Living in Ecuador, It’s the “Little” Things That Create Huge Benefits

After six years of living in Cuenca, Ecuador, I’ve realized that I’m starting to take the “little” things here for granted. But each time my husband, Mark, and I return from the States after visiting our kids, it’s a crash course in never taking for granted what we have in Ecuador.

Here are a few of my favorite “little” things:

Roses galore. I fill every room in our condo with white roses. At $2.50 a dozen, I can splurge on what would be a luxury back in the U.S. White is my favorite color, but I never knew there were so many shades—crème, blush, white-white, pinkish white, greenish white, and pink and ice (to name a few). It used to be that my husband bought me roses for special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday. Not anymore. Every week is special.

The ability to walk everywhere. It’s only when we have to rent a car in the U.S. and drive miles and miles to get to a supermarket that we realize our ability to walk everywhere in Cuenca is one of the little things that makes living here so wonderful. We’ve lost and kept off 15 pounds, just by walking. And our cholesterol levels are normal and our blood pressure is the lowest it’s been in years. We live three blocks from the largest shopping mall and 20 minutes from El Centro (Old Town), so we can’t even imagine driving a car.

No need for a gym membership. Three days a week we climb the Turi steps to the Mirador (lookout over Cuenca). The 439 steps aren’t easy, but you’re guaranteed the best cardiovascular workout in town. Of course, there are those who run up the steps, but we just take it slow and at the top we’re rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in Cuenca. That combined with jogging the trails along the Yanuncay River, and we’re in the best shape we’ve been in since our 20s and 30s. In the U.S. we spent hundreds of dollars on a gym membership and today we pay nothing.

Manicures and pedicures. Recently, a friend who visited Cuenca commented on how neatly manicured everyone’s hands were. If you can enjoy a manicure for as little as $2.50, why not have one once a week? I do. Pedicures cost me $5, but I’m able to sit in a massage chair with a view of the Tomebamba River while I’m pampered for 45 minutes. In the U.S., I reserved manicures and pedicures for special occasions, like weddings. In Cuenca, I can indulge once a week and not feel guilty.

Spa days and massages. It wasn’t until my sister came to visit us in Cuenca and I took her to the spa at Piedra de Agua—20 minutes from our condo—that I realized how much I’ve taken this place for granted. We luxuriated in the thermal baths, enjoyed lunch in the glass-enclosed Libelula Restaurante in our fluffy orange robes, and waited for our names to be called for our 30-minute massage inside a cave made of volcanic rock. My sister reminded me that a similar experience would be at least $250 in California. Our cost: $25 per person. (Tip: On Tuesdays the second massage is half off.)

Mark and I retired at age 55 and it’s been the best decision of our lives in terms of quality of life, health, and happiness. The American author Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

For us, the little things in Cuenca are huge.

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