Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ecuador's Sleepy Vacation Season

Europeans aren't the only ones who love a good long vacation in August. Ecuadorians are also big fans of taking a few weeks off in the month of August. School is out of session, so most families are itching for the chance to get away, and the business culture seems to support the idea of taking off for an annual big vacation.

Where do Ecuadorians go on vacation? It depends. Many who have family in the States and the ability to get a US visa (this is getting increasingly difficult) head for the States. The big "family visit" destinations are to the Ecuadorian communities in New York, Chicago, and Miami. However, I feel a bit sorry for my students heading toward the States - Cuenca's summer months have been unseasonably cold and wet, with July being absolutely miserable. Moving from 40 degrees and rainy to 100+ degrees in a muggy urban environment? Yuck, even if the shopping is better.

Other popular vacation destinations are the beaches. Manabi, Montanita, and Salinas all get a certain amount of vacationers in August, but Caribbean, Columbian, and Peruvian beaches are considered to be more of a getaway. I don't know what the travel advertisers in Punta Cana did to secure the loyalty of the Ecuadorian public, but hitting resorts in this Dominican Republic beach zone is considered to be a top vacation choice.

Europe and Asia don't seem to be on the travel radar except for those at the very top end of the financial scale. Tickets are just flat-out expensive to get from here to there, making destinations closer to home more popular. Ecuadorians seem to be pretty big fans of domestic travel, showing a lot of love for their own jungle and volcano attractions.

Still, with a significant proportion of the population on vacation, Cuenca is a sleepy little town. When people here are on vacation, they don't answer their phone or check their email. Employees report that their bosses are on vacation as though that's a perfectly acceptable explanation for why you can't have what you need until the 1st of September - and here, that's just the way it goes.

This travel bug is a bit contagious. A large number of my friends here are taking trips back to the states throughout August and early September, channeling the Ecuadorian way. It's all about shopping, visiting family, and spending one or two days on a beach. In the meantime, Ecuador's main streets seem a bit depopulated and extra quiet as everyone settles in to enjoy the sleepy vacation season.

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