As I write this from my home in Cotacachi, Ecuador, I’m sipping a smoothie made from locally grown pineapple, banana, and strawberries. The sun is making its way over the top of Imbabura Volcano, promising another beautiful day.
I’ll work for a bit, head into town for coffee with friends, and pick up a huge bag of fruits and vegetables from our local market for just a few dollars. Later I’ll head out for a nice countryside bike ride with my sons.
That’s a typical day for me and it’s one that comes with very little stress and big rewards. Yet, despite my happy life, I still have friends and acquaintances who don’t understand why I choose to live in Ecuador, or overseas at all.
By way of explanation, I can point to any survey where people are asked about their biggest regrets. Almost everyone regrets something they didn’t do. Some regret not telling someone how much they cared about them before it was too late. Others wish they had taken better care of their health. But, for the majority of folks, their biggest regret stems from not pursuing their dreams.
This fear of regret is what led my family and me to move to Ecuador five years ago. By most standards we were doing well back in the U.S. We had the house, the cars, the two children, even a dog. David’s job paid well, and it allowed me to work part time and spend more time with our kids.
There was nothing wrong with our lives at all. But we were afraid that one day we would wake up, find that 30 or 40 years had flown by and we had never done any of the things we’d dreamed about. Corporate politics had David stressed out, and he was ready to try something more fulfilling.
Personally, I dreamed of a life without snow in the winter or excessive heat in the summer. And that’s what brought us to Ecuador. Our motto was “What’s the worst that could happen?” Realistically, we knew that if we didn’t like it, if we just missed our home country too much, or if we felt it wasn’t the best move for our kids, then we could always return home. This didn’t have to be permanent. We had options.
Luckily for us the worst didn’t happen. In fact, Ecuador surpassed our dreams in many ways. The cool, spring-like weather is perfectly wonderful every day of the year, with jeans and a t-shirt being my usual attire. I’ve fulfilled my dream of no longer dealing with icy roads or snow-covered steps—although I certainly enjoy glimpses of Ecuador’s majestic snow-capped volcanos from time to time.
My husband is now happily tooling away on a piece of land we bought in a nearby cloud forest. He spends his days checking on our honeybees, feeding horses, and caring for his baby avocado trees. He’s perfectly content working the land, surrounded by brightly colored tropical birds and delicate orchids.
These days I make my living as a writer and as the International Living Ecuador Highlands Correspondent. Though with the country’s low cost of living, I still don’t need to work full time to support my family. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with where we’ve landed.
People ask me all the time if I’ll stay in Ecuador permanently. The truth is, I don’t know. I love Ecuador, but it’s a big world out there and there’s a good chance I may want to try out a different country some day. But I do know that I love the expat life. I love not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.
In the end I believe that our expat experiment has been a resounding success. And I know that if I ever do go back to the U.S., I will return a better person than when I left.
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