Douglas Willis didn’t come to Cuenca, Ecuador, with the intention of retiring. When he arrived in 2007, it was with his wife Lisa, and their two children and they came as part of a volunteer program.
“We were only in our early forties and retiring was still some 25 years in the future,” says Douglas. “Our original plan was to take a one-year sabbatical and then return to the U.S. to resume our ‘normal’ nine-to-five life. Our children were 8 and 10 years of age when we arrived and we chose Ecuador because we had read it is a safe place to visit with children. Other than that we really knew little else of the country.”
After just a few months though, Doug and Lisa knew they were falling in love with the country and its people. “We suddenly found ourselves entertaining the unthinkable: We wanted to make Ecuador our permanent home. Our children immediately felt at home here and we were much happier and united as a family.”
Figuring out a way to stay in Ecuador became the number one priority. “We were fortunate to find exceptional people to take over our business and manage our property in the U.S. That has given us the financial freedom to settle in Ecuador. We call ourselves ‘accidental expats’ because we did not come here to stay. We feel very fortunate to have discovered Ecuador and appreciate the opportunity we have to make this beautiful country our home,” says Douglas.
“Life in Cuenca is unique and interesting. We love the fact that Cuenca has preserved its old world feel. People here still take siestas at midday. Cuenca closes down after 10 p.m. and for the most part is quiet at night. Family life is very important for Ecuadorians and the many public parks in Cuenca are full on the weekends with families playing together.
Cuenca has relatively little crime compared to the U.S. and we can easily engage in conversations with total strangers. We feel safe and comfortable living here.”
And the low cost of living in Cuenca means the Willis’ can live well on about $1,000 a month. “That’s a quarter of the budget we lived on in the U.S. We pay less than $300 in rent per month for a large four-bedroom house. Our food bill is about $400 per month. A bus ride to any part of the city is only 25 cents. An average taxi ride is $2.50. A hair cut is $1.50. A dozen roses cost $2.00. And a meal at a restaurant can be had for as little as $2.00 per person.”