“Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs
It’s a quote often seen on inspirational bumper stickers or printed on the cover of notebooks in gold foil, a reminder to take chances and deal with the outcome later.
But what is the net? Where does it come from? And who makes sure it actually appears?
Those were topics of discussion that took place as our group sat cozily by a stone fireplace at our hacienda in Ecuador. Hosted by Jackie Nourse (also known as Traveling Jackie) of the Budget Minded Traveler Podcast and blog, I was one of nine women signed up to be part of Jackie’s first women’s retreat focusing on taking leaps. The ten of us shared stories of past leaps, or ones we hoped to take in the future. Jackie shared her own personal experiences with life-altering leaps and how she created her own net when one never appeared.
But the retreat wasn’t all about getting deep and inspiring one another – Jackie also had plenty of adventure planned for us. From horseback riding along the slopes of one volcano, to hiking to an elevation of nearly 16,000 feet on another, we bonded and encouraged one another every step of the way. It was a refreshing break from the perfection porn world where every photo has to be taken “for the Insta!”. Makeup and hair tools were left thousands of miles away at home, and we dressed for function and comfort, not for looking cute or for brand recognition. I know that makes me sound bitter, but it was like a breath of fresh air – fresh, oxygen-deprived Andean air – to let go of faking it for social media and just living in the moment.
I have so much to share about this trip, so keep an eye to my travel blog to see a day-by-day breakdown of the incredible time I had in Ecuador. But for right now, I’ll let the photos do the talking:
Quito, as seen from Hotel Casa Gardenia
Scenes from market day in Machachi
Hacienda el Porvenir, a real working hacienda in Ecuador’s Andes
My room is the one between the chimneys with the big window. My bathroom had a skylight window facing the other side.
Our produce hall from the market.
My buddy for the week, Amiche! Just gnawing on a carcass after lunch, as you do when you’re a hacienda dog.
A side dish of just cheese and spinach, and tres leches for dessert. I could get used to this.
Milking a cow. Not as difficult as I thought it would be.
Our cooking class, where we learned to make a traditional Andean drink, canelazo; cheese empanadas; and aji sauce.
We took part in a high-ropes course at the hacienda, which I was really excited about.
Our beds were warmed each night with a fresh hot water bottle, and it was basically the best amenity, ever.
I drank my weight in sunfo tea, made of an Andean herb said to help cure altitude sickness.
Horseback riding – my horse is named Chucho. He’s lazy and calm and I love him.
The Ecuadorian Andes.
Amiche sitting beneath one of the Guardianes del volcan, or guardians of the volcano. They look over Cotopaxi and keep her spirit calm. We wore traditional chagra (Andean highland cowboy) attire of llama/sheep chaps and wool ponchos to protect from the wind and the bush.
We were in Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes, so as we rode on the slops of Ruminahui (a dormant volcano) we could see loads of others all around, including Cotopaxi which was peeking in and out of the clouds.
Our ride concluded back at the hacienda with freshly made limonade, made of limas – not to be confused with either lemons or limes.
After a hearty lunch, we sat fireside and enjoyed a chocolate and wine tasting from one of the sommeliers from Dos Hemisferios. Also, Ecuador is known to produce the world’s finest cocoa; often Ecuadorian cacao is used to make Swiss Chocolate.
When you see the southern cross for the first time…
Traveling by bus through Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, we were treated to views of Cotopaxi and packs of wild horses. Soon we would be on foot, trekking up to a refugio just along the snow line, at a breathtaking (literally) 15,953 feet of elevation. That’s nearly Denver x 3.
One step at a time.
Above the low clouds!
We all made it! At nearly 16,000 feet, this is the highest elevation I’ve ever set foot upon. And even still, when I made it to the summit of Pike’s Peak, I had taken the cog rail. This one was all me. I stamped my travel journal and my passport (yes, they have an actual passport stamp!) and sipped on coca tea for a few minutes before the lack of oxygen got to us and we started our descent.
Picnic lunch sitting in a lava flow, followed by mountain biking through Parque Nacional Cotopaxi all the way back to the hacienda. I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge, and in fact had initially opted to take the bus back, but at the last minute I changed my mind.
And thank goodness for that, because this ride was incredible AF.
Another early morning up to see the sunrise.
Crying at Amiche sniffing the other dog’s butt.
So sad (so, so sad) to leave the hacienda, but our return to Quito was filled with a few hikes along the way.
Our scenic drive back to Quito took us through various small towns and barrios, winding through hills and valleys, past people hanging laundry and dogs taking sunny snoozes.
Wanna travel with Jackie? Check out her upcoming trips here, and then go binge listen to her podcast.
Wanna travel with me? My current trip to Paris is sold out, but I’m planning another one! Read all about it and sign up for updates here.
Wanna visit Hacienda el Porvenir? You can, and you should!
A big thank you to Jackie for planning this retreat. And major hugs to Jackie, Brittany, Amanda, Jenn, Carley, Kiera, Miranda, Dawn, Jackie dos, and our guide José for such an incredible time!
Some of the iphone photos of myself above were taken by the other girls and airdropped to me at the time, so I can’t quite credit them individually. But thank you!
Interested in actually hearing about my experience on this trip? Visit my travel blog where I have daily summaries!