Five years ago, my husband David and I broke the news to our friends and family that we would be moving to Ecuador. We enjoyed much about our life in the States, but we didn’t like the high-pressure work environment and focus on consumerism. We longed to break out of the corporate rat race and have the chance to work for ourselves.
So we spent a lot of time researching Cotacachi, a small craft town in Ecuador’s Northern Andes that blends modern culture with age-old traditions.
We wanted to be within short distance of a large city (Quito) without actually living in a metropolis. We wanted the year-round moderate weather that’s on offer in the mountains—but also the option to travel just a few hours to the beach whenever we felt the urge for surf and sand. Cotacachi fit all those needs.
But when we told our loved ones we were moving, their reactions were not entirely positive. Because we were moving with our two children, they expressed a variety of concerns. Some wanted to know how we planned to ensure they received a decent education; others were certain we would emotionally damage them by taking them so far from extended family. Then there were those who could give no reason for being upset, yet they were.
We could understand their reactions. After all, David and I had spent hours upon hours researching our new home…while our loved ones had likely given little or no thought to this small South American country since high-school geography. In the end though, we knew we had to do it.
Fast forward to today and the naysayers have settled down considerably. In fact, it’s hard for them to be negative about our relocation when they see how it has benefited our entire family—more than any of us ever dreamed.
We’ve definitely left the consumerism of the States behind. We live well on just $1,400 a month without rent (we own our house). That includes utilities at around $40 a month for electric, gas, and water, and community dues of $40 a month. With two growing boys the bulk of our expenses come from food and clothing. Produce is quite cheap, meat is about the same as in the States, and imported items are more expensive.
Public transportation, though, is the biggest money saver. A taxi will take you anywhere in Cotacachi for $1.50 and a two-hour bus ride to Quito costs $2.50 per person.
But it’s the effect on our children’s lives that has been the most dramatic result of living here. In regards to schooling, there are decent schools here that provide the core educational necessities, but their education has far surpassed the basics.
There can be no educational substitute for real experience and our sons are receiving that in spades. At 12 and 14 years old, Jesse and Justin speak two languages fluently. In their short lives they have experienced life on the Pacific Coast, in the Andes Mountains with Ecuador’s indigenous population, and at the edge of the Amazon Basin. Being in Ecuador has also given us easy access to other Latin American countries. Nearby Bolivia, Colombia, and Panama have all given our sons educational experiences as well.
Everyday events inspire our children to learn about their new experiences, from researching what species of toucan stole our breakfast to what causes those earthquakes that periodically bounce us around.
Beyond that, our small town of Cotacachi contains both expat and Ecuadorian instructors in music, art, soccer (known here as futbol), dance, and foreign languages. Combine this with all of the technology we now have access to and our educational options far outreach what was available to us back in the States.
That’s not to mention the life lessons. Our first Christmas here, we passed out shoes and candy to preschool children in poor rural areas. We’ve volunteered with an animal rescue organization. And last year we assisted friends who were providing a relief effort for earthquake victims. The boys have learned not to take their good fortune for granted.
As for being removed from family, it can be hard at times. But with Skype and email we’re able to keep in touch, and some have even been able to come visit us.
Even better though, are all of the honorary family members that our children have gained since our arrival in Cotacachi. They’re thoroughly spoiled by retirees who treat them as their own grandchildren, are taken on day trips by “aunts and uncles”—and don’t even get me started on how much Ecuadorians love children! We have more “family” interaction now than we ever did in the States where our blood relatives were spread far apart.
We may not be able to put everyone’s mind at ease…but David and I are sure this is one of the best parenting decisions we’ve ever made.
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