Most mornings Chuck and Kathy Baumgarten can be found leisurely sipping coffee and enjoying the sunrise from their porch. It’s easy to see why if you visit their home. They have one of the most scenic vistas in all of Ecuador. Mount Imbabura seems to rise from their backyard. A 180-degree turn showcases Mount Cotacachi’s golden-hour glow. All the while the market town of Otavalo is nestled beneath them in the valley below.
Life for the Baumgartens in Ecuador’s northern Andes is quite different than what it was just a few years ago. At one time Chuck owned and operated several award-winning restaurants in the Seattle area. He eventually moved on to a less stressful career as a welding instructor and inspector. But even this line of work left him little time for pursuing his other interests.
“After 49 years of work, I realized that my chances of retiring were slim to none,” says Chuck. Not one to watch his retirement dreams fade away, Chuck spent seven years researching the possibility of living abroad. While several Latin American countries appealed to the couple, Ecuador continually rose to the top. The moderate climate, low cost of living, welcoming attitude towards foreigners, and use of U.S. currency were all factors that gave Ecuador an edge.
Once in Ecuador, Chuck and Kathy set about transitioning into their newly chosen home. They quickly found much to love. The biggest advantage was that they can afford to be retired. They no longer need to spend their days battling rush hour traffic and participating in the American rat race.
“We live on $1,400 a month,” says Chuck. This includes rent for their two bedroom, 1,300-square-foot house, utilities, transportation, food and drink, and entertainment. With the ability to live comfortably on a fraction of what would be needed back in the U.S., they now have time for all those things they once wanted to do.
“We volunteer on Fridays at the Pan de Cielo soup kitchen in nearby Cotacachi.
“We also spent a lot of time helping organize and working at a large fundraiser for the soup kitchen,” says Chuck.
Chuck also finds time to experiment with local ingredients. “We don’t eat 100% organically, but we do eat much better here,” he explains. In fact in addition to having time and space to do some of their own gardening, Chuck has taken over caring for the long-neglected bee hives on their property. And he’s got plenty of all-natural honey to show for his efforts.
Though the couple is comfortable living in a rural setting with local Ecuadorians for friends and neighbors, they do like to meet up with fellow expats now and then. As Kathy says, “It can be a comfort to talk with other English speakers who are going through the same experience. And it’s easier to find like-minded people here than back home because it takes a similar mentality to move abroad,” adds Chuck.
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