Moving to the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley has allowed Maureen Santucci, 55, to do what she loves while surrounded by rich farmland bordered by towering mountains. For almost a decade, she has been practicing acupuncture and massage in the picturesque town of Urubamba, located less than an hour’s drive from Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire.
“I came in January 2008 as a tourist. I basically fell in love with the mountains. It just felt like home. I came back in May, came back in October, and moved here in November…all in the same year.
Originally from Los Angeles, Maureen worked in marketing and promotion and then did freelance graphic production. Her career path took a different turn when she obtained a Masters in Chinese Medicine.
“I was practicing massage in L.A. for seven years and acupuncture for four or five years before I moved here. I now have a practice here. I also took a job as a travel agent when I first moved here because I knew it would take time to get a practice going. So now I have a travel agency, my practice, and I do Fodors Travel Guide updates every two years,” she says.
Maureen lived in Cusco for six years and has been in Urubamba for the last three. She was working out of one room in her home but recently opened a new location in the center of town. She pays a total of $800 per month for her space, including four large rooms, two bathrooms, and a storage area.
With its small population of less than 3,000, Urubamba is still the largest town in the valley. People are attracted to its location near the Urubamba River under the snow-capped mountain Chicón. It is also located near a number of significant Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu.
“The thing I love here is that this is a living town, not a tourist town. Where I live, I can walk down to the center in 15 minutes. For me that is the perfect combination. Without a doubt, this would be my favorite place to live in the valley, especially living alone.
“I can easily come down and see people, and get something to eat, and we have the biggest marketplace as well. People from outlying areas come here every week to get supplies. People have to think about what is important to them, how they want to live, and what are their day-to-day priorities.
Peru is a cheap place to live and Urubamba is no exception. Rents vary greatly depending on where you are in the valley and the kind of place you have. “I have a huge house. I’m paying less than $500 a month, so I am not complaining.
“For two- to four-bedroom houses, you’ll see things from $500, up to $800 per month for six bedrooms. But if you go off to some small community you’ll probably pay much less.”
“When I first came here, I didn’t know any better and I took a job at a travel agency that was paying me Peruvian wages…$230 a month. I could have been making $1,000.
“But now I can go out to the nicest restaurant in town…and that is one of the attractions of Peru. If you want to, or have to, you can live so cheaply. You can get places to rent for $150 per month and eat from the local menu.
Maureen believes that Peru is a great place for budding expat entrepreneurs. “If you understand business and marketing, and foreigners, there’s so much opportunity,” she says.
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