Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hosteleria Floripes

Update: The kids have their own perspective on their visit on their blog.

When I was in my 20s I once read a new-agey book called The Celestine Prophecy. Your 20s is a good time to read new-agey stuff, because even though it got ridiculous in the end, my mind was still open enough at that time to consider the ideas posited in the book -- namely that coincidences are only apparently so; it's actually the universe trying to tell you something if you'd just pay enough attention to listen. Wait. Shhh. Did you hear that?

When we were in Canoa on our date night Di and I met a young Canadian spending two years traveling from home to and through South America. And when our friends went on their date night, they met five young Coloradans traveling through South America. We each, of course, invited our Encounters to stay with us in Cuenca.

The fifth bedroom
And they each showed up within a day of each other. Our Canadian friends happened to already have a houseful of other guests (never a cold couch in Cuenca), so we took over their guests as well. And now we begin to appreciate having a too-big house. Glendon, the Canadian, got here the day before the others so scored the only bed space we can make available. But the Coloradans are equipped to camp, so the only additional space required was the yard and the other half of Glendon's bed after the tarantula crawled across the rug once intended as a bed mat.

Tell 'em what they've won, Vanna.
This is really our first close encounter with backpackers that I can remember since our honeymoon on the islands of Thailand in 2002. We were disheartened there to see all the kids drinking and partying late, waking late, then hunching back into the bar/restaurants to watch movies all day until time for afternoon cocktails. We hoped this was just a bacchanalian anomaly on the backpacker trail  -- can't say we didn't have one or two of those in our younger travels -- but it was sad to see paradise in the periphery of these kids' TV tunnel vision.

The spread
Basil/cilantro mojitos!
We were really happy to see our visitors meeting people, cooking their own exotic foods, learning new crafts and skills, exercising, and being respectful and gracious guests. Diana's parents told her long ago, when she was about to depart on her first traveling adventure, "Be a good ambassador." That has stuck with her, and I agree, too, that it is a good check to be sure you're acting like a guest in another country, rather than a paying customer.

As Diana welcomed them in with a pasta dinner, they returned the favor the next night with an imposing spread of steak, cous cous, salad, bread, baked zucchini dreamboat (if it's not called that, it should be) and cookies, cookies, COOKIES! And they got up early next morning to be sure the kids had some homemade banana bread french toast before school. We've begun to think we should invite more backpackers in off of But we're not ready to risk having gotten the cream of the backpacker crop on this round and being disappointed by the follow-up acts.

...and Cookies Cookies Cookies Cookies!
In talking with them all we couldn't help get the sense that we talking to some future community leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators. It takes a peculiar sense of adventure and awe about the world around you to commit to the travel these guys have, but there's more to them than even that. As Glendon said the day he pulled out on his motorcycle, "I'm anxious to get down to my volunteer assignment in Peru. I'm starting to ask myself what I'm doing all this for, what's the purpose?"

Yah hear that Mama? Purpose. They grow up so quick. Sniff.
Learning backpacker solitaire
Future mayor of Winter Park, Colorado


  1. What a great experience. Now I know why Diana didn't make it to the cooking class! We too have been thinking about the couch surfing idea. or Peace Corps folks... we are still thinking on it.

  2. I agree with you. You have given to us with such a large collection of information. Great work you have done by sharing them to all..

  3. Thank you for hosting my niece Jessica and her traveling companions! We are very grateful for kind people like yourselves and reading your post made me very proud of her and her choice of friends. We pray for their safety everyday and this was very reassuring! If you ever make it to the Florida Keys, please know there is a family here that opens their doors to you as well!


    Kim Bouchard

  4. As the proud mother of "vanna" I just want to thank you for opening your home to them. Jessica could not stop talking about your gracious hospitality and fascinating family. Thankyou for being a part of her coiencidence. If you are ever in the blue ridge mountains of the carolinas I would be honored to have you as my guests !