A Tranquil Life and New Perspective Living in Cuenca

It’s been three-and-a-half years since my wife, Rita, and I moved to Cuenca, Ecuador…and in those years we’ve experienced things that would have taken a lifetime to accomplish living back in the U.S.

In early 2012, we decided to retire early. Our life in New Mexico was similar to most: hectic, stressful, and costly, with little time for the things we wished we could do. After many discussions about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to do them, we signed up to International Living and began researching.

Having considered Belize, Nicaragua, and Panama, we decided we liked the sound of Ecuador. So in June 2012, we arranged a two-week exploratory trip. This trip was to be informative but we decided to make it an adventure. We made the conscious decision to accept whatever came our way, be completely flexible, not judge anything and not compare Ecuador to the United States. This was the best decision we could have made and it continues to serve us well today.

We traveled all around Ecuador looking for our perfect place and settled on Cuenca because it simply felt right…and the cultural events like free symphonies, great art galleries, wonderful restaurants were a big draw.

Ecuador is an environmentally rich country and is geologically diverse. But what really stands out about Ecuador are its people. The country is steeped in history and culture and it’s this culture that permeates every nuance of life here.

We find life in Cuenca to be tranquil. Stress is self-imposed and living costs are less than half of we were paying in the U.S. We rent a 2,500-square-foot home on the Tomebamba River for $700 a month. Our monthly electric bills are $80 per month, water is $13 a month and gas (we use propane) costs $5 per month…compare these with your own utility costs. A big difference, right?

We shop at the local market for organic fruits and vegetables instead of at the supermarket as the prices are more reasonable. We can buy five avocados for $1, mangoes for the same price, pineapples are 85 cents each (I used to pay $3.95 for them in the U.S.).

Cuenca, Ecuador
Noel and Rita shop at the local market in Cuenca, where prices are reasonable for organic fruits and vegetables.

Medical and dental services are equally inexpensive. I experienced a 100% blocked coronary artery and underwent an angiogram, angioplasty, and a coronary stent implant. The total cost for three days in the hospital, medications, food, the surgery, and visits from four doctors twice a day was $8,000. It would have cost more than $50,000 in the U.S. My wife had nine dental fillings replaced and the total cost was $250. If she had gotten that done in the U.S. it would have cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

Is Ecuador perfect? Of course not, but neither is the U.S. or any country for that matter. Life is what you make it and we have embraced the adventure and culture of Ecuador.

Sure, living in a country where the culture and language are different takes getting used to. It requires giving up preconceptions of “Why can’t you do it the way we do it in our country?” because now Ecuador, is now our country. We didn’t come to Ecuador to transplant the United States; we came here to experience another culture.

It’s amazing to realize just how different your life can become after shedding some old habits and ways of thinking.

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