Keeping with our tradition of thinking we have it all figured out and realizing quickly that we don’t, we’re presenting more lessons we have learned, this time in the just over three weeks we have spent in the Galapagos Islands. These lessons are in a lot of ways connected, but we wanted to present each individually so we could go into more details.
- Do not book hotels, tours, etc… ahead of time. Sorry Mom, I will not be able to provide you a detailed itinerary with names, phone numbers and dates.
- You should definitely do some research if you can and have a couple of places that you want to check out or do. Not booking ahead of time gives you the upper hand when negotiating and gives you an opportunity to actually check the place out (does it reek of smoke, does the A/C work, how big is the room, water pressure, water temperature, etc..) Remember, we’re not staying at the Marriot Courtyard so all of these things are really unknowns. At the end of the tour if you like it you can and should negotiate.
- This was a definite “light bulb goes off in my head” moment. You see…how do I put this… Booking lodging online in the U.S. is done without second thought. It might even be weird to book a hotel room using a different method nowadays. It’s all done online, every “decent” place has a website. Well, not here. Not all the places that are available make it online or others specifically opt not to have their place listed on Airbnb or Bookings.com, etc.. because of the fees. The ones that do list on these sites build in the costs of using their services into the price. Essentially you are limiting yourself to a smaller, more expensive pool of lodging options when booking ahead of time.
- Not booking ahead of times gives you much more flexibility, which is a good thing. It’s how you make your money go further and get treated to truly unique experiences. Thus far in three weeks the two most exciting events occurred because we were flexible and took advantage of an opportunity that we hadn’t planned on. The first was the scuba cruise for two nights and the second was our awesome Hauser dinner.
- There will always be times where you probably should book in advanced. When you land in the middle of the night or after a long, tiring trip you might just want to have a place you know you can put your stuff down and relax. But only book one night. Then go to work.
- There are so many people doing what we are doing, or have done it – listen to them. It’s wild how many different people we have met that have done or are in the midst of doing a very similar trip that we are (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina). We somehow decided to take a popular path along the west coast of South America. This is awesome, because the folks that have done this before us have great information to share and they love sharing it. We need to listen. This is a skill we both possess but my god after a couple of drinks we can really dominate a conversation. Or after a couple of more drinks when we wake up the next day we ask ourselves “wait, what did so and so say about where to go?” Ha. Time to start drafting emails in mid-conversation and sending them to ourselves so we don’t forget.
- We have already altered our trip twice since we have been here. We shortened our time on San Cristobal and we also shortened our time in Montanita but added more time along the coast of Ecuador. We would have never done this without meeting and listening to people.
- Columbia. We will go to Columbia. Every person we have met that has been there has absolutely nothing but great things to say. “The people are super sweet. The music is awesome. The food is amazing. You must go.” This was a country we were OK with not visiting three weeks ago, now we’re working on a plan to get there.
- One month on the Galapagos Islands is too long. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful here. We’re having a wonderful time. Maybe I should change the title to read “One month on the Galapagos Islands on a budget, living in town is too long,” I don’t know. I should also note here too that Lindsay and I are in a slight disagreement on this one. She doesn’t feel as strongly as I do. Here’s why I feel this way…
- I swear now that we have been here for a few weeks it is like groundhog day (remember that movie?) The same thing, over and over. In a way it’s why we decided to take a year-off, to escape the monotony of our lives back in Chicago and in an funny and ironic way we find ourselves going through the same routine every day here. Where should we eat for breakfast, for lunch or dinner? Most of the restaurants serve the same exact menu. And I don’t mean how Chili’s and Friday’s serve the same menu, I mean ..”hey, wait..that is the same exact menu…as in…you just took that menu from that other restaurant..” I have ate the fish special of over-cooked tuna, rice, fries and fresh squeezed juice 20 times already. So anyways, I think that I am just getting a little stir crazy with the same thing over and over again. There really isn’t much to do at night either besides go out and drink and maybe stumble into a “nightclub” – which we have done, and have had fun…but not for two…or three…or seven straight nights.
- If you do make it to the Galapagos, and you definitely should if you are able to, consider doing a good portion of your trip by boat. This is where you unlock the magic of the islands. There are only four islands with inhabitants – the rest of the archipelago can only be reached by boat. This was a bit of an error on our part. We didn’t realize how important it was to see the islands from a boat. Thankfully we had the chance opportunity to spend a couple of nights onboard and check out some other spots.
So that is what we have learned so far. Or at least the big topics. We’re also starting to wonder here and there if we packed too much. The general consensus is yes, we have too much stuff but we’re not able to quite put our fingers on exactly what we would shed. Maybe the next time we check in with what we have learned we’ll be in a better position to share what we left behind and why.
And for anyone out there wondering what our schedule looks like for next few weeks (mom..) here is what we know:
- Heading to the island of San Cristobal on the 2pm ferry. Should arrive there around 4pm and check into our apartment which is a five minute walk from the pier. We’re on this island until March 3rd when we fly to Guayaquil.
- From Guayaquil we will bus it to Montanita (a Ecuadorian coast city known for its partying that is 3hrs by bus from Guayaquil). We’re going to take some Spanish lessons and try to learn how to surf here. We are here for 3 days
- After Montanita we do not have anything booked, tentatively we’re going to head up the coast and spend one or two nights in Puerto Lopez and Manta. There are casinos (I heard) in Manta.
- After that we’ll (probably) head to Quito and stay there for an undetermined amount of time. Quito will likely serve as a hub for us as we head into the jungle, to Banos and a few other spots around town.
- And then we will make it to Cuenca and visit Lindsay’s family that live there.