She Said: Risking It All

Excerpt taken from Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming (Priest and Gass 2005)
Photo Source:

The cover of Time magazine for August 29, 1983, displayed a picture of “Daredevil Ben Colli” with the caption, “Wheeeeeeee! Chasing Thrills and Adventure.” The subject of the photograph was known for his high-speed rappelling descents from atop skyscrapers.

The cover story, titled “Risking It All,” contained stories of bungee jumpers, mountain climbers, swimmers, runners, paddlers, parachutists, pilots, and sailors.

The author (Skow, 1983) wrote: “There have always been adventurers, footloose and sometimes screwloose, and their ‘Why not’ has always stirred alarming and delicious fears in settled souls whose timid question is ‘Why?’ “.

She said:

In Thursday’s class, we are learning how participants react during adventure experiences, how they transfer what they learn during the experience to everyday life and how we as outdoor leaders can facilitate that process. There is a certain correlation between our adventure of living in Ecuador and the adventure learning process I am now discovering in class.

It is not the first adventure my husband and I have undertaken.

We had just gotten married when he left the comforts of a big corporate job to become the President of a small under-funded technology company. Although they were making progress, eventually the money ran dry. He was lying awake one night when he asked how I felt about using our savings to support the company until he could find a buyer.

We did just that….until our savings account ran dry. We made the last payroll and he sent everyone home. The company would be shut down. He had a deal in the works but as he says, it’s a long way from the cup to the lips and the deal was taking too long. He didn’t give up and closed the deal that same afternoon. We had survived.

The next venture came along a few years later. We sold our beautiful condo, moved to a small fishing cottage on the outskirts of town and took the proceeds from the sale of the condo to start another company. This time I quit my corporate job to help. We had loads of fun and we learned so much. Our first customer bought our little company and again, we survived.  Our adventures had been rewarding.

So when my husband asked me if I would move to Ecuador, I told him I would follow him anywhere.


The new cathedral de la Immaculada Concepcion built in 1885 in Parque Calderon, the main plaza  in the colonial centre of Cuenca
The new cathedral de la Immaculada Concepcion built in 1885 in Parque Calderon, the main plaza in the colonial centre of Cuenca

Back in the States early that March morning that we arrived home from Ecuador, my husband was not required to pass through customs so he took Dakota and headed off to baggage claim while I worked my way through the customs queue. When we met up again, I took over the bags and dogs and he left for the Hertz counter. I put a handsome tip in the hand of a porter and we rolled the bags and dogs to the doggie park just outside the terminal.

Fortunately, a van was available and we loaded up the dogs, went directly to Starbucks and then to the Jeep dealer where we used some of that cash to buy a Jeep Wrangler.

While he bought the Jeep, I drove the dogs to our home in North Carolina. The events from the night before didn’t come up, as if the life we had been attached to 12 hours earlier was somehow gone already.

The money in my purse was still there. I had felt a twinge of guilt that I assumed the man had taken it. At the time, I truly believed the whole episode was created so they could take the money. In the end, this wasn’t true. They were just doing their jobs.

A shopkeeper on the road into town creating brass housewares by hand, as his father had done before him.
A shopkeeper on the road into town creating brass housewares by hand, as his father had done before him.

Later that afternoon, our neighbors stopped by to say hello and it was only then that we told our stories. And, it was the last time we talked about it to each other. The bell had rung, we went to our respective corners and began attending to our wounds. This lasted awhile.

The wounds have healed. We realize had we done things differently, the experience may have been more positive for me. That is the point of adventure learning….to understand your choices and learn from them.

I don’t know that I believe in destiny, but I absolutely believe everything we do contributes to the person we become and that person can be all the better if you use every learning experience wisely – if you transfer the knowledge gained to every day life.

Next month we will have been back home for two years. In all that time no one has ever asked me how I feel about Ecuador now. It seems important to answer the question.

A view of Cuenca from our house.

Ecuador is a beautiful, raw country. Not pretentious. It is simple, rustic, historical. There is great beauty in those words. The people of Ecuador live in the moment. That is both maddening and comforting.

Sweet memories remain – the dear friends we have left there. We think of them so often. The children were precious. They ran and played with such innocence. They rode in the back of pick-up trucks and laughed. Ecuador looks for occasions to celebrate. There were fireworks, parties, laughter….parades and festivals constantly. They are genuinely happy.  These are the things I miss.

The lesson I have learned is that an expat should never enter a host country with the notion they will change that country to suit their needs. Therein lies the challenge: to find home in a country that meets your needs or, adjust your needs to match your new home.

The chapter on Ecuador is closed.

Cathedral de Ecuador, Cuenca
Cathedral de Ecuador, Cuenca