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2019 Decatur Ecuador Service Adventure

Dear Families, Friends, and Travelers – Welcome to the 2019 Decatur Ecuador Program!  We have created two webpages dedicated to this once in a lifetime experience so that travelers are as informed as possible throughout the process. The first page, Pre-Enrollment, is meant to share exciting details, highlights, and pertinent info, that participants will want to know before enrolling. Once enrolled, the Post-Enrollment page is intended to prepare travelers for participation on the adventure ahead. Please be sure to review the information on the appropriate page thoroughly and get excited for Ecuador!
Travel Dates: September 20, 2019 - September 28, 2019
Group Organizer(s):
WTT Contact:
Program Tuition: $2,250 USD
Airfare not included in program tuition
Confirmed Airfare: $847
Deadline(s): Interested families should enroll by Friday, June 1st

What to Expect

Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.

Itinerary

We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group. 

DateLocationActivityLodging
September 20USA – QuitoEvening arrival to Quito and transfer to hotel.Sol De Quito Hotel
September 21Quito – PululahuaStart the day with a tour of historic downtown Quito, one of the most well preserved historic districts in all of South America. We'll visit the Presidential Palace, and ascend the spires of the Basilica del Voto Nacional. In the afternoon, we'll straddle the equator before dining on the edge of Pululahua Volcano, one of the only inhabited volcanic craters in the world.El Crater Hotel
September 22Pululahua – OtavaloWe'll drive between breathtaking mountains and valleys to Otavalo, where we will spend the day visiting artisan workshops and learning firsthand about Ecuadorian/Andean culture (music, dress, and cuisine). We'll see a presentation from local expert musicians, then have lunch in their home before visiting a local weaver's workshop. We'll finish the day with some shopping at the Plaza de los Ponchos, one of Latin America's most famous artisan markets. We'll dine overlooking the square, and have the chance to sample some delicious Ecuadorian street food.Las Palmeras Inn
September 23Otavalo - NanegalWe'll descend from the mountains, stopping through small towns along the way, and arrive at our host community of Nanegal. Here we'll meet our homestay families, orient ourselves in the town, and learn about our community service project. In the afternoon, we'll take a hike to a lookout to see the entire valley in which Nanegal is situated. Throughout the program, we'll have the opportunity to interact with local community members in Spanish, participate in cross-cultural exchanges, and learn more about the rich culture of Ecuador.Nanegal Homestays
September 24NanegalDuring our stay in Nanegal, we'll wake up early to work on our community service project and spend time with host families in the afternoons and evenings. Evening activities will vary, ranging from hikes to waterfalls, swimming in the river, dancing, playing music, farm visits, and generally getting to know the beautiful and unique culture and history of Nanegal.Nanegal Homestays
September 25NanegalToday we'll look to finish the remainder of our community service project and spend time with host families in the afternoons and evenings. We can also look forward to a going away party after our brief but meaningful stay in this special village. Nanegal Homestays
September 26Nanegal – PapallactaWe'll finish up work on the service project and have a final thank you meal with community leaders and host families before departing Nanegal. As we ascend into the mountains again, we'll stop and go on a zip-line tour of cloud forest canopy in Nanegalito. We'll travel to Papallacta Hot Springs high in the Andes. We will spend spend our last night in the wildlife reserve La Jimenita. We'll have a structured reflection to discuss our experience, and some other group activities.Hacienda Jimenita
September 27Papallacta – Quito We'll have an optional short hike in the morning to watch the different humming birds that live in the reserve. Walk the trails and enjoy the scenery. Then travel from Papallacta to Quito. We'll ride a cable car up Pichincha Volcano to see a final panoramic of Quito, then have a final goodbye dinner before heading to the airport for our flight later tonight.Airplane
September 28USAWe arrive back in Atlanta around 6AM this morning.Your own bed, eventually!

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Accommodations

In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe. 

