Mara here. I am so jealous of Ambassador Marianne who is experiencing new things while living in a new country. Today she tells us about her new life in South America as well as the importance of hiking your own hike.

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello”
~Paulo Coelho

Last December I left my old life behind. Nothing was wrong with that life. I lived in beautiful Utah, a hikers playground. A couple of times a week I would hop in my car and head to any number of spectacular trails right in my own backyard.

The landscape is wild and diverse in Utah and I had my choice of alpine trails or red rock deserts. The need for change kept rumbling through my brain and new adventures were calling. I could have stayed and enjoyed my perfectly sensible life and followed my known trails and paths…but, I didn’t. I said goodbye…

We decided on a small paradise of a country. Stunning Ecuador was almost unknown to us, but after one impressive visit, we decided to make it our home. I’ve fallen head over heels for this lush and rugged country and we live high in the Andes Mountains.

I left the comfort and familiarity of my known favorite trails in search of new paths and new experiences. I’m so glad we made this crazy decision and jumped in with both booted feet.

I’m starting all over. I’m researching new hiking areas and trails. I’m listening to these beautiful people speak a language I barely understand. I’m in search of new friends and hiking buddies and hoping to introduce “Hike Like A Woman” to this part of the world.

I recently met a women who claimed she wasn’t a hiker, but an avid walker. As we visited and got to know each other a bit better, I realized she was the perfect candidate for the first official “Hike Like A Woman” excursion in Ecuador. A vibrant, fun loving woman who was excited at the prospect of hiking.

Looking for women to hike with near you? Check out out HLAW locals.

I’m often approached by woman wanting advice about hiking. My standard comments…don’t do it for exercise, don’t do it as a challenge, don’t do it to test yourself (all those things will happen anyway)…do it for the sheer pleasure of being in nature. Do it for the tranquility and the sounds and the sights. If you like, take your camera and stop anytime something resonates or catches your eye. Or, take a sketch pad or notebook and take the time to really see and experience where you are and what you are surrounded by. Is hiking magical? Is hiking life changing? Absolutely and every woman or girl has the right to these pleasures.

Hiking isn’t an exclusive club. It isn’t a race to the finish line. The pleasure of a walk in the woods or along a riverbank or the crest of a hill is for any woman, of any age and any physical ability.

And so, my new friend accompanied me on a hike around pristine Lake Toreadora high in the Cajas Mountains. As I suspected, she really IS a hiker…and a trooper! What fun introducing her to my favorite thing and having her accompany me on the very first official Ecuador “Hike Like A Woman” hike. I know it won’t be the last…

While I’m building new corpuscles (so I can actually breathe at this elevation) I’m also building new friendships and relationships. Having “Hike Like A Woman” represented in Ecuador feels amazing and special and right. For each woman we bring into this wonderful and supportive fold, I’m ever grateful to be a part of it.

I’ve been “rewarded with a new hello”…

Learn more about Marianne’s move to Ecuador on the her podcast episode.

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