That's what the guide told us so I am going by his words, it does make sense though if you observe the flamenco dance and the movements of the flamingos.

We continued exploring the island and learning new things which was really interesting. Later on in the afternoon after lunch we got an hour extra to lounge by the beach and relax, with the oppressive heat I was only too happy to find a spot under a tree and chill, watching the activities around me. After the free hour was up we headed to the dock where we took the boat back to Santa Cruz. 

That's it folks, it was a long day of learning and exploring and I did enjoy it even though the heat did a number on me. My day was well spent and I am glad I chose to spend my birthday in Galapagos. I had a nice quiet dinner of one and treated myself to the sweetest cocktail on the menu in a bar nearby before calling it a night. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

PS: Internet sucks on the island and its a struggle writing this blog, see how dedicated I am at keeping you folks posted?