(Skip down 3 paragraphs to get straight to the advice! Or read my story here first.)
I haven’t even touched down in Quito yet, and this trip is already an adventure. A few days ago, I found out my ride from the airport was no longer picking me up, and the place I was supposed to stay beginning Thursday isn’t ready to host me until Sunday…maybe. Cue mini panic attack. Instead of having a major stressed induced meltdown, I reached out to my network and found a place to stay with a new friend for the first few nights. (Thanks, Jennifer! Even though we haven’t met IRL yet, I can already tell you are awesome!) As far as transportation goes, I will find my own ride from the Quito airport ($2 bus, $8 bus, or $25 taxi) and start putting my Spanish to the test upon arrival. Airports are always the most stressful part of a trip for me. I remember in 2009 when my BFF Nicole and I landed in Bangkok at midnight and a stranger offered to share a taxi with us to our hostel. Stranger danger! Haven’t you seen Taken, sir? Now I am extra happy I decided to land in the afternoon during daylight hours since my plans completely fell through. (Now can you begin to understand why there isn’t much of a point to planning in South America? Ha.)
Last night when I arrived to check-in for my flight at LAX, the woman behind the counter pleasantly informed me that she could not let me on this plane. Excuse me? Since I didn’t have proof that I am ever leaving the country (Ecuador has a 90 day maximum stay), they aren’t supposed to let me in! She told me not to worry; I had 45 minutes to book something and show her proof of my plan to exit the country. (And no she could not help me.) So, sweating profusely and trying to book a bus or a plane on my iPhone (with help from Rebeca from home & from the amazing ladies from my Girls LOVE Travel Facebook group) I finally bought something, thinking it was fully refundable and just a “placeholder” ticket. It turns out that wasn’t the case and I just threw away $370 on a one-way ticket from Quito to Bogota before even leaving the country! There goes my $35/day budget…
Normally I would let these things shake me. A lot. Since I know this trip is a lot of exploration and trial and error, I’m instead trying to take these hiccups as lessons. I am trying to worry less, and live more. I said I wanted adventure and cultural immersion. Well, I’m just chalking this up to all part of the Ecuadorian and backpacker experience. I still don’t technically know when and where I’m supposed to be for my volunteer opportunity on Sunday, and if for some reason it falls through, I know I will be OK. I will find something else to do. I’m on my own timeline and making my own decisions after all! Perspective.
Here are some options** if you need to provide proof of when you will exit a country, even if you don’t know when you plan to leave. (I know I am going to need these options time and time again as I hop from country to country without a plan or end date in sight!)
- Book a flight on Orbitz and cancel within 24 hours (…just make sure you book a flight that is actually refundable, unlike me! Read the fine print.)
- Rent an onward ticket for just $9.99 with FlyOnward! This service books and cancels your airfare for you! I also tried to use this service but unfortunately it took about 1 hour for them to get my ticket to me, so I ended up using the Orbit option in the meantime since I was under a major time crunch. Plan ahead!
- Book a cheap bus fare (or train, etc.) and use it…or not.
- “Hold” a ticket for free through Copa Airlines; they will send you a confirmation email without asking for any payment information and hold a valid ticket for 48 hours. Just screenshot it or print a copy to show officials.
**Disclaimer: Consider having a valid ticket purchased in advance (refundable, or not) in order to avoid problems at immigration. Every country and each passport has different requirements, so be sure to do your research before getting on that flight!
Final parting thoughts as I embark on my journey:
- What the heck am I getting myself into?
- This is going to be such an adventure!
- Are my 3 tubes of tinted SPF lip balm, 2 Sunbum flavored lip balms, and 2 generic SPF balms excessive? (I’m obsessed with keeping my lips protected and hydrated.)
- I can’t believe I got my backpack to weigh under 10 kilos (22lbs) per Copa Airlines carry-on restrictions! Success!
- I’m going to miss kale salads and green juice.
- Again, what am I getting myself into…
- I’m going to miss my friends and family.
- I am so excited to meet like-minded travelers!
- ¿Todavía puedo hablar espanol?
Thank you for listening to my rambling from my layover in the Panama airport. In a few short hours I will be in Quito continuing this adventure!