Stages of emotions you may feel while working and kayaking abroad in Tena with Kayak Ecuador.
Switching my normal world of a comfortable routine during the cold winter of Holland for the adventure of working, kayaking and being in sunny Ecuador for 8 weeks. This idea was born from passion for kayaking, an eager hunger for learning more and of course to escape the cold winter in the northern part of the world. So armed with my paddle I get on the plane to the other side of the world, to meet up with Santiago and Daniela from Kayak Ecuador in Tena, the company where I will be following my internship for the coming 8 weeks. Arriving in Ecuador I feel ready to embrace any kind of adventure and feeling which may come my way.
Stages of feeling
It is still an understatement saying the whole internship was a sensational experience. I have been on this crazy rollercoaster of feelings in these past 8 weeks. In which various aspects played their roll, such as connections with people, experience on the rivers, the method of work and many more. I am going to try and explain my experience here at Kayak Ecuador by explaining the feelings which occurred to me.
Arriving in a new place is quite overwhelming, and it takes time till you adjust. For me the best way to adjust was by observing, keep your eyes open and watch how everyone moves, talks and behaves. Same goes for the company I just started. There were many aspects: the office with paperwork, contact with new clients, the warehouse with the gear, the tours out on the river and all the work behind the scenes. There was a lot to learn and get adjusted to. For me personally, as someone who wants to be busy 24/7, I needed to adjust to the Ecuadorian lifestyle which was “tranquilo”.
So it is finally time to go out on the river, the dream I came all this way for. I was filled with excitement to start this journey of working and paddling, but also crazily impressed by the greatness and the volume of the Ecuadorian rivers. With this new boat wrapped around my butt, this new paddle in my hand and my heart bouncing up in my head, I slipped into the river. I was overwhelmed and kind of forgot everything I had ever learned, it felt like just trying to survive and trying to proof I was able to paddle. I wouldn’t give up, I kept on trying to fix my roll or just to stay above water and at the same time I was telling myself to shut up and enjoy this. Back with my feet on land, I kept telling myself this is the way to learn, you fail and you get back in that boat. Every run you will learn something and be better the next time. The process of embracing all there is to learn and accepting my own speed of learning took me some time though.
So the rivers were giving me a tough start, but the people around me really embraced me. I have never met people like Santiago and Daniela (owners of Kayak Ecuador) who didn’t just make me feel part of the team but made me feel like part of their family. They soon made me feel comfortable with the work, the paddling and being overall. Also Pablo, a guide who works intensively for Kayak Ecuador made sure I was feeling good at work. He showed me all the lines of the rivers and gave me the opportunity to go paddle with friends or solo. It were contacts like these who made me soon find my place in the Ecuadorian life.
As I got to know the routine of work, the lines of the rivers and the way to be in Ecuador, I started to create these moments of ultimate joy. I would get up, excited to go work, go to the river and enjoy another beautiful day in the sun. By watching, being taught and practicing a lot, my kayak skills and therewith my confidence started to grow. I would get positive goosebumps whenever I was going to the river and slowly developed an insatiable taste for more.
I really enjoyed my work, at the office, with the tours and interacting with everyone. Every free moment I could find, I would spend on the river. It became a lifestyle of irregularity, shared with passionate people, stunning nature and a variety of suitable weather. I had found peace with my process of learning and was trying to make the best of every moment spend here in this internship. I realize how lucky I have been by finding this, with such lovely people around me while doing something I love so much. It gives me a lot of energy and makes me happy and calm at the same time.
As time flies, I feel like every day being here is a blast. I have paddled with so many different people, seen so many different states of the river, helped out on various tours. This internship has given me chance to get in control of my own techniques and helping others as well, as I paddled with some beginners, I also got to enjoy the satisfying feeling of being able to teach someone. Kayak Ecuador sticks with their own norms and values about running a white water business and the clients react very positive to this. This teaches me a lot about the philosophy of running a business of extreme sports and setting high standards to safety without losing the fun. The way Santiago, as a very experienced white water guide and Daniela, as a very intelligent office girl, work together and have eye for details is refreshing to encounter.
As my internship is coming to an end, I am starting to get a feeling of heartache. A sadness towards having to leave all of this behind, the rivers, the people and my daily routine of irregularity I have come to love. The last week I try to fill up with work and paddling as much as I can, and the knowledge of these being my last days push me to try lines in the river I could not even dream of doing when I just arrived. It is a strange mixed feeling of sadness and satisfaction knowing what I have accomplished in my time here.
So my time as an intern here started out as expected, with a bit of insecurity and needing time to find out the way of life here. But once I embraced these feelings as being part of the journey and got to be surrounded by the kindness of so many people, this internship turned into something beyond my expectations. While experiencing excitement, calmness and empowerment all at the same time, I just fell in love with the way of being. This internship has shown me so much and I just know now, I was made for the river and I will keep returning, even though it may break my heart every time I have to leave. I am extremely grateful to Kayak Ecuador for giving me the opportunity of this internship and the way I have been treated.