The Adventure of a Lifetime: A Dream Retirement in Ecuador

I often catch myself being taken aback by the stunning view of the Pacific that greets me from every western-facing window of my home in San Vicente, Ecuador.

I don’t know exactly why I still experience a flash of surprise at the sight at this point. Maybe it’s because less than two years ago, such a thing was merely a dream.

Like so many when the Great Recession struck, my husband and I were struggling to maintain the lifestyle we had built over the years. When he had his second heart attack, and then lost his job, our modest nest egg was shrinking fast, along with our hopes for a comfortable retirement.

That heart attack changed how I viewed things. With it, came a real sense of just how precious life is, and how easily and suddenly it can slip away. I knew the stress we were under was the worst thing for my husband’s health, and I just really wanted him to get the opportunity he so deserved to slow down and enjoy his life while he still could.

That’s when Donald stumbled across an article about retiring in Ecuador, and a whole new plan emerged.

Rather than facing the bleak prospect of endless work and constant financial stress, we opted for a warm climate, affordable living, and the greatest adventure of our lives. As the idea that we could eliminate financial stress while exploring a new country and a new culture took shape, fear and anxiety gave way to relief and excitement.

As the plan to relocate to Ecuador took shape, I felt like we had pulled off some kind of caper—like we had found a brilliant way to win at a game that was rigged against us. I never really had much trepidation about the move; I was just so excited and grateful to have found a better way to live.

When we made the move, I came to San Vicente with few defined expectations, a healthy sense of adventure, and an open mind.

Turns out, those were exactly the attributes I needed to not only adjust to life in this sleepy seaside town, but to embrace it. Arriving here with rudimentary Spanish skills and only vacation experiences in Latin America, an open mind may have been the most important thing I brought with me.

As I learned the ropes, the practical concerns of figuring out where to buy milk and bread, paying the electric bill, and ordering a meal in Spanish gave way to the larger questions of constructing a life that not only satisfies but fulfills. Eighteen months down the path, that’s exactly what I have. In San Vicente, it’s been easy to create a balance of activity and tranquility…small indulgences and simple living…the familiar and the exotic.

Among the indulgences, I count having a housekeeper as one of the great treats of living where such a thing is affordable. $3 manicures are another. On the exotic side, living among the locals has exposed me to their friendly, quirky culture, and compelled me to improve my Spanish as well.

Retirement here has afforded me the opportunity to be as active as I like. I volunteer in a local school, play tennis several times a week, and yet still have the time to walk the beach with my dogs or take a nap in the afternoon.

And when I’m hankering after more familiar things, I have access to U.S. television and a sizeable expat community just 10 minutes away in Bahia.

The simplicity of life in San Vicente has taught me to focus on the present moment and to really appreciate the best things in life: the taste of the fresh fruit, the smiles of the people I encounter every day, and the beauty of the world outside my window.

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