While most people in Canada are bundling up against the cold right now…and preparing for or enduring heavy snowfall and treacherous ice…Canadians Brian and Janette Sullivan are enjoying the temperate, weather of Cotacachi, Ecuador. A little village located between two volcanoes in the Andes, Cotacachi has such a moderate climate that it enjoys year-round average daily temperatures of 70 F and 50 F at night. That’s just one of the ways that life is easier in Cotacachi…and Janette and Brian are taking advantage of all it has to offer.
Here at International Living, we tell stories about the world nobody else tells. When somebody asks me what we do, that’s what I say first. I say it because most folks carry around a worldview forged by the news they read. The headlines scream war and catastrophe…politics and disease. But calamity gets outsized attention. Our news comes to us through a mainstream media lens and it’s filtered by a measure of superiority. What you realize, though, once you pick up your passport and get on a plane, is that beyond our borders there exists a whole other world that the shock-seeking headlines ignore.
The enticing smell of bratwurst and gingerbread wafts through the city. Everywhere you’ll see stalls adorned with medieval regalia and in the old quarter you’ll find an old-fashioned carousel. Welcome to Nuremburg, home to Germany’s most famous Christmas market. It lasts until December 24. While northern Europe might be caked in snow throughout much of December, in the southern hemisphere summer is in full swing. Head Down Under to soak up some rays at Australia’s National Cherry Festival, which takes place from December 5 to 7 in the town of Young in New South Wales.
Oil prices have fallen hard this year. The same thing happened in the first half of last year due to soaring production. The reasons for the decline in price are fourfold. Last year, U.S. production rose to its highest levels since the 1990s. Furthermore, OPEC saw its production leap to a nearly two-year high in September, averaging 30.96 million bpd (barrels per day). Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has cut its global oil growth forecasts for 2015 as a result of second quarter consumption sliding to a 2.5-year low.
Bill Schuler spent a good 20 years working as a tech consultant in and around Minnesota’s twin cities. After devoting much of his life to his career and dealing with frigid Midwestern winters, Bill decided it was time for a change. In July 2012 he left his U.S. home and planted his feet in Ecuador. “I love mountains and was looking for that type of environment, and I was getting pretty tired of the cold winters,” says Bill. These days he doesn’t need a snow shovel, and his life of retirement in the northern Andes gives him just what he was looking for. He has daily views of majestic volcanoes, with a rocky river running through the gully below his house. Snow is nowhere to be found.
Ecuador offers sophisticated historical cities…miles of unspoiled, sun-kissed beaches…fertile farmland…and temperate mountain hideaways…and all of it for pennies on the dollar. You can live well for a fraction of the cost of living back in the U.S. And with Ecuador’s official currency the U.S. dollar, you needn’t worry about currency calculations or exchange risks. And real estate costs? They’re among the lowest we’ve found anywhere in the world.
A view, good-value real estate, low cost of living, friendly locals…they’re all important as you search for a new community to settle in abroad. But if you have a green thumb, you may have some special requirements for your dream home. You’ll need good soil and the right light. Maybe you want multiple growing seasons, which is possible in some tropical areas.
I’ve just returned to Ecuador from a two week spell in the U.S. and I’m still processing the experience. It was fabulous to see family again and connect with co-workers, but my time there was not quite as I expected. This was my first time back in three years and prior to my trip I kept thinking to myself that I was “going home.” But as it turns out I wasn’t as at home back in my mother country as I had imagined.
Better weather and a low cost of living makes Ecuador a great option for retirement, and recent improvements to the immigration process now makes it even easier to gain residence in Ecuador. Ecuadorian lawyer Santiago Andrade says: “President Correa’s administration has improved many of the bureaucratic processes, and business and immigration is not the exemption to this change. I have seen an improvement in the timing of the residence visa process. In the past a visa took around 30 to 45 days to be approved; now it takes two to three weeks.”
