My favorite place to watch the beginning of a new day is on my rooftop terrace. Finishing the last of my tea, I watch the sun caress the surrounding mountain peaks. When I send photos to friends back in Minnesota they reply, “You look so relaxed and happy.” The pictures don’t lie.
I’m in Cotacachi, Ecuador, my adopted home located in a verdant valley two hours north of Quito. When I left Minnesota, I said goodbye to winter survival gear. With steady, year-round daytime temperatures in the low 70s F, Cotacachi offers an escape from the cold for people like me, and a respite from summer heat for folks from places like Texas and Florida. As Goldilocks discovered when she finally found the right place, each day feels “just right.”
My parental caregiving ended a few years ago and I resolved to explore more of the world while I was still young and healthy enough to enjoy it. Two former colleagues had moved to Cotacachi and invited me to come see their new home. During my visit, I immediately felt the draw of a fresh cultural adventure that offered a more relaxed lifestyle. I was already doing contractual work for healthcare clients and so it was easy to transfer my home office to my new home.
Now I conduct educational webinars several days a month. With my fast and reliable internet connection, I can easily maintain contact with my customers back in the U.S. That income, plus a monthly deposit from renting my condo in Minnesota, is enough to maintain a lifestyle I could only dream of a few years ago.
I rent my second-floor, two-bedroom, two-bathroom, furnished apartment for $400 a month. My favorite features are the rooftop garden and the small orchard behind the house. Limes and avocados grow just steps from my door. I’ve never had a green thumb so I appreciate receiving the bounty from my generous neighbors.
Moving here has given me time for creative pursuits. For years, my desire to write was put on the back burner. Now I have a regular column for a Minnesota newspaper, contrasting life abroad with life back home. I also sing Spanish songs and play with a local Ecuadorian band on weekends.
I take yoga classes for $5 and I also enjoy hiking. I often team up with my friend, Clare, who’s hobby is to discover the best local trails. Our favorite paths take us through nearby local indigenous communities where we encounter roosters, cows, and horses. It’s a good chance to practice our Spanish with the children and adults we meet along the way.
Of course, hiking builds up our appetites so treks are followed up with a visit to any one of several coffee shops for empanadas, pastries, or ice cream. When we stop in at our friend, Nubia’s shop, she offers tea, coffee, and empanadas as well as a song and an informal Spanish lesson.
I often opt for dinner at a café originally started by expats but purchased and now run by locals. Entrees cost between $4.50 and $6…and the friendly conversations that spontaneously erupt between tables are free.
If I need some “big city” conveniences, a 55-cent bus ride takes me to Ibarra, where a modern mall and supermarkets await. But I seldom need these. I find it’s much more fun to buy strawberries from the woman who sells them from her wheelbarrow in Cotacachi.
For years, my friends and I jokingly asked each other, “Are you happy now?” There is no need to ask any more…the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
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