The last 3 months have been dominated by surfing for me. It’s been my work, my play and the core of my backpacking experience here in Montanita, Ecuador.
But there’s also been a regular activity lurking in the background – and indeed day to life – that has been less apparent in both my blogging and way of living…Spanish.
As part of my surf instructing for Montanita Spanish School I got free Spanish lessons thrown in as part of the deal – and hours worth of private tuition each day. Now over the course of 3 months thats a lot of lessons – 60 hours if you’re doing the math, and couple this with living in a Spanish speaking country, in a community where a lot of locals still don’t speak English, in a hostel full of Spanish School students and you’ve got a pretty good chance of picking up the lingo.
And that was the intention.
I came to Montanita thinking that I could learn a new language on the side and even become pretty fluent in that time.
The only problem is that was where my biggest flaw lay – the fact that I wanted to learn it on the side.
Everyone is aware that I came to Ecuador to surf. I took a job as a surf instructor – it doesn’t get anymore obvious than that!
The major problem with surfing all day though is it consumes your lifestyle. You live, breathe, eat and work surf. It’s very distracting to ‘normal’ life but I have no problem with living that way.
I do however have a major problem with mornings. Mornings are not my friend and I’m not theirs. Ask my parents or friends and they’ll happily inform you that 1pm lie ins are the norm if I’m left to my own devices!
Ask my ex boss from STA Travel – he’d actively feed me coffee in the morning if it was busy and I couldn’t make my own, because he knew I couldn’t function until midday without it!
My new boss wasn’t so clued up on this though and scheduled my Spanish lessons in at 9am, and for one chaotic week 8am!
Needless to say my concentration wasn’t anywhere near peak level and the teachers had a good old chuckle as I hid behind my sunglasses, coffee and hangover each morning struggling with the mere concept of irregular verbs!
But I went in two feet first and attempted to get some Spanish under my belt anyway. I never missed a lesson – despite numerous late nights, hangovers and general laziness. I honestly wanted to learn, it would’ve helped heaps.
I set myself two goals at the beginning of my trip – to be able to teach my surf lessons in Spanish by the time I left and to right an entire blog post in Spanish (with an English translation underneath of course!).
However the last thing you want to do after a day sweating in the sun, exercising, teaching and keeping your energy levels on overdrive is sit down and do homework or work your brain. You want to chill, have some downtime or generally let loose with no holes barred.
I tried for the first few weeks to force myself to sit down and run through things, but the lure of cocktail alley, chicas and evening surf sessions proved too much and my attention span quickly dwindled.
I picked up some solid Spanglish though and fellow surf instructor Luis taught me some useful phrases quite quickly. It did however mean my conversation stayed fairly limited – mainly within the domains of partying, flirting and surfing.
A lot of people – my mother included – would say that I wasted a great opportunity to learn something new and to fully immerse myself in another culture.
I can’t argue with that – to a large degree I did.
However learning Spanish wasn’t my motivation for travelling, nor was it the reason I came to Montanita or to work for the school infact.
I came to surf. And surf I have done.
On the other hand the rest of the people at the school and hostel came here to study Spanish. They came with the mindset to learn and thus have found the balance between the vices of Montanitian life and the classroom.
And in return they have picked up the lingo, the speak the tongue of this country and spend time chatting with the locals and enjoying the culture.
I’ve spent my time sharing waves with locals and enjoying the surf culture here. Locals I can’t talk with very much admittedly but locals I now know and who know me.
I’ve spent my time on the coast doing what I love with people who share my passion – and passing on my passion to people who have never experienced that way of life before.
And for me that’s what travel should be like. You need to be selfish with your travels and do what makes you happy. It’s your money you’re spending – and it’s your time you’re playing with.
Give everything a try though.
But I also realised that it wasn’t something that I could give the time to do properly nor was it something I was particularly interested in (don’t let that be a reflecting on those that tried to teach me though – they were brilliant fun and did their upmost to pass on the stoke and get me learning!).
There will always be times when you travel that you waste opportunities in favour of making yourself happy. The difference is if you regret missing that opportunity.
I don’t. I’ve caught some of the best waves of my life and I’m living the dream.
One day I may look back and slightly regret it – but that means my mind is in the place to learn, and then I can take full advantage of any opportunity to do so, or simply create one in which I can.
Spanish is yet to be added to my list of life skills, and even my Spanglish is still pretty bad – but there’s still a big smile on my face and I’m stoked with my time here in Ecuador!
Next time I’m in the mood to learn the language I may try to find a tutor in Spanish at takelessons.com.