I sit listening to the soft sounds of nature and enjoying the lush green scenery of the little mountain town I now call home, reflecting on the best decision I ever made. It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since my wife Kathy and I, our daughter and our only grandchild (at that point in time) moved to Ecuador.
As we have discovered over the years, part of the experience of being an expat is regularly being asked by friends, family, and even people we just met how and why we moved to Ecuador.
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For us, it began one evening about 12 years ago. Kathy was watching a TV show about living in Ecuador. She turned to me and said “we should move to Ecuador.” That simple statement started the ball rolling in earnest.
It wasn’t the first time we had thought about the idea of living abroad. We were in our early/mid-fifties and tired of the hamster wheel of our current lifestyle. We were working all year to pay for the house, cars, boat, RV and the two- to four-week vacations each year with little time or energy left each day to actually enjoy our lives. Kathy kept saying we needed to “downsize and simplify.” We were burned out on the American Dream and began looking into an alternative lifestyle.
Hunting for Our New Home
We decided to take a leave of absence from our jobs and go somewhere exotic to unwind and really think about our future. That took us to Costa Rica for a month. We really enjoyed the atmosphere and culture. Even though we only knew about six words of Spanish, we thought Latin America might be a good option. Costa Rica was on the expensive side for our budget, so when we returned home, we began looking for other viable options. It was at that point Kathy saw the TV show and it piqued our interest in Ecuador.
We researched and learned a lot about this little country by the equator. Among the benefits that persuaded us:
- Ecuador has a substantially lower cost of living than the U.S. (about a half to a third of what you’d spend back home, depending on where you live)
- Ecuador uses the American dollar (so no money conversion to worry about)
- Ecuador has 110v power so all of our electronics and appliances work here
- Transportation is very inexpensive and readily available (buses, taxis etc.), so owning a car isn’t necessary
- While cars are more expensive in Ecuador because of import taxes, gas and diesel prices are substantially lower than in the U.S.
- Ecuadorians are very warm and welcoming people
- Housing prices can be a half to a third the cost of the U.S. (depending on location)
- Fresh produce is readily available at local farmers markets and is inexpensive
- Extremely affordable public and private healthcare options are available. You can get insurance from about $70 per month, and a visit to a general practitioner costs $20 to $35. The larger the city, the better quality of care options you have available.
With Ecuador in our minds as a prime destination possibility, we went on another month-long exploratory trip. After visiting the capital city of Quito, the small town of Cotacachi in the northern mountains, Cuenca in the south and some of the southern coastal communities, we were very much drawn to the laidback, quaint little town of Cotacachi.
Making the Move
A word of advice if you’re considering a move overseas. Be prepared to keep your expectations in check and remain flexible. Moving to a foreign country can be a complex process. There is a lot to think about and arrange. A lot of decisions need to be made about things you know little to nothing about. You will need to trust your instincts and listen to the advice of those who have done it before. You can get plenty of expert advice when you join me and almost 50 other move-overseas experts for IL‘s Retire Overseas Bootcamp-on-Demand right here.)
A lot of people will sell everything and leave with just suitcases. We sold our house in Las Vegas and opted to ship a 40ft container with the household goods we felt were essential to keep. We also brought three dogs, two cats, our daughter, and granddaughter.
We bought a house in Ecuador transferring six figures of cash to a bank account in Florida owned by the expat home owners, all the while putting our trust in an American real estate agent based in Ecuador, a container shipping agent and numerous other people along the way. It can be a stressful and even scary experience. But one that’s more than worth it.
The next thing we knew, after nearly a year of preparation, we were living in Ecuador!
Once the initial move and culture shock was over, adjusting to our new life in Ecuador became a fun and rewarding experience. We learned some Spanish, made a lot of new friends, both Ecuadorian and fellow expats. I started a videography business filming real estate videos which pay the local bills. Kathy has focused her time on her love of sewing and quilting while I am a musician and formed a classic rock band of other expats aptly named “Shades of Grey.”
The decision to move to Ecuador more than a decade ago couldn’t have worked out better for us. If you have the desire to live abroad,I say: Jump in with both feet like we did!
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