“I Moved to Ecuador and Escaped the Stress of the U.S.”

I savor the days that I can work completely from home,” says Carolyn Hamilton. “Now that I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, I can completely indulge my personal creativity and that’s a great plus for me at this time in my life.”

Carolyn arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador in February, 2012, and unlike most expats, she didn’t pay a preliminary visit to her prospective new home before she settled there. “Instead, I checked out Ecuador online and just moved,” Carolyn confesses. “I had an International Living subscription for years. I had also lived abroad before, so I had a pretty good idea how life would be in Cuenca. I came with an attitude that it was going to be great—and now it is,” says Carolyn.

Before moving, Carolyn worked for three decades as a marketing executive and copywriter. But with the move to Cuenca she was able to leave the stress of the “Mad Men” world behind and take all of her creative genius with her. Now, she works from the comfort of her modern apartment—complete with a view of the verdant Andes mountains.

Carolyn’s new stress-free life leaves her with a lot of energy she never had in her previous job, which she can now pour into her creative endeavors as a freelance journalist, a success coach for memoir writers, and an art teacher. “What I like most about the classes that I teach is making new friends with creative ideas,” says Carolyn. “And many of them return for other classes, so some of my favorites are repeats.”

It’s hard not to fall in love with Cuenca given the cost of living, the low rent, the temperate climate (low 50s F and high 70s F), the friendliness of the Ecuadorian people, the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables ($10 from the local mercado lasts a week), the variety of restaurants, the free concerts, the excellent health care ($20 to $30 for a doctor’s visit), and the perks for seniors—like discounts for travel and reimbursement of IVA (value added) tax.

A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in an upscale neighborhood in Cuenca will set you back about $500 to $700 a month (furnished). “I’m within walking distance of shops, the bank, my doctor, and a variety of great restaurants in the Remigio Crespo area,” explains Carolyn. Like most expats in Cuenca, Carolyn doesn’t need a car and relies on walking, public transportation (25-cent bus rides), and the ubiquitous yellow taxis ($2.50 will take you to most places around town).

Although Cuenca, Ecuador turned out to be how Carolyn had imagined, there have been a few surprises. “In retrospect, I saw myself interacting more on a personal basis with Ecuadorians rather than expats. And while I’ve made great Ecuadorian friends, I have also made many more wonderful gringo friends than I would have expected,” explains Carolyn.

“I came to Cuenca at just the right time in my life,” says Carolyn. “And I think things tend to work out just as well for a lot of expats who come here.

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