Only a few short weeks ago, I wrote about feeling isolated and aching for human connection and meaningful conversation and for the last twelve days, we’ve been happily drenched in connection and conversation with people at a B&B in the Intag Valley called the Pacheco Farmhouse. Some come and go and others—who are the grounding force of this place—are now familiar faces that we will miss when we move on.
This is the place where everything aligned for me. I’ve been able to be myself with other people for the first time on this journey and it has had a soothing and restorative effect. Previously, only having a few moments with like-minded people. With these new friends, John and I have been able to be our quirky, deep, sarcastic, silly, contemplative, creative and nerdy selves.
As per usual, we extended our stay from 4 days to two weeks and if we didn’t have a plane to catch on March 15th, I don’t imagine we would leave here sooner than a few months. As our bond with the owner and her mother deepened fairly early on, we figured out that John and I have skills to contribute to special projects at Pacheco, so our extended time here has been a trade of our skills for housing and nourishment. And the nourishment is organic, handmade, locally sourced deliciousness coming out of a kitchen run by cuisine-conscious Argentinian-Italians.
Having a role feels good. The vacation part of each spot we visit often fades by the second week and we both enjoy having some sort of purpose when the honeymoon transitions into familiarity. Not always—but once we’ve memorized the grid of the town and it’s attractions—we prefer to have some sort of purpose or, we decide to move on to a new setting all together. We planned on volunteering long before now, but that has proven difficult for a variety of reasons. One reason being our limited time in each place and another being a lack of opportunities that match our desires and skills in the places we’ve been.
Here, we’ve had a taste of everything we’ve been seeking—from contributing in some meaningful way to belly laughs over wine. We've had heaping amounts of nature, quietude and the luxury of sleeping next to the roaring Intag River. And we've balanced this with daily interactions that spark our minds and hearts: curious, below the surface, critically thoughtful conversations that generously scrutinize the madness of the world all the while sharing stories and ideas about how to live gently on the Earth.
This unexpected sanctuary offers us an environment where all of the various pieces of personalities are invited to play. It is common for me to feel as though I have to exert a ton of energy in connecting with others, especially on this trip. But here, connecting is easy and I think it is because we’ve found family in these women—people we didn’t realize were missing from our lives—and now we feel relief for having found them.
In our time here we’ve watched as other travelers from all over the world come and go. Making short-term connections that, in most cases, we will remember for a lifetime. And to our benefit, everyone speaks English. We sit together around a long, candle-lit table and delight in sobremesa, the precious time spent lingering at the table long after the food is gone. Conversation flows from topic to topic with ease, and humor is the glue that holds it all together. Sometimes gritty, sometimes light-hearted—always fostering a feeling of home.
I desire more of this in my life and will create a space in my future home where friends come for hours of curious, deepening, humorous and tangential conversation over home-cooked meals. I’d like to see the United States adopt sobremesa as a norm as we redesign our culture. Getting off the couch and out from in front of the T.V. or the computer or the phone to sit face-to-face over meals—nourishing not just the belly but also the spirit.
As the days pass and we get closer to leaving, I feel the tenderness expand. Knowing that this is a special experience not likely to ever be recreated exactly in this way. These are memories we will talk about and look back on for years. We’re so aligned here, we've talked about someday buying land near this river for our own—near our new friends. How does one move on from something and that fits perfectly in the heart? In some ways, it is a repeat of our leaving Portland and our loved ones in the U.S. The kind of breaking open of the heart—increasing the capacity for love and connection.
This will be the first of many visits to Pacheco and this magical valley in Ecuador.