Sunday, January 1, 2023

Highlights of 2022 and a Glimpse at 2023

Greetings everyone!

It's time for my traditional end-of-year blog post in which I recap some of the highlights of the past 12 months.

But first, I acknowledge that it has been a full year since I have posted anything on this blog. That doesn't mean I haven't been writing; in fact, I created all of the content on our new Galapagos Surf Discovery website (more on that below). Still, I do wish I could find more time to write about life here in the islands, among other things. But one glance at my "Plans for 2023" list below already tells me that's probably not going to happen anytime soon!

My Top 10 of 2022

  • My mom, stepdad, and aunt visited Galapagos for 17 wonderful days in February. We went on a 6-night cruise, did many fun activities on San Cristobal island, and spent lots of quality time together.

  • On March 9, Fabian and I began the process of buying over 300 square meters of land a few blocks from the town center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. On June 8, we were registered as the new owners of our own little piece of Galapagos (circled in the photo above).
  • On July 3, Fabian and I moved to a new-to-us apartment. While our indoor living space was reduced by more than half, our outdoor space went from zero to one of the best views in town. We are much happier here!

  • On August 1, after more than one year and an extraordinary number of hours of hair-pulling, teeth-grinding, tear-inducing work, I completed one of my biggest projects to date i.e. the new Groundhopper Guides website (August 2021 prototype shown above; my work was done in conjunction with a developer) and I resolved to have a better work/life balance going forward.
  • On August 19, I launched the Galapagos Surf Discovery website which I built from scratch, wrote all of the content, did all of the SEO, etc. in a span of two weeks. With this business, Fabian and I offer activities on San Cristobal island in partnership with local tour agencies, and we also sell branded apparel. Check out our GoPro videos, surf photography, and more on our Instagram feed.
  • On September 15, I officially became a permanent resident of Ecuador. This means I no longer have to worry about renewing my visa, and that I will be eligible for citizenship in another three years should I wish to apply. Note that this is completely separate from my Galapagos residency, which will be considered temporary until 2031.
  • Fabian has many friends on the islands, and sometimes those connections lead to unplanned adventures. Such was the case on September 18, when we were invited to go on a truly last-minute cruise, as in, "You have 15 minutes to pack your bags if you want to go." Of course, we went!
  • After almost two-and-a-half years away, I returned to the U.S. to visit my family and friends in Tennessee in October. The month flew by too fast, but I am thankful I could finally make the trip and see so many people. I also enjoyed a few fun days in Miami on the way back to Ecuador and I was able to bring a lot of supplies for our business, including two new 8' long teaching surfboards.
  • One of the perks of living in a world-renowned tourist destination is the opportunity to meet other travelers. Fabian and I are blessed to be able to get to know new people on a daily basis, and we are very thankful for our clients, many of whom are now our friends!
  • I am also thankful that I have finally been able to build more friendships on the islands. The pandemic years were a stressful time for everyone, with fewer opportunities to gather and participate in local activities. While it took me some time to adapt to island life and a different social culture, I am very happy to call Galapagos home.
  • Finally, I am extremely thankful for our continued health. After the insurance ordeal we experienced in 2021, it was nice to have a reprieve from the drama (and from hospitals and medical appointments) for an entire year.

Plans for 2023

  • My mom and stepdad are returning for their second visit in mid-January. We'll have 11 nights in Galapagos, then we fly to Guayaquil and go on a 9-day self-guided "Tour of Ecuador." Our itinerary includes time in BaƱos, Puyo (where we will spend time with Fabian's family), Tena, Quito, and Mindo.

  • Fabian and I have rented an apartment in Guayaquil for an entire month (February) so we can have medical checkups including the surgeries to remove the pterygium from Fabian's left eye and his gallbladder. Fabian’s long-awaited U.S. visa interview is on February 22. Fingers crossed he is approved so we can make plans to travel in 2024.

  • We are excited to have some friends confirmed to visit in 2023 and are hoping to see many more of you in the months and years ahead.

  • Our business, Galapagos Surf Discovery, is off to a great start and we already have many bookings for the new year. We're exploring all of the options as to how to provide the best service to our clients, and we'll continue to publish helpful, interesting content on our website and social media feeds, as well as offer fun activities that everyone can enjoy.

  • We've met with a local architect and have several ideas for constructing something on our property. Whether that is a single family home or a multi-use building with residential and office space has yet to be determined. Stay tuned for possible investment opportunities!

  • There's a rumor floating around that, after a five-year lapse, the Galapagos National Park Naturalist Guide course will be offered sometime in late 2023. Check out this old (2015), not-entirely-accurate post about why it's almost impossible to become a guide here. If the course is offered, and I meet the criteria and can make it fit with my schedule, I intend to get certified! A special shout out to the guides (friends) who have loaned me their books and other materials so I can get a head start on my studies.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year! I hope that 2023 is filled with special people, memorable moments, and all the activities you love. May you always keep expanding your horizons!