“I Get Paid to Have Fun in Ecuador”

My teenage daughter, Sarah, and I were enjoying an afternoon at a beautiful spa near Cuenca after a full morning of shopping. Sinking into the warm mud, I couldn’t help thinking, “I’m getting paid to do this.”

Perhaps I should back up. I began importing gorgeous, unique goods from Ecuador five years ago with no experience. I headed out to the country and spent a full week touring workshops, visiting local markets, meeting artisans, and buying practically everything in sight.

I returned to North Carolina, suitcases bursting at the seams, with everything from handcrafted leather tote bags to natural bead necklaces and painted pillow covers.

I hosted a small party in my home, promptly sold almost everything I had brought back, and pocketed a healthy profit.

I needed more inventory, so what’s a girl to do? Within weeks I was back on a plane headed for Ecuador. This cycle has continued, quite successfully, for five years. I have made great money, sometimes thousands of dollars per show.

But while it’s great to get paid to do something I enjoy, my favorite part is the thrill of the hunt and the adventures this lifestyle affords me.

I will stop at nothing to find what I seek, and that has led to some wonderful, if not downright crazy, experiences. Fortunately, my husband is on board and we have even brought our kids along for the ride a couple of times.

We have found that when we travel with a purpose, we learn a heck of a lot more about a country and its people than if we’re simply sightseeing. We interact with the locals on a deeper level.

For instance, we heard about a talented woodworker who makes hand-carved wooden bowls but we had no idea where to locate him. We asked a couple of locals and, based on their sage advice, headed out in a cab. Turns out we were on a wild goose chase, but we kept stopping to ask other people. Each conversation led us one step closer to the gentleman until we finally found him.

We saw spectacular scenery we would never have seen otherwise and had a total blast talking and laughing with the locals who were trying to help us.

Because I was paying for our trip with the proceeds of merchandise sales, we can do tons of fun things while traveling.

Under what other circumstances would Sarah and I find ourselves jumping into an icy plunge pool and soaking in a mud bath before an affordably-priced massage?

We have wandered empty beaches, hiked volcanoes, enjoyed fabulous meals, and met so many interesting people, all the while shopping and profiting. I can’t think of a better way to make a living.

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