We Fell in Love With Welcoming, Healthful Cuenca

If you had asked me three years ago if I would be living overseas, my answer would have been “no.” Not out of aversion to other cultures or changing up my life—I enjoy travel and trying different things—but simply because the idea didn’t present itself without a little push.

My partner, Stacey, and I celebrated Stacey beating cancer with a four-month trip through Central and South America. It was on this trip that we fell in love with Ecuador, particularly the city of Cuenca in the country’s southern Andes. It has magnificent vistas, fast-running rivers, and 500 years’ worth of colonial charm in its cobblestone streets and cathedrals.

We returned to Asheville, North Carolina from our trip in August 2014 and moved to Ecuador that November.

For $400 a month, we rented a large house on the north side of town with a courtyard and small apartment that we could rent out short-term. The views of the mountains were terrific. We did most of our grocery shopping at the neighborhood mercado, an indoor/outdoor market that sells everything from fish to fruit to eggs. We spent $15 to $30 a week, depending on how much meat or seafood we bought, and picked up other grocery items from the local supermarket.

We recently decided to rent a home close to the Tomebamba River. This part of town is considered one of the best areas to live—it is near supermarkets, malls, and hospitals and is great for walking thanks to its flat terrain. We are within 10 minutes of the El Centro historic district, with its many restaurants, museums, and shops. Not to mention our dog and two cats love the large, walled-in yard with hummingbirds and fruit trees.

We save money by not owning a car and walking everywhere. Buses and taxis are plentiful and inexpensive, just 25 cents for the bus and $2 to $3 for most taxi rides. Our food costs are low and healthcare is also affordable—just $20 to $30 for a doctor’s office visit and $20 for dental cleanings. Stacey did have to make one trip to the emergency room for a severe infection; we went to the best (and most expensive) hospital in Cuenca and, even with one-on-one attention from an infections specialist and top-flight prescriptions, we walked out in 45 minutes with peace of mind and a bill for only $120.

Living here has given us the room to embrace other ways of being and doing, as well as focus on healthy living through Ecuador’s amazing array of fruits and vegetables and our daily walks around town at 8,500 feet above sea level. We practice Spanish every time we head out the door and have the opportunity to experience life from a wonderfully different perspective.

We have come to appreciate the slower pace and the fact that people greet you from their hearts first, not their heads. We have redefined the framework of our lives and wake up every day glad to live in such a lovely, welcoming, and healthful place.

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