The Ecuadorean Amazon: A Conversation with Malia Everette

June 22, 2016
The Ecuadorean Amazon: A Conversation with Malia Everette

Malia has just set off for her fourth trip to the Ecuadorean Amazon. Find out why she loves the country so much and get the real deal.

Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to Ecuador?

I am blessed to have a vocation. In my day to day life, I promote in-depth experiential education and socially responsible travel as an alternative to the type of “sun and fun” tourism that often results in cultural homogenization and does little to benefit local communities and host economies. In 2013 after 16 years at a nonprofit human rights organization I founded Altruvistas, a foundation and travel company to promote transformational philanthropy and social responsibility in the travel industry.

I travel monthly to Cuba as about half of our journeys for others are there, and find myself in another 3 – 5 destinations a year. I am off for Colombia tomorrow and am very excited. My last trip was 6 years ago and I traveled as a single mama. This time I am engaging with our partners for our ECPAT USA advocacy delegations that inspire and educate others about human trafficking and sex tourism. Yet for my next personal holiday, I am returning on my fourth trip to Ecuador.

How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?

My other experiences in Ecuador were about 10 days. This time I have 9 days and will start in and end in Quito like always. Frankly I am excited to reconnect my good friend Yury, who I have been working with for over a decade. Then as in my past 3 trips I will travel down through Banos, and into the town of Puyo. After spending the night I will fly into the Amazon and to the Sarayacu Nation.

What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?

There is an incredible sense of being and connection in the Amazon. What surprised me the first time was the cacophony of life at night. I am not as alert to sound in my waking hours and the song of the jungle at night was completely wonderful and erie. Overtime there is a peace and knowing that settles in.

The Ecuadorean Amazon: A Conversation with Malia Everette

There is something very sacred I feel in the Sarayacu. Each time my relation to people and place deepen. I have enriching memories of spending time with the community, sharing stories with two elders Don Sabino and Corina, learning their struggle, their successes, deepening my understanding of the Kawsak Sacha, forest and the Sarayacu’s cosmovision.

What do you wish you knew before you went?

I wish the first time I would have brought my own slickers! Seriously a good pair of tall hiking boots that are comfy is key!

Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!

In Quito I have enjoyed the hospitality of both the Boutique Hotel Cafe Cultura and the Hostal Arupo, and I have had groups regularly stay at both.

For breakfast I will always make a stop of hot chocolate at the Kallari Cafe, where I know my funds go to support the Kichwa and organic fair trade produce….plus I buy chocolate to bring home as gifts for staff and family.

I also will enjoy dinner at my fav traditional vegetarian restaurant, La Cuchara de San Marcos. You can also shop there for unique locally made goods and artwork. You can fill up and feel good about both of these places.

Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?

While there are many great ecolodges from the Yasuine to Kapawi, with private bathrooms, I choose to stay in the Sarayacu and they do not. The first time I was there I was afraid to walk out of the cabin area to the toilet so I spent many uncomfortable hours till the dawn. The second trip I was prepared; I had my swiss army knife and a plastic liter bottle… I cut the top off and brought my wipes, viola! Night time needs met, then rinse and recycle. It’s a peace of mind thing.

About Real Deal

On the Real Deal, women share the highlights and challenges from their recent trip–and what they wish they knew before going.

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