Nearly four years ago, my husband, Brian, and I decided to pull the pin and move from Ontario, Canada to Cotacachi, Ecuador. This is not all that uncommon…except that we were 45 and 33 years old respectively.
The main question that people asked me was “What are you going to do with yourself; you’re too young to retire?” The honest answer to that was that I had no idea what I was going to do with my time. I would say “I’ll go for walks and work in my garden.” Little did I know that when I got here, I would soon become so busy that I didn’t know how I even had time to work before.
We first traveled to Ecuador six years ago, and fell in love with everything about the country. We loved it so much, we returned a year later and bought a house. We bought a two-story, three-bedroom, three-bathroom house in a small development for $61,000. It was originally supposed to be a “five-year plan,” but after a few visits to furnish our house, and spend time here, we had no idea why we were waiting.
Actually, it was receiving a property tax bill in the mail that really made me say “why are we waiting?” It didn’t take long after that to make the decision to quit our jobs, sell the house, and pack our four suitcases and two cats.
Another question that people often ask is how we can afford to retire so young. It’s surprising how much money you make when you sell everything: house, household goods, cars, etc. We made a long-term financial plan, and taking into consideration the money that we made from selling everything plus our savings, we determined that it was doable if we lived on a budget. And with the overall cost of living here being much less than Canada, the money goes much further. We could never have afforded to retire and live in Canada at this age.
We set ourselves a budget of $1,800 per month. This consists of monthly utilities ($100), groceries ($300), a cleaning lady ($60), coffee dates and eating out ($200), gas and vehicle expenses ($100), health insurance ($190), and the rest for entertaining, traveling, and all the other things that make life more enjoyable. In nearly four years, we have yet to exceed our set budget in any given month.
As with moving to any new place, it took a while to meet good friends. I tried to participate in as many things as possible to facilitate this process. I met my first good friend on a cheese tour at a local dairy farm. We sat beside each other on the bus, and clicked instantly.
I started volunteering at a soup kitchen, which was a very rewarding experience. Not only did I begin to learn about the culture, and get to know many local Ecuadorians, but I met other expats as well. I also joined a hiking group, and this is where I started to meet more people who shared the same interests as me.
I soon met the four most amazing women, and before I knew it coffee dates and “ladies nights” were part of our regular routine.
Within a few months of living here, our friends and family started to cash in on our open invitation, and it was fun to show off our new corner of the world. Over the first few years we had a regular stream of visitors. We would take them to all our favorite places like the local hot springs, Cuicocha Crater Lake, Otavalo Market and, of course, the equator line.
After nearly four years, we are still very happy with our decision to retire early to Ecuador. We lead fulfilling lives and wouldn’t change a thing.