A New Life in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Cynthia Collett recently celebrated her first anniversary in Ecuador, although she admits she had been working on this idea of “retiring overseas” for nearly a year before she actually made the move.

“A friend came to Ecuador for a work-related conference,” Cynthia says. “And she told me I would absolutely love Cotacachi.

“That’s when I started the Internet research. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the culture and I was certain I wanted to live here. Ten months later, I had sold everything and arrived in Ecuador with five suitcases.

“A lot of people think I was brave to make this move on my own,” 62-year-old Cynthia adds. “But that’s just how I live my life. When I want to go, I go.”

And Cynthia wanted to go for several very good reasons. The weather in Minnesota, where she lived previously was “treacherous to say the least.” Just three weeks prior to her move to Ecuador she slipped on the ice and broke her wrist.

“Some people said it was too bad I’d have to postpone my trip. I told them the ticket was purchased and I was going. And so I did.”

Cost of living was also an issue, she says. “Because of a medical issue I was living on very little money and it was nearly impossible. At some point I’m not sure what I would have done.”

In Ecuador, however, Cynthia found that she had enough money to live comfortably.

“For the first six months I was here I lived on widow’s benefits of $600 a month. It really can be done, but it’s important to know that all I did was ‘live.’ I didn’t have money for health insurance, trips, or just about any purchases other than the essentials.”

Eventually, though, she became eligible for Social Security benefits and today her monthly income, which she supplements by doing some pet sitting and administrative work for other expats, is about $1,000.

She’s also found a less-costly rental than the one she lived in when she originally moved to Cotacachi.

“For my small casita, I pay $190 for rent, and that includes electricity, water, and Internet. I buy my own propane for hot water and cooking. I’ve been there for three months now and have only replaced one of the two tanks so it appears to be costing me less than $1 a month for that.”

Now that she has more money, Cynthia says, she can afford to do more fun things, like going to Mindo (a bird-watching town in a cloud forest) for a few days with a tour group.

In fact, Cynthia says she enjoys a quality of life she didn’t have in the States.

“I have a support system here I never dreamt of having back there. Right now most of those people are expats because I’m still working on my Spanish, but I’m developing more and more connections with Ecuadorians as well and I love that.”

Any advice she’d offer someone back home who is on the fence about making a similar move?

“If you can afford it, come down for a month or so to see what you think about it. If you can’t do that, think seriously about your motives. It’s been my experience that people who come for just the financial and climate issues can have trouble adjusting. If you like diversity and new cultural experiences and think learning Spanish sounds like something you want to do, chances are you’ll do great here.”

Will she ever go back to the States? “I can’t even imagine that. My life is here and I love every bit of it.”

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