It’s great to have step-by-step guides, especially for big and potentially complicated tasks.
Moving yourself out of your home country to a completely new and different culture…and language…certainly qualifies as a big and complicated task. It involves many more steps than just five, but considering only the preparatory phase—the phase before the actual move—here are five essential steps to take before you move to Ecuador.
1. Spend as Much Time in the Ecuador Location You’re Thinking About Moving to…BEFORE you Move.
You’d be amazed how many times expats move lock, stock, and barrel, to places they’ve never even been. And in the case of moving permanently, spending a week on vacation someplace is almost the equivalent of never having been there at all. If you move permanently to Cuenca or Vilcabamba or Salinas (all popular expat destinations in Ecuador) without having spent at least a month or two on the ground, you are essentially moving blind, no matter how much research you do or how much input you get from other expats. You need to see for yourself how you feel about a place when the vacation is over and you actually have to go through the motions of everyday living.
2. Make a Ruthless List of What you Can and Can’t Live Without.
Any way you cut it, Ecuador is going to be different from where you came from, and that will include a difference in the type and selection of goods and services you can get. Some people never think of this…until they can’t get their favorite brand of peanut butter or denture cleanser or are unable to order a pizza over the phone.
Then they can get dramatically unhappy.
If at all possible, take some time to sit down and make a list of everything you use in your daily life, right down to the brand of crackers you buy, the medicines you take, the fast food you eat, the laundry detergent you use. Then go back down the list and imagine your life if you couldn’t get that item. Of course, many of them—or reasonable replacements and substitutes—will be available in Ecuador. But which of these items would you be unable to accept a replacement or substitute for if you absolutely couldn’t get the real thing?
Those are your deal breakers. You need to be absolutely honest with yourself about them, because it doesn’t matter how small or silly or inconsequential they seem at first. If you can’t get them in Ecuador, and you can’t live without them, then you won’t be happy no matter where you are.
The expat blogs and Facebook pages devote a lot of space to these items—how to find them, how to work around them, how to get them brought or shipped to you, what other people go through when they can’t get them. Spend some time getting to know your own deal breakers.
3. Prepare Your Family and Friends.
Ask almost any expat what their families thought when they told them, “We’re moving to Ecuador,” and they’ll tell you, “They thought I was crazy.”
There’s not much you can do about that initial shock. Most people you know will never get a passport, much less seriously consider living outside the country, so their shock is natural.
But getting them involved with your planning process…introducing them to the destination, asking them to help you research visa and health issues, sharing blogs and travelogs from the place you plan to live and visit…will all lessen the shock and familiarize them with the concept and the destination. Your friends and family will be happier and more reassured, and you’ll probably get more visits from them once you move.
4. Get Your Finances in Order and Prepare to Access all Your Accounts Online.
These days, almost anything can be done online, from banking to investing to bill paying. No matter where you move in Ecuador, the chances are good that you will still have credit cards or bank accounts or other financial ties back home. The more of these you can manage electronically, the better. In many places in Ecuador, mail service is spotty at best, and international deliveries are spottier still. There are solutions available for the pickup and delivery of paper mail and packages, but if you can arrange things so that you can track all your financial transactions with the click of a mouse, the better off you’ll be.
5. Get Your Visa Ducks in a Row.
Most expats who move to Ecuador will want or need a residence visa sooner or later. Planning for it sooner is better than worrying about it later. There are several types of visas (and as much advice about how and when to get them). Generally, most expats have a much better visa experience if they line up a dependable visa facilitator or attorney in Ecuador before they move. This resource can help you determine exactly which visa is right for you and the documents you need to get from whom and when and how.
Visas are government documents, and governments are by nature bureaucratic—Ecuador is no exception. But with a little research and the right guidance, getting the proper visa in a timely manner should be no more difficult than any other part of the journey.
These five steps won’t apply to everyone, because everyone’s situation will be different. Entire books have been written on the topic. Some people will have experience in some of these steps and won’t need to consider them. Some people will have financial or personal or legal considerations that they themselves can’t anticipate or plan a step for in advance.
But if you can at least say that you’ve given serious thought to and, if necessary, taken each one of these steps, your transition to a new life in Ecuador will be much easier and more fulfilling.
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