Stepping out from behind the (professional) lens: Spring Break in Montañita, Ecuador
How using a smartphone camera brings the freedom to experience a trip in real time.
Whenever I travel, whether it is to my cousin’s house in Cleveland, Ohio, or to Machu Picchu, Peru, I always have my camera at my side. I love my Nikon D7000 — it is definitely one of the best purchases I have ever talked my father into making. However, while I am here in Cuenca, I can’t carry my camera at my side every day (mostly for safety reasons), and when I went to Montañita for spring break last week, I left it locked in a drawer in my room in Cuenca.
Definitely an uncharacteristic maneuver. I was going to bring it (hello, beach photos! Gorgeousness all around!), but at the last minute I decided to step out from behind the lens and just live. Typing that out and rereading it made me realize how cheesy that sounds, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I took my iPhone 4s with me to Montañita…let’s be real, I need some sort of lens when I’m traveling…and it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. First of all, I barely used it anyway. There are about 20 photos on my Instagram account from the trip, and I’m okay with that. Secondly, I would have been absolutely paranoid about someone stealing it out of the room of my hostel, even though the room came with a safe, four different keys, and a dresser drawer that sometimes locked.
So instead of taking hundreds of photos and having a new album on Facebook, I decided to only use Instagram for this trip. It gave me a chance to actually see and experience the culture and to just relax while in Montañita. Since arriving in Cuenca, I have used Instagram a lot more than usual since I typically do have my iPhone with me during the day. I have also started following a few photojournalists and Ecuador/South America-based photographers, and have been inspired by the images they can create with the set group of available filters and equipment as simple as an iPhone. One of my favorite Ecuador-based accounts is @ivankphoto and his work with Project Mi Barrio (“my neighborhood”). @ivankphoto is based in Quito, about an eight-hour bus trip north from where I am spending my semester.
Having the chance to take a break and live was a great experience, and there is no better place to do that than in Montañita — it is one of the most relaxed and friendly beach towns I have ever heard of. The party scene is definitely prevalent (“cocktail alley” is exactly what it sounds like — a line of cocktail stands leading to the beach), and everyone I met there was extremely nice. The food…well I could talk about food in Ecuador for months. Everything was fresh and inexpensive (compared to what it would cost in the US, at least). The hostel my friend and I stayed in had a communal kitchen instead of a restaurant, so we were able to buy a few groceries and cook our own food every day. We also did our fair share of purchasing empanadas, ice cream sandwiches and pizza from beach vendors, as well as having a few meals at local restaurants.
We also took the time to walk all the way down to the “point,” (the peninsula in the photo above) to take photos. Though I got soaked, fell over several times and almost broke my only pair of flip flops, I had an absolutely wonderful time. This time, my lovely friend Julianna brought her iPhone since mine doesn’t always work when it is in a plastic bag, so I wasn’t even worried about ruining mine. Which, granted, I wasn’t actually worried about until we got there. (No worries, her phone is totally fine)
Again, only via Instagram and an iPhone 4s, here are a few more photos. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words…