“Quito Is Cooler Than You Are”

The other day, I received this comment in response to my blog post, “Quito, Slashed.” It comes from “Fan of Quito” and I thought it deserved its own blog for a response:

quito is cooler than you are.

and you’re missing the point.

stop thinking about yourself and your privileges that you miss so much and you’ll really start enjoying spending time in a culturally and geographically fascinating city.  think less about what you can GET from the city, and try to focus on what you can do to ameliorate all the sad things that you are witnessing.

Uhoh, have I come off like a total privileged, anti-Quito, gringa snob?! Please say NO. If so, BLOG = FAIL!! Gawd, I hope that is not the case… If anything, that is the exact OPPOSITE of how I would describe myself, but it’s always interesting to get a reaction from a stranger (have you read the rest of my blog, Fan of Quito? Because I think you’d see I’m quite different from your impression… or at least I’d hope so!).

Me horseback riding in Canoa, Ecuador. Photo by Clemence D.

I love traveling (duh), and I always live with an open mind. I’m living in Ecuador for every experience that comes with it, and sometimes those experiences can be negative… But sometimes they are very, VERY positive.

Fan of Quito, I see your points. I hope I didn’t come off as ungrateful or superior in any way. I’m here to learn, to experience the ups and downs, to figure this city out, to take a risk, to explore myself as much as Ecuador. The truth is, I hit a rough patch a few weeks ago but I feel SO much better about Quito and about being here now. Hopefully that will also come through in the blog, alongside my downer moments. All I can do, and all I want to do with this blog, is track my journey as honestly as possible. The reality is that I was feeling frustrated with this city, so I wrote about it. When I am feeling in love with being here, I write about that too (did you read my last post on Canoa? All happy thoughts!).

Morning in Canoa. Photo by Tavel.

My coworker Nick decided, Fan of Quito, that you are right: why have I not been able to single-handedly change the world yet? Why have I not saved an orphan, randomly picked a street to patrol, or marched for some cause since I’ve been in Quito? I’m not sure what is expected of me by being an expat here, but I’m not trying to make a huge change — I’m sorry. All I intend to do is live here, take it all in, learn from it, and share the experience as best I can with anyone who wants to know about it. The changes I can make are small — tiny, miniscule. And part of my purpose for being here is for me, whether you think that is right or wrong. I know Ecuador isn’t perfect and that the problems — poverty, crime, political dysfunction — are much bigger than me and my experience, but they are also a part of it, and I think people deserve to know what being here really feels like for one person — in this case, me.

It’s true: I have been missing certain luxuries about NYC/USA-living like crazy. I am SO lucky to have them at all, and traveling to less-developed countries involves giving up many comforts as an American. But don’t you dare start to think that I am not getting so much by being here too! I am FULLY aware of how much I am getting out of being here, and I am trying to give in my own way. But part of the reason I was so frustrated with Quito was because I kept getting sick and it was wearing me down. There are problems in this city that I cannot solve, but I can live here, capture my honest experience in words, and then maybe other people will want to learn more about this place and what life is like. From there, who knows? Someone might want to volunteer here, or research it, or help it, or just appreciate it for what it already is — right?!

Clemence on a Boat. Canoa, Ecuador. Photo by Tavel.

The important thing is that I am here, I am open, and I am being as honest as I can be about how this experience is turning out for ME, nobody else. I’m sorry if I offended you, if I came off as ignorant or overly negative towards Quito, but I expressed exactly how I was feeling the moment I wrote that particular blog, whether it was right to feel that way or not.

For what it’s worth, I’m not feeling like a Negative Nancy sour-puss anymore. That’s part of learning; sometimes you’ve got to go through rough, resentful patches to come out on the other side. I’m over some sort of hump and feeling great! It is a BEAUTIFUL morning, I’m meeting more and more wonderful people, I’m slowly discovering some places I really like in this city, and I am actually really, really happy to be here right now — despite all previous blog posts that may give the impression that I am not.

I obviously pissed someone off, and I guess it was cool to see that sort of reaction for a change. I am glad you said something, Fan of Quito, and thank you for reminding me that this experience in Ecuador isn’t just about me (even though I know that — I promise!). I mean, if I’ve pissed someone off that means a couple things: 1) people are reading, and 2) I’m on my way to success! Hehe.

No but really, I appreciate every and all comments, as long as they are honest. I am far from perfect, I have a lot to learn, but as long as I am imperfect and as long as I still have a TON to learn, I sure as heck am going to keep writing about it.

And hopefully, you’ll keep reading.



Filed under Ecuador, Uncategorized

6 responses to ““Quito Is Cooler Than You Are”

  1. missy

    you are having quite an adventure, tavel…and while i know there’s a lot of good you want to do while you’re there, don’t forget that besides all of that, you ARE there for you, too! it doesn’t have to always be about everyone else.

    • travelswithtavel

      Hehe. YEAH. Thanks Missy, for not thinking I’m a total and complete jerk 🙂 Whew, good to have people who know me!

  2. You just reminded me about a blog from a guy who was traveling in Brazil and was outraged about how he was singled out by the cops for bribes. I reminded him that the same things he was witnessing in Brazil happen in the US, but because he was a white male he never saw them. For example, police here target people of color just like he was targeted in Brazil…. wait… in Brazil the targeting was for bribes, in the US the targeting lands you in jail.

    Likewise, you may not be too familiar with the poverty in the U.S. Here it is either out of sight (for example in the Appalachians or poor areas in the South), or hidden…. people don’t go around telling others that their entire family went to bed hungry the previous night.

  3. Sarah Z

    Good for you for not shying away from a hard comment to swallow…very refreshing to see a writer who takes doesn’t just take the good but examines and embraces all comments and criticisms.

  4. Geordie

    Hey Tavel,

    I’d have to echo what Sarah said. It was great that you were able to stick by your guns, while staying respectful and without getting defensive. It’s a great skill to have as a blogger and will serve you well as T with T grows.

    As Churchill said “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. “

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