In 2 weeks, we’ll be running around like chickens! Tying up loose ends at work, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, packing the packs, snuggling our dog, checking the lists, making more lists and counting down the hours. It’s difficult to believe 2 years has blown by like *that* — insert snapping finger emogi — and now here we are.

It’s been a strange journey, planning for this “sabbatical”. Typically, I am meticulous in my scheming and planning, as one would expect from a Type-A Capricorn. But somewhere in around March I silently surrendered, deciding to just let our souls be our guide. When you have 77 days to fill and no shortage of incredible things to see and do, it’s tempting to want to see an itinerary. Yet, we have none, lol. The only thing firmly booked is airfare there and back.

Ok, so that’s not QUITE true, you had to know the infamous “Sam Exaggeration” was coming… We will be meeting up with Joaquin Andino, the amazing mountaineering guide who put up with me on my climbs in Ecuador last November. For the first two weeks of our adventure, Joaquin will act as our family’s personal guide, taking us through parts of Ecuador you might not read about in Lonely Planet. *Off the Beaten Path* was a theme I thought would resonate with us, since we are — after all — a bunch of weirdos who tend not to follow tradition.

So Joaquin will meet us at the airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador on June 14th with his 4×4 and off we will go! Given that he IS Ecuadorian, I’ve left everything up to him, with the only parameters being a rough idea of what gets us excited and things we would prefer to avoid. (EXCITED: quaint, charming villages; mountains and vistas; the ocean; flora/fauna; local cultures and traditions; animals that are cute and not slimy; cloud forests; adventure of all sorts; haciendas. AVOID: the typical touristy traps; eating guinea pigs; jungle creepy crawlies; being too much on the go; “name-brand” hotels).