Although my wife and I have spent 13 weeks of 2013 in Ecuador, and this Sunday celebrated our tenth month as full-time residents of the beachfront town of Salinas, we still from time to time experience “pinch me” moments where we can’t believe this is our life. Take, for example, last evening when we took a stroll down the brick walkway along the beach. It was about 6 p.m., so the sun was not quite down yet and there was a red glow to the western skies. Although it is November and back on the eastern seaboard in the States it was windy and cold, here in Salinas it was just under 74 F with a cool ocean breeze.
Before my wife, Cynthia, and I relocated to Cuenca, Ecuador from the U.S, we made an exploratory trip. Even though only a few years previously, we had never even heard of Cuenca, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. The city more than lived up to its UNESCO World Heritage designation with carefully preserved colonial architecture throughout the historic district. Plus while there we were thrilled to attend a free outdoor symphony concert. That’s right—free!
Ecuador offers the world’s best climate choices in its four distinct regions, from Amazonian rainforests in the east (El Oriente) to warm coastal lowlands (La Costa) in the west and the Galapagos Islands, 600 miles offshore. The Andes Mountains cut right down the middle of the country from north to south, and in this La Sierra region you’ll find the temperate weather patterns that give Ecuador its status as the “Land of Eternal Spring.”
Expats have flocked to Cuenca, Ecuador in recent years for its great weather, low cost of living, and excellent health care. But most people aren’t aware until they arrive here that my hometown boasts five universities. And because Cuencanos speak what is recognized as the purest Spanish outside of Spain, we also have many Spanish language schools attracting study abroad students from all over the world. Great university towns are known as cultural hubs and artistic centers with a fun, vibrant atmosphere, and Cuenca is no exception. No, you won’t find wild tailgating parties happening during the fall—they play that “other kind” of football here.
With good, fresh food, more exercise, and clean air, expats say they live a healthier lifestyle overseas and it’s easy to do so. Americans Denver Gray and his wife Ann moved to the beach town of Salinas, Ecuador in March of 2013. “After we bought our condo, we came to Salinas for five weeks to set things up,” says Gray. “Some interesting things happened during those five weeks. Without any deliberate attempts to change our diet or lifestyle, my wife and I each lost 10 pounds.”
The colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador, draws vacationers from all over the world…and it has a tendency to turn visitors into permanent residents. That’s what happened to me four years ago. My three-month visit turned into a six-month stay…Then a year passed and I still hadn’t left. Cuenca has become home. I’ve been to some great places in the world and have loved them—places like Spain, Italy, or even Argentina. So why do I stay in Cuenca when there are so many other great places I could be living? Well, there are three big reasons I keep staying (and staying and staying).
Like many other folks thinking about moving abroad, my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I thought we knew what we wanted. A tropical beach, of course. During our lives we’d spent incredible days of vacation swinging in hammocks on palm-studded beaches, basking in the sun, and listening to the waves breaking out on some reef.
“How much does it cost to live in Ecuador?” That’s a question I hear a lot from readers. From masses of anecdotal evidence and my own experience of living here, I can safely say that a typical couple will most likely spend somewhere between $1,600 and $2,400 a month to live in Ecuador. But what you will spend depends very much on your own needs and wants.
There are many reasons why people choose to move from the U.S. to sunnier climes abroad. Often, it’s for health reasons…sometimes for pure economic necessity—stretching retirement dollars as far as possible. But my wife Ann and I are fortunate enough that we are here in Salinas, Ecuador just because we want to be. We met in 2009…and quickly knew we wanted a new adventure overseas. Both widowed and with our adult children all married and raising their own children we figured life is precious; why not try to do something a little different?
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.
Getting into retail without having to invest in stock is a great way to cut down on your initial investment and more quickly make a profit. And it can be very easy. Consignment shopping fits right into that mold. And, as a very American concept, there’s not a lot of competition for it in other parts of the world. If you’re gathering what others don’t want—and finding a market for it—you have a good business model for short-term or long-term retailing. Essentially, with a consignment store you offer a space for others to sell their items in exchange for a cut of the money when the product sells.
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.