From Burnt Out to Chilled Out in Cuenca, Ecuador

“This is the best thing I ever did—in so many ways,” Jim Evans says.

He’s talking about moving to Ecuador and opening a business. His small shop in the historic downtown district of Cuenca, Ecuador is close to the Concepcion Convent, an institution that traces its roots back to 1599.

The rhythm of life surrounding the convent is simple, unhurried, and low-stress—exactly what Jim was looking for when he relocated in December 2009.

Then in his late 30s, Jim was a burnt-out veteran of the real estate scene in California and Arizona. Along with his parents and sister, he wanted to find a new home with fewer headaches and more opportunities.

After researching several potential destinations, they chose Ecuador, feeling it offered them the best combination of business and lifestyle perks. They liked the climate, low cost of living, ready availability of high quality medical care, and the clear path to citizenship for interested expats.

Plus, they felt that Ecuador was going to provide them with the chance to start a new business on their own terms.

Sure enough, seven months after arriving, the family opened California Kitchen, a restaurant that was a mainstay of the expat community in Cuenca for the next four years.

At the end of 2013, Jim’s parents wanted to fully retire and travel. His sister was returning to the U.S.

“We sold the restaurant, and I took a few months off to figure out what I wanted to do next,” he says.

The one thing he knew for sure is that he wanted to stay in Cuenca.

“It’s much more chilled here, there’s a more ‘go-with-the-flow’ business culture,” says Jim.

Plus, thanks to all the friends and connections he’d made since moving, he felt like Cuenca had become his home. So he took his time choosing his next adventure…willing to wait for the right business opportunity. To his surprise, inspiration came from his personal life.

“I’d been a smoker for over 20 years—too long,” he admits. “I was starting to feel the health effects.”

Reading about e-cigarettes online, he decided to give them a try. His experiment turned into a business idea—open a shop selling e-cigarettes in Cuenca.

“It’s not expensive to open a business here—it just takes a little time to get all the paperwork sorted out. But it’s worth it to do it right,” says Jim. His shop, EcuaVapor, attracts buyers from all over Ecuador, and he’s enjoying the chance to be a pioneer in his niche.

“Ecuadorians are very excited by new products,” he says. “It’s fun to be on the forefront here.”

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