Cuenca is Ecuador’s most popular retirement haven, but it’s not the only one you’ll find in the Andean country. Thousands of expats have chosen from locations all over the country…Pacific coast beach towns, vibrant culture-filled cities, highland farm towns, and more. Ecuador harbors huge variety and whether you’re in search of adventure, planning to start a business, or just want to relax and watch the world go by, it’s got something to offer you.
In Ecuador, you’ll not only be in the middle of the world, but you could be on top of it. That’s because thanks to its location on the equatorial “bulge,” the peak of the country’s 20,564-foot Mt. Chimborazo is the point on the Earth’s surface that’s the farthest from the Earth’s core and closest to the sun. There truly is something for everyone here. Mountains, beaches, rainforests, cities, and small towns…all with a price tag nearly anyone can afford. By the way, Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar—no currency conversions necessary.
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go? You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach…work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons.
My wife and I have been living in Salinas on the Pacific shores of Ecuador for just over six months now. We feel fortunate. We both love it here, and every week that passes we feel more relaxed, and more like we belong. Your own experience with life overseas will vary based on where you came from and where you go; whether you have traveled before; how old you are, and whether you are retired; your personal and financial health; and the list goes on.
It was 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. I had just finished drinking a cappuccino with a friend at a local café. Now, I was going to meet a client and spend about an hour getting them set up in their vacation rental. Then I would go back to my home office to spend another 30 minutes or so answering emails.
The couple explored Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nicaragua. As their trips were part of a search for a new home, it made sense to stay awhile and get beneath the surface of a place. Ellen explains, “Extended stays make sense financially, giving us time between trips to recoup the cost of moving about.” But after three years of having no permanent base, they realized that it was actually this roving retirement lifestyle that suited them.
I’d wanted to visit Ecuador for almost 12 years before I finally set foot there. At the time, I didn’t realize it was going to be my new home. I thought I was just visiting… But when you’ve got a portable income, vacations go on forever. Money wasn’t an issue and I could easily afford to stay in Ecuador. I picked up a new apartment…a weekly cleaning lady…and lots of new friends. I had both the funds and the flexibility to be as social as I wanted. And I settled into a new kind of life in the colonial city of Cuenca—one that I truly, truly love.
I discovered the potential of ecommerce 14 years ago when I started my online maternity store…from my kitchen table. At the time, I was searching for a business that offered me the freedom to work from anywhere and the flexibility I needed to care for my young children after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I found it in ecommerce. In its first month, my first site brought in $7,000. I was ecstatic. And it grew from there. I turned my online business into a multi-million-dollar business in a short amount of time.
The smell of fresh paint is just one sign things are changing in our Cuenca apartment these days… There’s new furniture. New towels, linens, and dishware. From top to bottom, this place is in the middle of getting a post-wedding makeover as I settle into the married life.
Conventional wisdom says that you have to get the travel bug out of your system early; that once you have children you have to abandon your overseas dreams—or at least shelve them until the kids grow up and leave the nest. But it’s just not true…and an increasing number of American families are proving it. Folks from all over the U.S. are bucking tradition and traveling the world with their kids—for a summer, a year, and longer.
For years, Richard and Amy Griffin ran successful businesses in the southeastern United States. Amy’s focus was interior design, while Richard was a food distributor for restaurants, hotels, and country clubs. Things were going well until the economic downturn hit in 2008. “Charlotte is a banking community and all my customers were pretty much bankers, so they pulled the plug immediately, because they had no clue what was going to happen,” says Amy.
When I first began researching Ecuador as a possible place to live four years ago, I found that the country offered a lot to attract would-be-residents, especially retirees. There is the moderate climate promoted by Ecuador’s tourism board as “Eternal Spring.” There’s the low cost of living that allows many retirees to live comfortably off their social security income. Ecuador is also close to the U.S. (4.5 hour flight to Miami) and the country uses the U.S. dollar.
At 5.45 a.m., the Paris Metro is nearly deserted and we have our pick of open seats. Across from me, Marisa is hunched over, her forehead teetering on the top of her tripod. Sleepily, she lifts her head and opens one eye to survey me in my bright red, 1960s prom dress. “One more stop,” I say, and she goes back to napping on her tripod. She’s not a morning person. But she knows this is going to be good.