Below are the accommodations we anticipate using on your trip, subject to availability. 
Hotel Sol de Quito

This hotel in Quito’s commercial and financial districts offers comfortable accommodations and modern amenities in a charming colonial style. The hotel is family owned and operated and boasts a large collection of historical artifacts that give it a unique character. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

El Crater Hotel

Situated on the precipice of the Volcano Pululahua, the hotel’s supreme location is unlike any other accommodation on the planet. Each room contains large windows from which students can admire the beauty of this setting and watch the ever-changing climate of the area from the comfort of their rooms. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

Las Palmeras Inn Otavalo

This 150 year old highlands ranch is designed in traditional Andean styles. A collection of garden cottages each with their own fireplace, Las Palmeras Inn provides unmatched tranquility in a gorgeous mountain setting. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

Homestay

This will be the best part of your trip! Staying with a host family immerses you in the language and culture of the destination, and can lead to deep and lasting relationships with your hosts. Initially intimidating but ultimately unforgettable, there’s no better way to begin to truly understand the place you’re visiting.

Hacienda Jimenita

Hacienda Jimenita is a 109 year old Hacienda that is family owned and operated. It has been in the Cruz Lopez family for four generations and contains its own private botanical wildlife reserve. Guests can explore the vast forests of fruit trees and vegetable gardens, as well as enjoy the company of more than 90 rare species of birds in the area. The Cruz Lopez family provides an incredible experience that allows guests to escape the bustle of the city and settle into a peaceful, natural setting, all while staying connected through wireless internet. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.

Group Flight

Type Carrier Name Carrier Code Flight Number Departure City Departure Date and Time  Arrival City Arrival Date and Time 
Outbound
DL
673
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
September 20, 2019 at 5:59PM
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
September 20, 2019 at 10:24PM
Inbound
DL
680
UIO – Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador
September 27, 2019 at 11:30PM
ATL – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, USA
September 28, 2019 at 5:39AM

Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here.

Remember that Walking Tree is not responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.

We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure but for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure, please contact your Group Organizer/s.

FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION 
Air travel is unpredictable. Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc.  Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers.  Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night.  Our primary role will be to  keep families updated and advocate as best we can for a quick and effective resolution to the situation.

Host Community and Project Details

WTT groups have the unique opportunity to live and work together with the local host community. Nanegal is located in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest in the Chocó Andean Bioregion. It is a biodiversity hotspot. In the surrounding forest there are over 400 species of birds, 45% of the world’s mammal species including pumas as well as the endangered Spectacled Bear and thousands of tropical plants native to the region, including an amazing variety of orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes. Walking Tree has been partnering with the residents of Nanegal for five seasons, the families are very excited to receive students again.

The service project depends completely on the needs of each community and can vary greatly from year to year. Service projects are planned together with our Country Director and community liaisons. The project will always benefit the entire community and is chosen and approved by community leaders. Projects are always proposed by local community leaders as they are most in tune with the needs of the community.

Service projects are intended to be both challenging and rewarding for participants and community members. Generally, the work entails renovating or replacing an existing structures (health clinic, community center, school, etc.) that needs work. Usually, there are little or no funds available to complete these projects, so WTT plays an important role in the community. Some past projects include renovating health clinics, constructing bathrooms, building sidewalks, repairing decaying retaining walls, and constructing a soccer stadium.

This year we will finish rebuilding the vegetable garden for Nanegal’s senior citizens in the local nursing home. We will need to build a place to produce compost and an ecological roof for one of the gardens where tomatoes are mainly grown.

Packing List

What follows is just a guideline so please adjust per your needs and preferences.

For luggage,  we recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.

Please note that seasons in South America are opposite ours in the United States so we will be traveling during South America’s late fall. With that said, late fall and early winter are the driest parts of the year and often the most pleasant times to visit. Most of our program will be spent at high altitudes where daytime temperatures can reach the 70’s and it can freeze at night. Layering is the best way to prepare for variable conditions.

