“Ecuador is amazing,” says expat Laura Zabroski. “We were so surprised during our exploratory trip here. We had all these preconceived ideas about Ecuador that were completely inaccurate.”
Her husband, Doug, agrees. “We wanted a safe place to raise a family with good schools, excellent and affordable healthcare, drinkable water, healthy food, fiber internet, affordable housing, a lower cost of living, and friendly people. We found all of that in Cuenca.”
“Ecuador is still a big unknown to many,” says Laura. “Many of our friends regarded this as a ‘dangerous’ move. But we feel very safe here. In the U.S., we’d had a break-in and several expensive thefts. We take precautions, of course, but we haven’t had any of that here.”
Nestled high in Ecuador’s Andes, picturesque Cuenca has walkable neighborhoods, a rich artistic tradition, and beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture. And with high-speed internet available throughout the city, the Zabroskis were able to easily bring their online video production business with them.
The Zabroskis and their two daughters live in a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom penthouse condo they rent for $750 a month. “You can easily spend less on housing,” Laura says. “We needed a larger place and I wanted a guestroom as well. Our unit has two floors, a large wrap-around terrace, two parking spaces, and a small storage unit. We have access to an exercise room. We’re just a block from the river, and have an amazing 180-degree view of the city.”
Despite their large home, their gas bill runs around $3 monthly, while water is only $10 a month. They use more electricity than most—as a family of four with two home offices—but their average monthly electrical bill still runs around $95.
“We’re living in a larger place than we had in the States and still saving hundreds of dollars a month,” says Laura. “And I love our neighborhood. We’re within walking distance of a large grocery store, the biggest mercado (market) in the city, salons, banks, and convenience stores. Yet we live on a quiet street.”
“It still amazes us just how quiet a city of 500,000 can actually be at times,” says Doug.
The family enjoys spending time by the riverbanks of Cuenca’s four rivers, which have been transformed in recent years into parks with jogging trails, play equipment for children, and even exercise areas. But Doug and Laura agree that the best part of living in this city has been the people.
“Our circle of friends is much larger here than what we’re used to, and it’s wonderful,” says Laura. “We have friends now from many different countries, and we run into them frequently in our day-to-day lives. And we’ve met and made friends with local folks that would literally give the shirt off their backs to help us.”
“Recently, we were returning to Ecuador after a visit to the U.S. Going through customs, the agent looked at my passport, saw my permanent residence visa, and said, ‘Welcome home.’ It was such a neat moment. We really do feel as though we’ve come home.”