Why I Moved to Vilcabamba, Ecuador

“You’re out of your mind!” This was one of the milder things people said when I announced that after 30 years of living in the paradise of Maui, Hawaii, I was moving to South America. And at 80 years of age. Alone. Without speaking a word of Spanish.

It wasn’t as if I woke up one morning and said: “I think I’ll move to the Andes of Ecuador and live happily ever after.”

Actually, I’d spent the previous four years traveling to some 12 different countries in search of my eventual retirement “Shangri-La.”

So what was I looking for in that multi-country exploration? An entrepreneurial haven without undue governmental intrusion in my life, where taxes and the cost of living were not as onerous as in Hawaii (which boasts one of the highest tax rates in the U.S. and basic living costs that are a minimum of 30% higher than in the rest of the country).

Happy and Healthy in Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Perhaps most important of all, it would be somewhere that had the kind of healthy environment that would nurture mind, body, and soul. These were the factors that ended up making me ignore most of the world.

Why Ecuador and why the tiny village of Vilcabamba, hidden away in a valley deep in the Southern Andes? Simple answer: Sweet-natured, welcoming people and a place that is said to be a “living laboratory of longevity.”

Vilcabamba reportedly has one of the four healthiest populations on earth. As an octogenarian, that was the clincher for me.

Vilcabamba Ticks All the Right Boxes

Vilcabamba satisfies almost everything I had on my list of “druthers.” The climate is almost equal to that of Hawaii, and the people are just as friendly and hard-working as those I left. Most important, my living expenses are around a quarter of what they were back in the U.S. Okay, not having a shopping mall or a Walmart in the village helps with that statistic. It’s amazing how much one does not need when stuff and things simply aren’t available.

What would I have done differently? I would not have had a container-load of household goods shipped from Hawaii to Ecuador. I could have literally replaced everything at half the cost of shipping.

My biggest challenge in moving to South America has been learning the language, which is an absolute must if you wish to fit into the culture. There is great beauty and a pleasant formality to the Spanish language. It’s worth taking the time to learn. My full-time Ecuadorian cook/housekeeper ($250 a month…less than I paid for electricity in Hawaii) helps me with my daily Spanish lessons.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: The Perfect Place for Me

Moving clear across the world to a new home need not be a daunting task. But it is not something to jump into blindly. I took the time to seek out the perfect place for me, which is what I would advise others to do also. It takes “boots on the ground” to check out the people and place of a prospective new home in making a decision like this.

After reading about it in International Living, I visited Vilcabamba three separate times before making my final decision. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.

My advice? It is never too late in life to take on a new adventure. You just need to find a place that helps you add life to your years and years to your life.

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