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Ecuador is my favorite workshop. And with good reason – the food is amazing with fresh fruit juices we can’t get here in the States, organic vegetables, and (my favorite) quinoa flan … the local people are so friendly and welcoming, you just want to hug them (but don’t worry, I don’t) … and the hotel is really unique – plus, it’s a safe and fun way to see a new place and relax while you learn new skills.

I could go on and on about it because there’s so much to love and you really can’t do it justice in a few short paragraphs … but since it’s my program, you probably shouldn’t take it from me anyway.

Here’s an interview with Susan Birkenshaw, one of last month’s Ecuador attendees. Susan’s a Canadian travel agent specializing in South America (find her at yourtravelquest.ca), so she’s been on her fair share of tours and she really knows her stuff. Here’s what she thought …

LORI: Susan, what were your main reasons for taking the trip?

SUSAN: That’s simple: Ecuador, photography, Spanish and Travel with Great Escape Publishing – what a magical combination of my passions and people I believe in.

LORI: When you got to Quito, the first place you went was the boutique hotel, Mansion del Angel, where we put you up on the first night. What did you think of that hotel?

SUSAN: When I first arrived in Quito, I was truly taken aback at the opulence of our hotel. My room was an extraordinary king-size room with a sitting area and a canopy bed. The whole experience was nothing but “over-the-top great.” I felt more than comfortable, more than well-cared-for, and clearly more than welcomed in this beautiful hotel. As a travel agent, I will have absolutely no trouble recommending this location to my clients.

LORI: If you had to choose one highlight of the trip, what would it be?

SUSAN: The opportunity of seeing and actually shooting Imbabura mountain with no cloud cover – what an incredibly rare experience.

LORI: What was your favorite outing while you were in Ecuador?

SUSAN: For me, the day we went to Peguche to learn more about weaving and the culture that supports this unique village was a highlight. On top of the weavers, we were able to add on the waterfalls. While this was not “officially” on the tour that day, being able to see this natural wonder was such a special treat. As photographers, we were able to challenge ourselves to “get the shot” that is special and meaningful to us. That day it was not all about stock photography – it was about “move your boots and shoot!”

I should say, too, that I have a broken ankle that really didn’t hold me back in doing anything that I wanted to do.

LORI: What was your experience with the Super Learning Spanish classes?

SUSAN: I have read a great deal about Super Learning over my career and truly believe that this is a powerful way to learn many things – Spanish included. I have been able to take a giant leap forward in my Spanish learning and I believe some others would say the same. Jean Marie and Alberto are excellent and I truly appreciated Alberto’s very clear voice and accent/pronunciation.

LORI: We cover a five-star spa treatment for each Ecuador attendee at La Mirage Relais and Chateaux spa. Which spa treatment did you choose, and how was it?

SUSAN: I chose to attend the Shaman Purification ceremony. Since this is a very unique spa option, it was important to me to take this chance. I was very impressed with the whole process.

While it was clearly not for everyone, it is very rewarding for those who want to experience something truly different and are willing to trust the process. For me, the Shaman ritual was something for which I had no expectations. And, I was rewarded with significant a-ha’s. And the massage part was the icing on the cake. Estella knew exactly where my body needed work and exactly the pressure I needed at that moment. As I told her, the only way to describe it is to say that her hands know what to do.

LORI: What were your thoughts on the overall organization? Any suggested improvements?

SUSAN: From the time I signed up for this program, I have received all the information I needed at the time I needed it. During the actual program, the most difficult thing was staying on schedule. But because the different needs of each participant would challenge any agenda, I understand that sticking to a time table is difficult. Having said this, the whole process went quite smoothly and at no time did I feel that I didn’t know “what’s next.”

LORI: Would you recommend this program to others?

SUSAN: Absolutely, without question.

LORI: Thanks, Susan![Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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