After a few weeks of traveling alone in Ecuador in the summer of 2017, I had decided to go home early. It was my first solo trip, and I had ambitiously planned for a full three months of backpacking and exchanging labor for lodging. I had planned things so I would end up on the beach in time for my birthday in July, but by early June, a deep loneliness had caught up to me, and the beach no longer felt that important.

It felt good deciding to come home, and knowing that I only had one more week to see Ecuador renewed my sense of adventure. I changed my route, and decided to end the trip at a…