Relocating to Cuenca, Ecuador

Three years ago my wife and I shocked our family and friends by announcing that we had decided to relocate to Cuenca, Ecuador.

Our lives had reached an unforeseen crossroads in the U.S. Both of our ultra-successful careers had been suddenly jettisoned by downsizing, and we were surprised and disappointed to discover bleak employment prospects for folks in their 50s.

Rather than endure years of unsatisfying work for substandard wages, we chose to explore options that would allow us to start living life now.

With the amount of savings we had accumulated, we knew staying in the States wasn’t an option. But if we were to relocate overseas, it had to be somewhere that would accommodate our seemingly impossible wish list:

  • Low cost of living
  • Perfect climate
  • Proximity to our family
  • Excellent medical care
  • Cultural activities and modern conveniences

Exhaustive research turned up a city we’d never heard of called Cuenca in the highlands of Ecuador, a country we knew next to nothing about. But Cuenca appeared to meet all of our criteria, and a “look/see” trip confirmed this could be The Place, so we took the plunge…

I’m happy to report that, in many ways, our standard of living exceeds the lifestyle we enjoyed in the States with two six-figure incomes.

We live in a beautiful two-story penthouse apartment, eat fresh and healthy food, regularly enjoy things we once considered luxuries (like fresh flowers, massages, and mani/pedi’s), and go to free symphony performances and film festivals.

This isn’t how it works out for everyone—we know people who arrived in Cuenca around the same time as us, with high expectations. Some have already gone back home or relocated elsewhere. So, Cuenca is not for everybody.

The altitude is 8,400 feet, which doesn’t suit everyone. (Summer in Tahoe feels like every day in Cuenca.) You may find the “eternal spring-like” weather too cloudy and cool. If you’re looking for a “cheap United States,” you’ll probably become frustrated by cultural differences.

For example, virtually everything takes a long time. “Manana” really means “not now.” Our favorite cereal might be out of stock for weeks. The way we’ve happily dealt with these frustrations…and the advice I give to anyone who’s thinking of a move to Ecuador is: Go with the flow…or go home.

In exchange for leaving behind a culture with impressive efficiency and virtually unlimited choice, we have relaxed into an unhurried flow of life with no clock to watch or rigid schedule to maintain.

We enjoy wonderful relationships with people we’ve really gotten to know.

And with the time previously devoured by work, commutes, chores, and errands…we now pursue hobbies and interests that nourish our minds, bodies and spirits.

Plus we live in a gorgeous, clean colonial city filled with kind and gracious people. So for us, moving to Cuenca has been a dream come true!

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