CLOTHES:

Underwear
Socks
T-shirts, tank tops or work shirts
Long sleeve shirts
Sweatshirt/jacket
Shorts
Jeans/pants
Swimsuit
Rain jacket
Sturdy shoes (appropriate for lots of walking/athletic activity)
Sports sandals ie Chacos/Tevas etc. (optional)
Flip flops (optional)
Sun hat & a warm hat

TOILETRIES (IN ADDITION TO THE BASICS)

Sunscreen – you will use a lot.
Mosquito repellent
Band Aids and Neosporin, anti-diarrhea meds, basic first aid kit.
Hand Sanitizer
Medication in properly marked original container (better to pack this in your carry on luggage)

MISCELLANEOUS:

Sunglasses
Journal and pen
Book/s
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Universal adapter
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $100-$200, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle (optional personal water filtration system – Walking Tree will always provide drinking water)
1 quick-dry towel
Soap for washing your own clothes while in the host community
Flashlight/headlamp
Batteries, if needed
Deck of cards or other portable games
Student ID
Spanish/English Dictionary

Support Team

At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.

Luke Mueller
Luke Mueller
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO


Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History

During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents.  Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.

Raquel Monteros Araujo
Raquel Monteros Araujo
Ecuador Country Director, Program Leader


Catholic University of Ecuador – B.A. Applied Linguistics to Teaching 

I was born in Loja (also known as the cultural capital of Ecuador). At a very young age I discovered my love for languages and different cultures. I decided to travel to Russia right after I finished high school, an experience that changed my life in many different ways. When I came back from Russia I decided to study Linguistics in Quito (Ecuador’s capital). Most of my subjects were taught in English, meanwhile I also had to learn German and Kichwa (an indigenous language from Ecuador). After university, I worked as an English and Spanish teacher for five years. I had the chance to work for two Ecuadorian companies that were recognized in other countries for the quality of their products. I had the chance to work for a non-governmental organization in the Amazon region of Ecuador, an experience that made me aware of the difficult circumstances people from this part of the world had to face. These people were my biggest motivation while working there, especially women from indigenous communities. I strongly believe women empowerment is something we need to keep on working all around the world. My love for service made me found my own yoga school in Loja where I have the chance to teach others values like compassion, veracity, strength, self-esteem and self-respect. I strongly believe that we can make a change if we start becoming aware of the light within ourselves. So as you can see I have many passions, languages, yoga, traveling and I think I didn’t mention……… cooking! I will be ready to welcome you in this small paradise called Ecuador!

Tommy Tyson
Tommy Tyson
Country Director, Country Operations Manager - Peru


University of Denver – B.A. Spanish, Minors in History and Hebrew

Currently based in Minnesota, where he is originally from, Tommy works in the Country Operations department at Walking Tree Travel. His hobbies include camping, snowboarding, basketball and traveling. Fluent in Spanish, he first developed his love of languages and Latin American culture at the age of ten on a mission trip in Mexico. This experience and subsequent trips to follow inspired him to study Spanish and pursue development work in other areas of Latin America as well. Tommy gained valuable experience as a middle school Spanish teacher and coach after he graduated. His experience in education encouraged him to combine his two passions of travel and education and join our team full time. He had the pleasure of living in Cusco, Peru for three years as our Country Director and has enjoyed planning and guiding student trips ever since.

Group Roster

Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.

  • 1 Adrien Tirouvanziam
  • 2 Andrew Mackintosh
  • 3 Briana Gay
  • 4 Dalhya Lusk - Group Organizer
  • 5 George Katz
  • 6 Grace Osborn
  • 7 Katie Guenthner
  • 8 Leah Cozewith
  • 9 Margaret Khayat
  • 10 McNichol Cribb
  • 11 Nadine Duncan
  • 12 Priyanka Master
  • 13 Robin Hill
  • 14 Sean Wiseman
  • 15 Sidney Salcedo
  • 16 Sophia Gershman
  • 17 Vanessa Layne - Group Organizer
17 Travelers

Blog and Communication

During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program.  Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.

Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.

 

GLC Curriculum

Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.

For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Standards of Behavior

In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.

ABSOLUTE DISMISSAL

  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  3. Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE

  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
  3. Threatening with or using weapons
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
  5. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
  6. Breaking group rules

These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with us.

Health and Safety

We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Ecuador website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.

Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience has taught us that travel can come with risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider protecting their trip and travel investment by purchasing a travel protection plan with a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) provision.

To make this process as easy as possible, we have partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry.  Begin by taking a few minutes to get a quote here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date. Please note that CFAR is not available to residents of New York.

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