Our tumble from a very nice, safe, and secure middle-class life began when my second heart attack struck in 2009—right in the middle of a global financial crisis. I lost my upper-level management position and the health insurance that came with it. Try as I might, I was unable to find a good job for the first time in my life. I was unemployed, uninsured, and recovering from a serious heart attack with ongoing medical expenses every week. I did what work I could find, but my earnings combined with those from my wife Diane’s job barely managed to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.
We were sitting in a rustic beach bar in the small town of Puerto Morelos on Mexican's Mayan Riviera sampling what the bartender promised was the best margarita in town. The temperature was about 85 F and the ever-present sea breeze was wafting in from the Caribbean. Shore birds were circling overhead in a cloudless blue sky.
I was accidentally napping (it happens sometimes) in my favorite chair in the den when I was awakened by the loud, unmistakable lowing of a cow. It was the local milkman announcing his arrival with an amplified recording. In just a few minutes, we received our delivery of milk and cheese from his specially equipped motorcycle and cart. Other vendors regularly wind their way through our middle-class Mexican neighborhood selling fruits, vegetables, prepared food, bottled water, and even pots and pans. It is not only charming, it is convenient.
The place was packed; festive and noisy with a funky, thumping rhythm adding to the party atmosphere. It was a mixed crowd—some retired gringos along with a younger North American group accounted for about 60% with the rest a mix of European travelers and locals. Everyone was having a great time. My wife Diane and I were fortunate to snag a table. At the very moment a group stood to leave, I moved quickly to claim the space.
With the divisive and toxic nature of U.S. politics these days and the associated economic impact, I understand those who might wonder about our motivation for packing a few suitcases and moving to Ecuador’s coast nearly 18 months ago. While politics and the economy had definitely impacted our lives, our reasons for seeking a life outside the United States had nothing to do with political disagreement.
On Tuesday, I will open my Ecuadorian bank account. No big deal; just a savings account with an ATM card. So, why am I so excited? When we arrived in San Vicente, Ecuador nearly 18 months ago, my wife Diane and I were as prepared as we were able to be, which is to say: we had a lot to learn! We had done our best to get ready for our transition, while attending to the myriad tasks necessary when making an international move.
For us, the daily grind in the States had begun to require too much work for too little reward. Expenses were rising and both my wife and I had reached a level of dissatisfaction with our careers. It was time for a major change. It was time to slow down, work less, and enjoy more of life! This would not happen by accident. We made a plan. After some months of research, Ecuador emerged as the location for our next chapter. Having spent many years in Alaska...
Our journey to Ecuador started a few years ago. First the bottom fell out of the U.S. economy...and the equity in our home vanished in a few months. Then I had my second heart attack and lost my job—just about the time that retirement was looming.