For almost seven years now, my husband and I have been retired and living in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Andean city of Cuenca, Ecuador.
I love my serene, stress-free life here…for the mild weather, gracious culture, amazingly fresh food, clean air and water, walkability, affordable living, and healthcare…but especially for the things I don’t have to do.
Here are four things I never (well, almost never) do, that can drain your energy and eat as much as fifteen hours, or more, out of your week:
Clean my house
Every Tuesday afternoon, Rosita comes to clean the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuum my area rugs, mop the tile floors, and change the sheets. She also cleans out the refrigerator and washes the windows. She has been with me for six years. She has become family, and for an additional $70 a month, we sponsor her 12-year-old daughter in a private school, where her course studies include English and computers. In return, I have learned to discuss things like house cleaning and women’s issues in Spanish.
Some retirees in Cuenca have cars, which I imagine are useful if you live in a rural area outside the city, even though public transportation is readily available. I myself always fantasized about having a chauffeur…someone else to maneuver through traffic while I sit in the back seat like a rock star, relax, and read a magazine.
But with over 3,000 taxis in Cuenca, it’s easy to grab one, and get wherever you want to go for around $2. My taxi expenses run about $40 a month. Compare that to the cost of a car, gas, maintenance and insurance, and the frustration of driving in traffic. If I don’t want to walk to the corner to pick up a cab, I have the numbers of three English-speaking taxi drivers in my phone.
I’d much rather listen to the tango radio station (that bizarrely, broadcasts from Berlin) than the washing machine going chugga-chugga-chugga. Fabian, who owns a company called Mr. Wash, picks up, washes, folds, packages, and delivers my laundry for about $10. This includes a couple of formal shirts, pressed and returned on hangers.
Another option would be the less expensive laundromat next door, but I would have to carry the bags a hundred feet and spend an hour or more doing something I don’t want to do. Not to mention that “iron” is a four-letter word.
I admit I do cook, but only because it’s always been a passion, and I love to eat my own culinary creations. Once a month I indulge in a Saturday morning French cooking class at the Alliance Française. There I learn the local words for foods, utensils, and prep, and at which market I can find the best of what’s now in season.
But if I didn’t want to cook, I could order out for Chinese, pizza, gourmet pies, American-style hamburgers, Mexican, Korean, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. I could order U.S.-style comfort food from Bernan’s Home Canned Foods or Double D’s Delights, both gringo-owned businesses. I could go out for Sushi at Noe…or fresh ceviche at Oro Mar…or traditional Andean dishes at Tiesto’s. And just a few steps from my apartment are a Colombian restaurant, a Spanish restaurant, and an Ecuadorean restaurant…all of which serve a four-course almuerzo (lunch) for just $2.50.
I’m grateful that even on my limited retirement income, I can practice delegation, by hiring others to do the things I don’t want to do myself. This in turn supports their businesses and their families.
When I complimented a California friend on her new $50,000 kitchen remodel, she said, “Yes, it’s nice…but you have staff!”