I’m sitting on the patio of the Villa Nova Inn in Cuenca, Ecuador enjoying a few beers. I’m watching the sun go down, looking out over the manicured grassy banks of the Tomebamba river. I can hear the laughter of children in the new Parque de Madre just across the river.
I’ve always loved to explore the areas in which I live. Whether I was bushwhacking through wild Alaskan terrain or driving down dusty country roads in Minnesota farm country, I relished the thrill of seeing what’s around the next bend. It could be a fantastic little family-owned apple orchard or a mama moose with newborn twins.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself,” said the poet Maya Angelou. I suppose she’s right…we all aspire to a certain comfort in our own skin. I’ve always felt travel encouraged it, in fact.
I’m a daydreamer and a traveler at heart. One of my favorite ways to pass time is to imagine where else I might want to live one day. A recurring dream involves a cabin in the jungle where I would wake to the songs of carefree birds, the chatter of mischievous monkeys, and the rustle of a light breeze playing through overhead palm fronds.
Moving abroad can be the start of the most exciting and fulfilling chapter of your life. I arrived in Ecuador over four years ago and I’ve never been happier. Stress has vanished; I choose how to spend my time; and I’ve never had so many wonderful friends.
Travelers flock to Ecuador each year to enjoy the country’s diverse regions, exotic wildlife, and of course the famed Galapagos Islands. Some visitors become so enthralled with Ecuador that their vacation becomes a permanent stay. But whether you’re a passer through or a smitten expat, don’t miss out on Ecuador’s vast cultural options.
The big city versus the little village. It’s an age-old question, and it’s one that potential expats and retirees deal with all the time. Do I want to spend my time enjoying the slower pace and more neighborly atmosphere of a small town somewhere…or do I want to take advantage of all the shopping, entertainment, and modern amenities provided by a big city?
I realized years ago that, by and large, happiness is a choice. I’ll admit that there have been times when maintaining that choice has required significant, conscious effort. But, the choice is easier now that I’m retired and living on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Here it would take considerable, deliberate effort to be anything but happy.
More and more baby boomers are taking their retirements overseas, report experts at InternationalLiving.com, who say they’re seeing a significant increase in demand for their research and services. Today more than half-a-million retirees receive their Social Security benefits abroad. According to International Living editor Dan Prescher, that likely under-represents the actual number of Americans retired overseas.
Sarah Booth was only 23 when she bought her first vacation rental. It was a tiny studio in a ski resort village in Canada, but it was the beginning of a portfolio that now includes properties in Panama, Colombia, and Mexico…and an income that allows Sarah to enjoy a wonderful lifestyle from her home in Coronado, Panama. “Ultimately, my rentals have funded my lifestyle and my travels,” says Sarah. “I live for free and enjoy awesome rental yields.”
Until a few days ago my knowledge of coffee was as follows: buy a bag at the store once in a while and drink a couple of cups to get me going each day. I’ve just returned from an extremely interesting tour, organized by the owner of a local coffee shop here in Cuenca, Ecuador, with a new-found appreciation for my morning beverage.
I’m in no way an expert on the subject of health. What I’m about to tell you is simply based on our experiences and those of folks we’ve talked to here in Ecuador. But we are happy with how things have worked out. With good food, more exercise, fresh air, and the relaxing sounds of the waves in the background, there is no doubt that we are living a healthier lifestyle in Ecuador.
My sister was shocked at the $2,000 she’d been quoted. But for a year’s worth of monthly housecleaning in Ohio, apparently that’s the going rate. While she recovered from her sticker shock, I did a bit of quick math.
I worked hard when I lived in the U.S. Not only did my husband and I have intense jobs, we also homeschooled our children and managed our 10 acres of land in northern Idaho. Additionally, because we’d built our off-grid cabin by hand, we had the pleasure of hauling, splitting, and stacking firewood along with pitching snow off the roof and out of the driveway come winter.
