The Joy of Being Boring: Creating a Travel Routine

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When you travel alone and choose not to stay in a hostel it can actually get a bit lonely.

Most of the day you spend by yourself and while I am the kind of person who needs a lot of alone time I cannot spend every day in silence.

To survive in solitude you need to have a routine where people recognize you. I did this in Cuenca and it made me feel a bit more connected there.

I try to create a travel routine, I often do the same things every day so that people begin to recognize me and when they look up there is a flicker in their eyes of oh it’s you again.

I often introduce myself and tell them I’ll be back the next day.

And while I consider myself a food hunter, constantly searching for the best, I often will go to the same place even if I know it may not be the best.


galapagos market

Janet runs the corner stall at the market. The first day I visited there were two Germans who did not speak any Spanish.

They were trying to ask her what an item was (it was peanut butter) and they kept repeating the question in English even though it was clear she spoke none. I intervened and asked in Spanish.

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Since then I have visited her every other day and have met her daughter.

Janet is definitely not the cheapest vendor and I am positive I pay more, in fact one day she jokingly asked if I would pay $1 for a small bag of spinach.

I laughed and said no, she was pushing it too far. But I like having a chat with her and she is always very nice.


meat on a stick

Gloria sells meat on a stick for $2 from 3pm onward every day. My first day I asked what the chicken livers were, she explained and offered me one to try. I am not a fan of organs but I tried it and hated it but never let her know. She is such a nice woman and all the other meat is fantastic.


hamburgers in ecuador

Cormon sells hamburgers each night for $4 on the corner of my street. I will go see him when I cannot bear to eat more rice at a meal.

The nice thing is that so many people hang out waiting for their burger that I end up speaking to many of the other customers, especially when they hear that I don’t want egg or bacon on my burger (I know it’s shocking but the bacon here isn’t great so I’d rather not have it).

Cormon makes amazing jalapeno marmalade for his burgers. It’s the reason why I keep coming back.


I am not a huge fan of fried food but nearly every day at 3pm I stop by the market to visit the women selling cheese empanadas for 60 cents. We don’t really speak much but they are always really kind to me.

Although I have eaten lunch at many places, my go-to place is one that frequently has fish. I am there almost every day and every time I have fish there I always tell them how much I like it.

Believe me it’s not lost on me that all of my daily habits are related to food, but it really is the best way to get to know people. The best kind of conversation starter is over a shared loved and what better to love than food?





Join the Conversation

  1. I have a similar thing but I tend to go back for the fried food or the street burgers! That’s a habit I should probably change!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I ate a lot of street burgers too…

  2. TammyOnTheMove says:

    I think it is nice to have some kind of routine during your travels. And if you find a place you like, why shouldn’t you go back. Cheese empenadas sound amazing by the way. I must leave Asia at some point and go back to South America!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I once read that the one food item people miss the most whe traveling is cheese.

  3. Can you get Cormon to bottle his jalapeno marmalade and start an online business? I would love a few jars!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      My biggest regret was not getting the recipe.

  4. Christine says:

    Yes yes yes! I’m the same way: once I find a store or have an interaction, I’ll go back to the same place again and again so that they recognize me and so that we can continue the relationship. It’s not always necessarily the best quality or the best price, but there’s something special about the experience. I can still remember my fried rice cart in Gili Trawangan, the woman on the motorbike making papaya salads in Chiang Mai, my juice place in Nice, my cafe in Melbourne–good memories!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      They may not be the best price or quality but they definitely are the best memories.

  5. I’ve also found that it’s more about the relationships and experiences.

    We have tons of cheap fruit stands that we pass daily going to and from work, but we always seem to buy from one particular man even though his prices are quite a bit higher.

    He’s always taken the time to get to know us and give us the best advice on eating or storing his products. He’s really touched us with his passion, so we keep coming back!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think the conversation is well worth the time, an extra ten cents here and there doesn´t hurt anyone.

  6. I’ve read your previous post and this place really looks like Philippines. If I hadn’t read the content of this article, I would think it’s Philippines. Even the people look like Filipinos.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The more I travel the more I see facial similarities in cultures as well.

  7. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t eat this food, but I do understand what you mean. In India I used to go and talk to shop vendors at every chance…they have such interesting stories!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well you could have the cheese empanadas!

  8. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    This is exactly why I love slow travel. I say it’s about establishing a routine but a part of that is making it easier for interaction with locals.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah it definitely reminds me of our time in Buenos Aires.

  9. Absolutely nothing wrong with “being boring”… but it all looks pretty interesting to me! Thanks Ayngelina.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      True it is very difficult to complain!

  10. Zara @ Backpack ME says:

    That’s such a nice feeling – staying in a place long enough to start belonging, to get to know people, to have your little routine..

    And you are so right: food is the best way to get to break the ice and get to know people!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It´s been nice to have time to just hang out with people.

  11. Oddly enough, I’ve never actually thought much about establishing a routine when traveling slowly (though now I’m not sure why, its such a simple way to make connections.)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It helps when you aren´t staying in a hostel or know people in town, makes things feel less lonely during the spouts where you want to interact with people.

  12. Tim Horgan @ On and Off the Gringo Trail says:

    Can you get guinea pig on Galapagos like you can on the mainland? I bet that there are some pretty outrageous dishes, given the wealth of bird and reptilian life on the islands

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You can´t get guinea pig there, it´s not indigenous and actually the food of Ecuador really varies depending on where you are. Right now I am on the coast and most people here think it is disgusting.

  13. Nick (theboywander) says:

    That’s such a good idea and probably a really good way of fighting off homesickness.
    Also a really great way to meet some locals.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Food is the best way to meet locals.

  14. Martine @ Chompchomp says:

    I recently travelled overseas for the first time on my own. You are so right! Its nice to be able to afford to stay in nice hotels…but you just don’t meet the people you do in hostels. I too found myself retracing steps and repeat visiting business with familiar faces1

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It´s a tough call. I really have no desire to stay in hostels anymore but I do enjoy the interaction.

  15. I like traveling because it gets me out of my normal routine, but I do enjoy being somewhere else long enough to have a new routine, go to the same bar, the same shops, have people recognize me. It’s nice to have something familiar when so much around me is different.

  16. This is a great story. I think you’ve nailed the best way to meet people: Over food! So rewarding, too. =)

  17. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

    I’m just like you Ayngelina, I love traveling for the sake of experiencing new things but it doesn’t hurt staying still just long enough to get to know people. You may not be getting to know them as well as your friends and family back home but even that small part of appreciation for the local vendors goes a long way.

    As far as staying in a hotel goes, sometimes they are the way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to pick a hostel over a hotel but every once in a while you just need that privacy to gather your thoughts and truly be alone! lol

  18. Cheese empanada is heaven! Yummy.

  19. I am glad you are also taking the time to mingle and get to know the locals/vendors because sometimes you can get carried away with all the travelling and just seeing the sights and forgetting about really experience life in the country that you are visiting. That about those relationships with the people you meet… cool post!

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