Letting Go of “Should” in Mindo
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Arriving in Mindo on a rainy Saturday morning, I found a small cobblestone main street lined with restaurants, shops, and tour companies. Each of the roads off of this main street were dirt and muddy from the rains. Immediately, I felt a sense of calm wash over me as my taxi made its way toward my hostel. I could not wipe the relaxed smile from my face. I realized this as a stark contrast to the tension I felt in the city.
My taxi driver dropped me off at La Casa de Cecilia, a hostel that looks like a tree house, surrounded by lush greenery on the bank of a river. I was too early to check in, yet early enough for breakfast. I sat alone, at a table for four facing the river in their outdoor dining space.
As I dined on a healthy portion of eggs, bread and fresh fruit, I perused my guidebook to come up with a game plan for what to do during my visit. I came to Mindo for its waterfalls, so I knew that would be first on my to-do list. A visit to the butterflies, a chocolate tour, and perhaps a canopy zip line also sounded like a nice way to spend my time.
Upon finishing my delicious breakfast, I inquired about leaving my backpack somewhere safe. Turns out, my room was ready early. It was a small, private room with hammocks on the balcony outside, overlooking the greenery. I knew I’d be spending some quality time in those hammocks. But first, a quick change into my swimsuit before heading back out into the drizzle in search of waterfalls.
Should I Jump?
I took a cab to the Tarabita, marveling at the views from atop the cloud forest as I made my way to the beginning of the waterfall hike. Thankfully I was alone, as I could not stop grinning at the fact that I was in Mindo, on my way to the waterfalls.
First, I hiked down to the Nambilla waterfall. I debated paying $3.00 to make the 12m jump, including a video to document the feat. I felt like I SHOULD jump. My whole goal with this trip is to give fear the middle finger. However, the water seemed incredibly turbulent from the rains and it just didn’t seem worth the $3.00. So, even though I SHOULD have done it, I opted to move on to the other waterfalls without making the jump.
It was beautiful being beneath the cover of the trees, a light rain falling, and the echo of the waterfalls following me as I ambled down the path. Hot and sweaty, I arrived at the third waterfall, which had an easily accessible pool for swimming. I dropped my backpack, stripped down to my swimsuit, and jumped in to the freezing, yet refreshing waters.
Significantly cooled down, I toweled off and continued on with the goal of making it to all six waterfalls. At the fifth waterfall, the path disappeared. In order to cross, I would need to wade through knee-deep rushing water to the other side. I SHOULD have continued on, checked the sixth waterfall off of my list. Afterall, that’s what I’d come here to see!
My Keen hiking boots were doing an awesome job at keeping my feet dry up to this point. But, I knew as soon as the water entered from the top of the boot, I’d have to manage soaking wet feet the remainder of the hike. Considering I was on the tail end of a cold, I opted to turn back, with dry feet.
Arriving back to the main part of town, I meandered down dirt roads looking for lunch. I found a vegetarian restaurant that used quinoa as its main ingredient in every dish. Yes, maybe I SHOULD eat local food, but I wanted to try a quinoa burger! So, that’s what I did and it did not disappoint!
I returned to La Casa de Cecilia to change into dry clothes and figure out what to do with my afternoon. I considered doing the chocolate tour at El Quetzal next door or inquiring about ziplining. A major part of me felt that I should be doing those activities. That I should want to. At least, I should go see the butterflies! In reality, the only reason I would’ve done them is because a guidebook told me those are the experiences to have in Mindo.
But when I was honest with myself, I realized I didn’t want to. I realized my body and my mind were craving quiet, calm, and ease. I decided to honor that, to forget about all the experiences I should be having in Mindo. To simply be. Mindo is a perfect place for that as well.
Instead of ziplining through the cloud forest, I practiced a bit of yoga, flowing in response to my body’s needs. Then, I relaxed in that hammock. I read a bit of a book, worked a bit on this blog. More often, I simply swayed side to side listening to the flow of the river, the rain falling, and the birds fluttering about.
The next morning, I slept in until 8am, which felt amazing! I wanted to keep going with this idea of removing should from my vocabulary. Instead of rushing off to see and do all the things, I indulged in another yoga practice and wandered the property, finding another hammock location. I settled in for a few more hours of simply being.
Feeling completely rejuvenated, I decided to give the chocolate tour a try. Not because it’s what I SHOULD do in Mindo, but because in that moment – it’s exactly what I wanted to do. Apparently, I was the only one as I had a private tour of the chocolate making process at El Quetzal. The tour ended with a chocolate tasting, a delicious brownie, and cacao tea, which was a nice alternative to all of the hot chocolate I’ve been consuming!
Saying Goodbye to Should
Still smiling, I wandered to the bus station to purchase my return ticket to Quito. Along the way, I noticed again how relaxed I felt. I’d spent the weekend doing exactly what I wanted to do. Many times when traveling there are things I think I SHOULD be doing, seeing, or eating. If I don’t do those things – then it feels as though I’ve missed out on some amazing experience.
I learned that by ignoring that irrational fear, I was able to get down to WHY I wanted to do, or not do, certain activities. Erasing should from my vocabulary allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the waterfall hike and chocolate tour. Not rushing to check off all of the possibilities, I could have the amazing experiences that I wanted. Not ones dictated by a guidebook.
I paid attention to my energy levels and to what my body told me it needed. Most importantly, I listened. Responding in a way that honored the request to let go of should and to simply be.
Fearless Travel Checklist
Don't stop before you start! I've compiled a major list of everything I needed to figure out before I quit my job to travel long term. And I want to share it with you. It can be done, one item at a time!