My wife Ann and I moved to the Ecuadorian beach town of Salinas at the start of this year. We came for the wonderful weather and the low cost of living, and we have met some of the nicest people in the world—both Ecuadorians and expats. But there was another factor involved in our move and that was our health.
“Won’t you miss your family and friends if you move overseas?” That’s a question we at IL get asked a lot, and the answer is… “Of course you will.” It’s something my husband Dan and I have experience of. We didn’t think about it too much when we moved to Ecuador back in 2001. With the exception of Dan’s mother, none of our family—my parents and our siblings—lived in the same city as we did.
Perched just five miles from Mama’s summit on her northern side is the town of Baños (population about 20,000). As the lore goes, Baños is Mama’s love child, and she protects it. She’s certainly passed on an inheritance, for—thanks to Tungurahua’s hot temper—Baños is blessed with an abundance of thermal waters. Those waters, and the stunning natural setting, have made Baños a popular spa and outdoor-sports town, as well as home to a small community of expats.
I’m single. And you wouldn’t believe all the questions I get about living abroad on my own. “How do you do it?” people ask, as though there was some secret formula. And, yes, “What’s the secret?” is another question I get. In part I get so many questions because so many singles are thinking of moving abroad. And to them I have one short, sweet piece of advice: Just do it.
When I quit my job to travel the world for a year‚ the last thing I wanted to do was work. Well, at least not in the capacity that I used to as an editor in Manhattan. In fact‚ part of the reason I left the country was to take a break from the New York corporate rat race. When I first moved to Quito, Ecuador in 2012‚ I worked at two language schools teaching English. But after several months‚ I wanted to explore another way to make money.
My wife and I moved to Ecuador in 2006 to enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere and travel extensively. The problem was that our taste for lazing around on sandy beaches and spending money in out-of-the-way Quechua village markets was starting to eat into our retirement funds. We needed to develop a new income…one that wouldn’t cut into our relaxed evenings watching gurgling mountain streams from our resort deck.
Do you have any regrets? That’s a question I often ask my friends who are living overseas. And I’d venture that 99.9 percent of the time I get the same answer. “I wish I’d done it sooner,” they say. “If I’d only known back then what I know now…”
She’s a wanton woman with a feather beneath her skirt, cause for her constant state of libidinous arousal. Men and women alike are smitten with her overpowering beauty and limitless energy. But she has a temper, this one. When her flirtations are not returned, her anger boils and she quite literally blows her top like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Warm and sunny days…beautiful people lounging on the sand as surfers vie for choice waves… palm tree-lined boardwalks in picturesque beachside towns, dramatic craggy cliffs…the California coast has certainly captured the popular imagination. No wonder; it’s one of the most pleasant places in the world to live. But on the flip side, it also has some of the most expensive real estate in the world and a high cost of living.
How easy is it to adapt to life in a new country?” Well, the answer is going to be different depending on who you are and how adaptable you’re willing to be. I’m a planner by nature. You know, one of those people who likes to make lists, check things off, and know that all is going according to plan.
Writing for International Living over the years has inspired me to take a pretty hefty interest in all things related to retirement. And, having just celebrated my 60th birthday, that interest has sharpened. After all, moving abroad is one of the most intriguing ways to improve your retirement situation…or to lay the groundwork for an active, interesting, and affordable retirement if, like me, you find retirement rushing at you faster than ever.
What makes for a happy expat? This is something I think about often, because honestly…not everyone is cut out for the expat life. The rewards are tremendous and it’s a wonderful, life-changing experience, but there are challenges—and most are easy to get beyond. From my experience (and I’ve been an expat for 13 years now), those who thrive living overseas are those who are well prepared ahead of time. They’ve done lots of research and they know what they’re getting into. Overall, they have positive, optimistic perspectives about most everything…
Why would anyone move abroad? Truth be told, nobody would move abroad…if they were completely happy with everything about the place they currently lived. If everybody lived where the weather was perfect, the cost of living affordable, the taxes low, the health care quality high, the people friendly, the food and water clean, the crime rate no problem, the politics sane, and the culture and geography interesting enough to satisfy an adventurous spirit of discovery…nobody would move anywhere.