Escaping the 9-to-5 Grind in Tropical Ecuador

“The very fact of being in Cuenca, Ecuador, sparks my creativity,” says Kelly Mitchell. “I love its unique historical beauty and peaceful way of living. Being able to slow down and enjoy life is such a blessing.”

Kelly arrived in Cuenca in 2015 from the Baltimore/DC area, where she worked for a local nonprofit. “Now, as a freelance writer and blogger, Ecuador has given me a whole new topic to write about.” And the “wow” factor of her new home still hasn’t worn off. “Most of my work is on the subject of traveling in Ecuador or living abroad,” says Kelly. “Sometimes I can’t believe I’m really here. I love going to the market to buy fresh, affordable produce, and the flower market is absolutely divine. There’s always something to do or see, whether it’s in town or traveling.”

Kelly calls herself a “café hopper.” She readily admits that she needs to switch up her environment every few hours to gain inspiration, and hopping from cafe to cafe is no problem in Cuenca—given that there are so many charming sidewalk cafes and bistros in El Centro (the historic city center). “I divide my time between Nucallacta; Melatte, with its lovely outdoor patio; San Sebas; Windhorse; and Goza—depending on the time of day and my mood,” says Kelly. “I live in El Centro, so it’s super easy to get around to all the cafés.”

One of the biggest shocks for Kelly was how to manage her time. “I went from graduating with my masters and working two jobs, to having zero plans,” says Kelly. “I had to re-learn the concept of free time and how to use it.”

Cuenca made it easy for her to adjust. Rents in El Centro can range anywhere from $300 for a one bedroom, to $500 or more for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom luxury apartment. One of the biggest attractions to living in the heart of the city is having everything at your fingertips, and for investment purposes it’s a safe bet—especially when the tranvía (electric train) begins its routes into the city next year. “The cost of living in Cuenca is very low, between rents and utilities,” says Kelly. “And I’ve been so fortunate to have wonderful landlords that take such good care of me.”

Kelly has a bucket list of things she’d like to do in Ecuador, and she’s off to a great start. “I ran the 15km Ruta del Hielero up the Chimborazo Volcano, jumped off a bridge, and have gone on Amazon treks,” says Kelly. “We have the sierras, the coast, and the Amazon within a few hours of Cuenca so there are limitless possibilities.”

With her boyfriend, Eduardo, and their Royal Enfield motorcycle, Kelly is looking forward to exploring the many gems Ecuador has to offer. “For now, I have no plans, but to live a beautiful, adventurous life in Ecuador.”

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