“I love the relaxed pace of life in Cuenca,” says Aubree Sorteberg. Having lived in Cuenca since 2013, Aubree still finds the laidback way of living to be the most endearing quality of this city, located in the heart of the Andean mountains, with four rivers traversing through it, and a UNESCO World Heritage designation to its name.
Aubree arrived in Cuenca four years ago from Colorado, where she worked as the director of an after-school program in a local elementary school. “Now my days are spent doing what I enjoy the most: teaching yoga,” says Aubree. “I have a yoga studio with five other teachers, where we hold classes during the week, host retreats on weekends, and teach private lessons in the homes of clients who can’t make it to the studio,” explains Aubree.
“My apartment has a retreat-like feel to it,” she says. With its panoramic views of the verdant Andes mountains from the living room, and the iconic blue domes of the Nueva Catedral (New Cathedral) from the kitchen—complete with wooden beams and hardwood floors—it’s truly a haven.
The cost of Aubree’s idyllic, two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment (including utilities) is just $400 a month, and it’s only a few blocks from the picturesque Yanuncay River with its linear trails shaded by an abundance of eucalyptus trees—perfect for biking, walking, or jogging.
“I still can’t get over the easy access to affordable healthy food, and the free time that I have to prepare it,” says Aubree. Like so many of the 5,000 plus expats living in Cuenca, she finds that the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables—for pennies on the dollar—is one of the greatest perks of living in Ecuador. Aubree shops for produce at one of the local mercados (markets), where she’s rewarded with una yapa (a little something extra or free gift) for dealing with the same person for years.
“The overall low cost of living (rent, utilities, food, affordable healthcare, and inexpensive public transportation) makes life in Cuenca relatively stress free,” says Aubree. Utilities run $25 to $30 a month; gas is $1.48 per gallon; a taxi ride is $1.50 to $2.00 most places around town; and food is between $40 and $50 a week, eating a simple plant-based diet and buying from the local markets. The average cost of a doctor’s visit is $25 to $30, and the follow-up visit is always free. “That’s less than a co-pay in the States,” explains Aubree.
Aubree’s healthy lifestyle shows, as she’s lost 25 pounds since arriving in Cuenca—an unexpected and delightful “side-effect” of an active life filled with nutritious fruits and vegetables, coupled with high-altitude living. Aubree owns a motor scooter that she uses to get around town, but she prefers walking or riding her bike, as spring-like temperatures (low 50s F and high 70s F) year-round make it enjoyable to be outside and connected with nature.
Although Aubree hasn’t used her snowboard once since coming to Cuenca, she fills her adventurous spirit with mountain biking, hiking, and camping in the Cajas National Park. Just a 40-minute drive outside the city limits of Cuenca, the park has more than 200 lakes, and hiking trails up to 14,000 feet, with an abundance of majestic overlooks. With such natural beauty in her backyard, she hardly misses Colorado at all.
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