”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.”
His business specializes in helping newcomers find homes to buy or rent, and directing clients to shipping specialists, legal experts, bankers, and visa facilitators.
Though Loja is not too far from Cuenca, the weather is warmer on average with more sunshine. This makes it easy for residents to enjoy the many outdoor activities. ”There are a lot of cool hikes, mountain biking opportunities, soccer stadiums, and outdoor concerts every Thursday.”
”Loja is the country’s ninth largest city,” says Darnell ”but it has more of a large-town feel. There’s no real night life and the restaurants are limited. But I can’t think of a better place to live for families. The lifestyle’s not as fast-paced and parents take their kids to school and pick them up in the afternoon. There are great parks, sports, and a nice river walk.”
In one of Loja’s most coveted neighborhoods three-bedroom penthouses in brand-new buildings can be bought for just $125,000. Or, you can find three-bedroom condos for sale just minutes from Loja’s el centro district for $134,000.
Even with all of the benefits of life in Loja, Darnell did struggle with the adjustment to a degree. He didn’t know any Spanish when he came down. With some online help, a few verb books, and plenty of practice, he’s now fluent. He also has trouble finding size 11 shoes and the slow pace of life took some time to settle into.
But despite the few bumps he’s happy. ”I couldn’t be any happier with the decision I made. I feel that going through the challenges made me a better and more capable person. I wouldn’t go back home for all the money in the world and I’ll be in South America for the rest of my life. South America has more business opportunities and I’m happy with the quality of life, the friends I’ve made, and the experiences.”
An added bonus is that this lifestyle is very affordable. Darnell rents a two-bedroom apartment in a newer building for just $350 per month. A similar setup back home in Boston would run between $1,250 and $1,375. He spends $50 to $60 on groceries per week and finds it ”hard to spend more than $10 on eating out anywhere in the city.”
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