The Birthplace of Happy Belly, Happy Nellie

Week 4: Las Tunas, Ecuador

This was a special week for Nellie because it was the launch of the most important piece of her gap year: her food blog.

Happy Belly | Happy Nellie

Instagram: @happybelly.happynellie

It all started when we sat down at a small cafe in Ayampe, Ecuador. We ordered a passionfruit muffin – the first time Nellie has ever tried passionfruit…and a muffin…combined. I can’t quite describe what her eyes looked like when she took a bite of that muffin. But in that moment, that’s when I realized…food is her passion. And she was going to take it and run with it.

So if you stop reading at this point, what you need to do is follow @happybelly.happynellie on Instagram right now. We have documented some of the best food, some of the worst food, and some of the food where we accidentally found a cockroach (thanks, Colombia). 

This blog has also helped us connect with local businesses and share experiences with our local friends. We even featured our guinea pig-eating experience. Sorry, vegetarians…

We will refer to this account throughout the story updates.

This photo was featured on the restaurant's social media... Ayampe, Ecuador
She ate every last bit of this huge burrito... Ayampe, Ecuador
My eye was twitching as I was sitting in front of a plate of guinea pig... Sigchos, Ecuador
Tallest arepa we've ever seen... Santa Marta, Colombia

We also became horse nurses this week.

Life on a farm is always an adventure. You never know what problems will be thrown at you on a daily basis. On our second week on the farm, we were promoted to “horse nurse” status.

We can’t quite label ourselves as veterinarians as we never were the ones to shove our arm up the horse’s backside. But basic wound care and administering medicine? Yeah, we got this.

I will admit, it was a bit frightening to be taking care of such a frail, old horse (over 30 years old). But our sweet Alondra healed up nicely after several weeks of us tending to her wounds.

A perfect experience for gap-year Nellie, whose ambition is to become a nurse…for humans. What better way to learn than with a horse? Same same but different…yeah?

And our wonderful friend, Jade, was there to help Nellie. She is also a nurse and continues to inspire Nellie to go down the nursing path. We love you, Jade!

A lot of people ask us how we can afford a gap year. Easy. We just live off of a budget. That means when you’re in Ecuador, you don’t go to the Galapagos Islands. It’s too expensive. 

Instead, you go to Isla de la Plata, otherwise known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos

That’s exactly what we did.

We saw everything on our bucket list.


Blue-footed boobies.


Nellie snorkeled for the first time. Check that off the gap year list!

We highly recommend visiting Isla de la Plata if you’re as poor as we are. Even if you aren’t, you should check it out.

Nellie the Horse Nurse quickly became the Horse Whisperer as we spent time at our neighbor’s house, who conveniently had a huge plot of land and horse stables right by the beach.

Gap years are a great time to try something new. Nellie had very little experience riding horses before her gap year. But, as her tattoo says — so says she…”Yes” to every new and exciting experience.

Travel Tip #1:

Create a routine.

It’s hard to create a routine when you’re traveling, especially when it’s your first time living away from home. 

We found ways to create routine by making sure we were watching the sunset and exercising everyday. We were really bad at yoga…and we really haven’t improved much. I’m convinced it’s a genetic thing. Nevertheless, we try to stick with something consistent everyday.


A little bit of stability while traveling can go a long way.

Where the hell is Nell?

Las Tunas, Ecuador