“What do you do to stay busy?” It’s a question I am asked frequently about life in Ecuador. There seems to be a fear that once you arrive, get settled in, and explore a bit, you’ll run out of things to do and soul-sucking boredom will set in.
But I don’t know a single expat who struggles to fill their time and here’s why.
Aside from the day-to-day activities of life—grocery shopping, household chores, and paying bills—the country holds a myriad of ways to fuel your interests and keep you occupied.
Just last week I was wandering through the town of Otavalo where the locals are known world-wide for their handicrafts. Thanks to the many artisans in the town, there are more stores than I can count filled with sewing supplies, yarn, ribbon, and nearly anything a craft-minded person could want. I know that many of my friends love shopping there because they can find items that aren’t readily or cheaply available in the U.S., like llama and alpaca yarn and Otavalo-produced lace.
So bring your sewing machine, knitting needles, or loom and head to Otavalo to find new ways to have fun.
The town of San Antonio de Ibarra is not far from Otavalo but has a very different feel. This town is full of woodworkers who create fine pieces of furniture and hand-carved works of art. Being the daughter of a cabinet builder who loved what he did, I’ve learned to appreciate the skill that goes into churning beauty out of raw wood and it’s apparent that the artists here are very talented.
Many of the wood crafters will allow you to observe them in their studios while they work their magic. And true to their Ecuadorian roots, they are typically happy to give you pointers, tell you where to buy your own tools, and answer any questions you might have. It’s a great place to deepen your love of woodworking or rediscover the fun you had in high school shop class.
The great thing about Ecuador though is that you can intensify or develop nearly any hobby you want. All you have to do is ask.
For example, one expat musician had a dream of building his own guitar. He worked up the courage to approach a local luthier and asked if he could apprentice under him. After some discussion, an agreement was made and a few months later our musician friend had a guitar fashioned by his own hand…and four months of Spanish-language immersion to boot.
Another friend headed to the town of Chordeleg which sits about 60 miles outside of Cuenca. Here the locals are known for being skilled silversmiths. She spent a year learning to make quality silver jewelry of her own. Now she not only has a way to fuel her creativity, but it could translate into a viable business some day in the future.
These are just a few examples of the passions you can follow in Ecuador. And consider that a typical two-bedroom apartment costs $600 per month, utilities (electric, gas, and water) rarely exceed $50, and you can load a huge grocery bag full of fresh fruits and vegetables for under $10. With this low cost of living it’s easy to have money left over to fund your interests.
So don’t worry about lacking activities to fill your time…worry about lacking time to take part in them all.
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