My wife and I just returned from a three-week trip to the States to visit our family. We babysat the grandchildren, ate some wonderful meals out, and purchased clothing and other provisions to bring back.
We have lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for three-and-a-half years, and with each journey (there have probably been more than 10 by now) we come to appreciate more and more how fortunate we are to embrace the best of both worlds.
Cynthia and I are by no means “America haters.” In fact, five years ago we were indeed living the American Dream, with successful careers, a lovely home, and investments propelling us toward our retirement goals.
The economic tsunami of 2008 changed all that. We were both downsized from high-paying jobs, and our portfolio was decimated. Rather than “keep on keeping on” with uncertain hopes for the future, we decided to move abroad and start living our dreams now.
Cuenca has proven to be a terrific choice for our relocation, but like any other place it’s not perfect. For us the pluses and minuses of Ecuador and the U.S. neatly mesh to create an ideal overall lifestyle. Here is a comparison of four key points we find important:
Cost of living. On 25% of our U.S. budget we enjoy a superior lifestyle in Cuenca. Our luxurious two-story penthouse apartment (with weekly maid service) has commanding views of the city and surrounding mountains. We eat lovely meals at nice restaurants, attend free symphony performances, go to the gym, plus yoga and Tai Chi classes.
Lifestyle. The hurried, stressful, live-for-the-future U.S. way of life can be truly debilitating. Since moving to Cuenca we have come to embrace the laid-back Latin American attitude. Sure, when you really need for something to happen it can sometimes be aggravating, but overall relaxing into the gentle flow of a present moment existence is far superior.
Options. Looking for high thread count sheets? Clothes to fit a 6’3″ frame like mine? Horseradish? A great Mexican or Asian meal? You’re out of luck finding any of those, and other options you may want or need, in Cuenca. So a stroll down the aisles of one of those mega sized grocery stores in the States is always a highlight for me. Does anyone really need 20 different kinds of mustard? Probably not, but it’s fun to know that they’re there just in case.
Winner: United States
Friends and family. We arrived in Cuenca with zero grandchildren and now we have three gorgeous babies from age 2 to 8 months, so we obviously look forward to spending quality time with our precious family. But in our previous lives we were so busy working we never got around to developing much of a social network. Here in Ecuador we are blessed with many wonderful friends that we know well, truly care about, and miss when we’re away.
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