‘Hazte amigo de gente que no sea de tu edad. Conversa con alguien que su primera lengua no sea la tuya. Trata de conocer personas que no sean de tu misma classe social. Asi se conoce el munde. Asi se crece’

Seven years ago, I started to travel cause I wanted to know and see other places, other people, other ways. There’s this great saying:

‘Become friends with people that are not your age. Have a conversation with someone who’s first language is not yours. Try to know persons that are not from your social class. That’s how we know the world. That’s how we grow.’

I agree, though I totally have to admit that it’s not always easy. Sometimes my background and habits take over.

One day, I was in a small town in Ecuador, the opposite of tourism. I went there with Juan (Ecuadorean) who had to go buy something in the neighbourhood and I waited at the local park with my kid. Four guys were sitting on the other side. They watched me – not abnormal, as I’m the only Belgian around – but the looks became longer and they began talking and pointing. I didn’t feel safe anymore.

One started coming towards me. ‘Here, take’ he said and held out a 5 dollar bill. ‘Go buy some food’ – I was baffled and stumbled out ‘I don’t need’. They noticed my discomfort, left the $5 under a stone and left. I went to have the meal they wanted me to have and began thinking. I was barefoot (which happens a lot, I’m a huge barefoot fan) and both my clothes and my kid’s weren’t very clean because we’d been at a farm gathering bananas. I started to realise they must have seen me as a lost soul way too far from home without money to get some shoes, and a small kid to feed.

Nope, it’s not easy to understand people from different backgrounds. But each encounter, I’m getting better. Juan and I created Punta la Barca, our small community at the Ecuadorian coast – not far from this remarkable encounter. Because only by understanding the world from within, I feel we can make it better.