My Retirement in Ecuador Has Given Me the Gift of Time

I don’t wear a watch. I have one (of course), but I don’t need it. In fact, I haven’t worn a watch in six years because our retirement in the Ecuadorian mountain city of Cuenca has given me back the gift of time.

My husband, Mark, and I are so much more laidback; we’ve forgotten what stress feels like. The only time we feel it is when we go back to the States to visit family and friends. When we see how rushed everyone is in their everyday lives with work and family responsibilities, we heave a sigh of relief that we’re no longer in the rat race constrained by days reduced to hours, minutes, and seconds punctuated with “I don’t have time right now.”

I’m no longer a clock watcher. If I’m having a $2.50 almuerzo (lunch) with my husband, I don’t look at the clock or check my $25 cell phone to see what time it is. I’m able to give life my full attention, so I can appreciate the square glass container on the table, filled with hot pink Gerbera daisies and baby’s breath flowers; the three-course meal consisting of pollo apanado (breaded chicken), rice, and a medley of fresh vegetables, plus juice and dessert, at El Tunel—one of our favorite almuerzo restaurants.

For the same reason, I don’t own a smartphone. Learning the art of living in the present moment is where I want to be—mindful of where I’m at and what I’m doing. It’s a gift.

In the States, I was always rushing against the clock—checking the time and making sure I wasn’t late. Feeling rushed just doesn’t happen any longer. Ecuadorians have learned that being two hours late is being on time and maybe that’s why they enjoy life so much.

I have time to savor the sound of the hummingbirds chirping in the trees outside our window every morning; the peaceful feeling that comes over me as I listen to the rippling waters of the Yanuncay River while I jog along the linear trails; the vendors at the flower market—across from the blue domes of the Nueva Catedral (New Cathedral)—who call out my name to buy a dozen Tropicana roses for $3; and the spires of the Iglesia De San Alfonso church, which pierce the cobalt-blue skies of Cuenca and remind me to be thankful for the spring-like temperatures all year long (highs 70s F and lows 50s F). The snow shovel and ice scraper are a distant memory as they aren’t needed in Cuenca (another time saver).

It’s something I’ve “almost” taken for granted—living without time constraints—but I force myself to remember what it was like to live under the stress of watching the clock. And no one or nothing is ever going to steal the gift of time away from me again.

Cuenca gave me back what I’ve missed in life—the luxury of living in the present moment and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

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