Living a Relaxed Lifestyle in Cuenca, Ecuador

The photos in our digital picture frame needed updating. When I used the remote to activate the menu I discovered the battery was dead.

The battery is one of those thin coin-shaped ones, so yesterday I walked to a watch store downtown to get a replacement. Purchase accomplished, I came back home to continue my project.

Opening the bag I discovered that the new battery was slightly bigger and wouldn’t fit. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when this situation would have created, shall we say, a “reaction”…complete with a few expletives.

That was then; this is now. Instead I thought, “Well, shoot. These aren’t the same. I’ll go back after I hit the gym in the morning.”

I went to the gym, then walked 10 minutes to the store. It’s Saturday at 11.00 a.m. The store is closed.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when “reaction” would have been a gross understatement for what happened next.

“They’re closed? On a Saturday? I came all the way over here for nothing! What’s wrong with these people?”

That didn’t happen. Instead I said to myself, “Huh. They’re closed. That’s weird. Oh, well, I’ve been putting off this project for months anyway. I’ll come back Tuesday when I’m at the gym again.”

Why the change in attitude?

It’s because, for the last three years, I’ve lived in Cuenca, Ecuador.

During that period I’ve experienced a profound transformation in the way I approach life.

This beautiful mid-sized colonial city has a special magic to it. Shy vendors in our open mercados…a predictably comfortable temperate climate…locals relaxing by the Tomebamba River or in one of Cuenca’s lovely parks… There are so many aspects that gently encourage me to take a breath and enjoy the moment.

Immersed in a culture that celebrates today, time’s playing field narrows. Events seem to unfold more slowly. As I have allowed myself to relax into this unhurried rhythm of living I’ve learned to be more accepting and to just roll with the punches.

There has been no “a-ha” moment when a seismic shift in consciousness occurred. Gradually, far removed from a society that places a premium on stress and pressure, the sharp edges of judgment, frustration, and generally neurotic behavior have become smoother and less harmful to myself and others.

What’s interesting is I never even notice this change anymore until rare events like what I’ve described occur. Normally daily life ebbs along without dramatic highs and lows.

In truth my experience is not universal. There are expats who seem just as miserable here in Cuenca as where they came from. These tend to be the same people who somehow hope they’ve moved to a “cheap America,” and are disappointed to learn that all the bells and whistles of their previous life cannot be conveniently transported to little Ecuador.

When you move abroad I encourage you to be willing to embrace your new culture and let it work its magic. You may find, like I have, that a change in latitude can indeed change your attitude.

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