I arrived in Cuenca less than 24 hours ago and I am doing all I can not to have a massive freak out.
This has been an unexpectedly emotional return, in fact my fourth time in Cuenca but this one perhaps a bit more monumental as it’s been over two years since I’ve been here.
My first impression coming back was overwhelming. It seems that I’m not the only one who loves it here as the neighbourhood I stay in is now filled with restaurants, cafes and a lot of hostels.
I heard there are now 4000-5000 expats living here.
Things feel so familiar but also so different.
Cuenca is without a doubt my favourite city in Ecuador. It is a beautiful colonial town and it was very special to me when I was first traveling through South America.
It was when I finally stopped simply traveling through a place and started learning about the people and the culture.
And much of that, which I never shared but you could have read between the lines on my site, is that I was seeing someone here.
Although he was local he had studied and worked abroad so he didn’t judge me when I did not understand that Ecuador was not a cheap country, it was only cheap for tourists.
I stopped going to tourist attractions and just started talking to more people, trying to understand how they lived. When I left it was difficult but we both knew it was the right thing as I had so much more to see.
But this city was a pivotal point for me. I started searching for a different kind of travel. Looking to learn instead of just capture photos. Interaction is now more important to me than checking off the top sites in a guidebook.
And now I’m back. And it feels like I was only gone a couple of weeks instead of a couple of years. I haven’t seen him yet and in many ways I’m worried that coming back will ruin the memory of what I once had.
It’s almost like when I first came home to Canada. Similar but different. Even though you want people and places to stay the same they change just as you do.
I don’t know how long I will stay here…