A Slower Life and Lower Living Costs in Cuenca, Ecuador

When my husband Michael reached 57 he decided he wanted to retire by the age of 60. While he loved his job, being the sole IT person for an engineering firm with offices in various locations around the country was stressful. I couldn’t really argue with that, since after working as an executive secretary for the better part of 30 years I was already mostly retired.

We knew that we wanted to retire abroad and experience life in other countries. We began researching where we might want to live. We used online sources, the library, read retirement articles and publications, and began spending our vacations visiting possible retirement locales.  We considered cities in Spain, France, Italy, and even Hungary. Europe seemed like a good choice, since the ease of traveling throughout the EU would provide many opportunities to visit various countries.

But then Ecuador appeared on our radar. In 2011 we made our first trip there. We spent time in Quito, Cotacachi, Otavalo, and Imbabura, and then went south to Cuenca where we were immediately enamored.

We loved the four rivers coursing through town, the majestic mountains that surround and protect the valley, the year-round spring like climate, and the vibrant murals painted on buildings and walls throughout the city.

We loved the rhythm and feel of the city, the parks, the centuries-old churches, cathedrals, and homes in the city center, and the endless offerings of symphony, theater, dance, music, and cultural festivals. Cuenca offers friendly, helpful people along with a slower pace of life combined with all the conveniences of a modern city.

Living here has allowed us to retire within our means. We rent a modern house that has two separate units. My mom lives in one unit and Michael and I in the other. Each unit is fully furnished, and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a modern kitchen with a refrigerator, gas range, and microwave. The rent is $575 per month.

Compared with costs in the U.S., the cost of living in Ecuador is low. Our electricity runs around $70 a month, water around $11 a month, and groceries (including wine and alcohol) around $430 per month. Internet depends on the provider and speed, of course, but we pay $57 a month for 20 megabytes. We don’t have cable TV, but a basic package costs under $30 a month. It’s easy to see why Ecuador comes out on top for affordable living for lots of people.

We start our days in Cuenca with an early morning walk along a pleasantly babbling river to nearby Parque Paraiso, while we marvel at the majesty of the early morning sun as it strikes the mountain tops and the slopes of the city. We then spend some time working out on the exercise equipment or join one of the exercise classes going on throughout the park. There are at least three classes to choose from on any given morning and while some are free, some ask for a whopping donation of $1.

We always finish our outing by feeding the ducks at the pond and then head home, maybe buying a slice of fresh pineapple or watermelon, or a large cup of mixed fresh seasonal fruit from the fruit ladies which can cost from 50 cents to $2.

Later we might visit one of the many free or low-cost museums or constantly changing art exhibitions, enjoy a stroll through town, meet friends for lunch, or people-watch in the town square while enjoying an ice cream.

Life here proceeds at a much slower pace; people know how to enjoy it and each other. And for us, life is good.

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