No More Keeping Up with the Joneses in Ecuador

One of the greatest things about life in Cuenca, Ecuador is that my husband Mark and I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses anymore. You know…that imaginary couple that you thought you had to keep pace with in terms of jobs, houses, cars, and stuff.

Thankfully, the Joneses don’t exist in Cuenca.

Instead, we just keep up with ourselves and our carefree lifestyle. No more mortgage (we bought our condo three years ago); no more yard to mow or garden to weed; no more car payments; and no more standard of living you thought you had to keep up with in order to fit in with your neighbors.

We have the freedom to come and go as we please with 24-hour security in our building; we just lock the door and leave. Maintenance is taken care of by our HOA fees ($56 a month), which includes two full-time guards. We just get to enjoy life in the colonial city of Cuenca with its cobblestone streets, Old World charm, and endless variety of international restaurants.

We don’t have time to take care of a house and a yard; we’re too busy keeping up with our social life, which was non-existent in the States because we were too busy keeping up with the Joneses.

Our 850-square-foot condo with two bedrooms and two bathrooms is perfect for us because we mostly eat out with friends at one of the trendy restaurants in Cuenca. With an average dinner costing $20 for two, including main course, dessert, and beverage, we eat out quite often. Our favorite place is La Placita, which is in La Esquina de Las Artes—an old colonial home turned into boutique shops and restaurants. The food is typical Ecuadorian, so portions are huge. I always order the camarones con ajo (garlic shrimp on a bed of rice and veggies) for $6.95. It makes two meals—one to eat and one para llevar (to go).

When we’re not eating out, we’re enjoying the view from our apartment. We see both sunrise and sunset from our bedroom and we’re spoiled with a 180-degree view of the spectacular sights out our window: the shiny blue domes of the New Cathedral, the skyline of Cuenca with its majestic church spires, and the eucalyptus trees lining the Yanuncay River.

Our carefree life allows us to pick up and leave on a whim whenever we want without worrying about who’s going to water the garden, pick up the mail, set the light timers, and mow the lawn.

Those things are in the past and we don’t miss any of them. In fact, we often wonder how we were able to hold full-time jobs and take care of a house too.

Also, there’s no need for a domestica (maid) because our place is small enough that it basically cleans itself with a little help from us 20 minutes a week. Actually, we make it a game and we’re out the door for almuerzo (lunch) with friends (cost: $3 for soup, entrée, beverage, and dessert at El Tunel).

Mark and I have lived in Cuenca for six years and the thought of having to go back to the States and our old way of life is simply out of the question. Once you get a taste of living without the Joneses, you simply can’t go back.

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