“Here’s your lunch,” my neighbor Eloisa proudly proclaimed as she thrust a squawking, flapping mass of feathers into my arms. “How do you like to kill your chickens?” “Ummm, I don’t,” I replied. “I don’t like to kill my chickens!” She gave me a perplexed look and no doubt wondered how I had managed to survive all these years without knowing how to transform a live bird into a feast for my family. But she graciously took the knife, did the dirty deed, and walked me through the steps of cleaning, plucking, and finally cooking the bird in her wood-fire oven.
It was late in the evening...well after dark...and I had just finished up an interview in the countryside outside of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. The lodge where I was staying was also in the country, but on the opposite side of town. As I slid into the passenger seat of the taxi truck I hesitated, wondering if getting in was such a good idea. I am an adventure-loving traveler. But I'm also a product of a U.S. childhood in the '80s.
Who doesn’t love the chance to view exotic birds and mammals in the wild? Many people pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity to do just that with African Safaris or treks through Asian jungles. But here in Ecuador, where I’ve lived for four years, sightings of exceptional animals are commonplace. With Ecuador holding four main geographical regions (the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Basin, the Pacific Coast, and the Galapagos Islands) along with dozens of microclimates and pockets of unique ecosystems, the animal viewing can be spectacular.
''I initially came to Loja for the business opportunities, but what I like about it is that you're in one of the ten largest cities in Ecuador, but still close to nature with parks nearby,'' Darnell Dunn says, after he quit his job at Putnam Investments and left Boston for the small city of Loja. ''Also being one only of a few foreigners, you get the chance to integrate into the culture. And I get to know people and families on a personal level because of the small size of the city.''
Where do you envision yourself when you think of retirement? If you're like most folks, at some point you've probably daydreamed of spending your post-work years in a city full of culture, art, and history. A place where you could spend the morning strolling through carefully restored centuries-old buildings while gazing at their beauty. Every so often you'd stop to admire a grand cathedral or a stone-block church built in the Gothic style of architecture.
Deciding where to live in Ecuador can be a daunting yet exciting prospect. Though the country is only the size of Nevada, the choices in lifestyle are many. You’ll need to decide if you’re a beach bum, mountain lover, or maybe even a jungle dweller. Do you want to reside in a large metropolis, a small city, or a quaint village? Those are all important things to factor in to your decision and ones that only you can answer.
Last night I found myself in a quaint little restaurant surrounded by low wooden ceilings, heavy timber doors, hand-painted alcoves, and Beethoven's 9th playing softly in the background. The wait staff was perfectly attentive and my pizza perfectly topped with just the right amount of cheese and sauce.
“What do you do to stay busy?” It’s a question I am asked frequently about life in Ecuador. There seems to be a fear that once you arrive, get settled in, and explore a bit, you’ll run out of things to do and soul-sucking boredom will set in. But I don’t know a single expat who struggles to fill their time and here’s why. Aside from the day-to-day activities of life—grocery shopping, household chores, and paying bills—the country holds a myriad of ways to fuel your interests and keep you occupied.
The city of Medellin, Colombia is many things to many people. For some it is the “City of Eternal Spring” where the weather is always just right and the songbirds are hard at work in the flowers and trees that line the streets. For others, it is a city of innovation where local universities churn out award-winning projects and top-notch students. And for yet others, it’s a place of historical treasure with a past full of gold, colonialism, and a stunning recovery after decades of turmoil.
“Pereira is a small city with just about everything you could want from a large city—an airport, theaters, more shopping than you could ever need,” says Mollee Thermos. “But it’s still not as developed as Colombia’s bigger and more well-known cities of Medellin or Bogota and I like it because of that.”