Lost and Found: Reflections on Our Time in Ecuador

As some readers may already have seen in this blog, other articles, or in social media posts, after six wonderful years of living in Ecuador Rita and I decided to move on. Our beachfront condo in the resort city of Salinas has been sold. We have relocated our US property from West Virginia to Tennessee, a state with no income tax on retirement and a more forgiving and temperate climate, and are preparing for a new lifestyle starting in 2020.

This move seemed to confuse some people about how we feel about Ecuador. We haven’t stopped loving Ecuador, and we still think it is a great place to live. In America these days, it seems like everything must be black or white: you either love something, or hate it. If you move to Ecuador you must hate America, and if you leave Ecuador, etc., etc.

It is just that one of the things we have come to learn in the past few years is that the world is not all black and white – or even shades of gray. It is the entire spectrum of colors – full of beautiful and interesting places – and we would like to take some time to experience as many of them as we can. Salinas was a great place to live and explore Ecuador, and although we also managed to spend time in Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina, it was not a convenient base for international trips. After all, it was a two-hour drive to and from the Guayaquil airport.

We have also learned that we don’t want to just take one or two-week vacations to visit other countries. We have found that the best way to really experience a new place is to live there for a while. Because of that, our new goal is to take on the “roving retirement” lifestyle. We plan on choosing a country to live in for two or three months, renting a small apartment everywhere we visit, and then move on to another location. Since we now have nine grandchildren (that’s right, nine!), we also will want to spend some time each year in the States. Our new home in a zero-maintenance community near the Smokies will make that easier.

We still plan to return to Ecuador from time to time to keep our residency visas active, most likely renting near the Quito airport in Cumbaya or Tumbaco, or spending some time on the coast in Manta (easier air connection to Quito). We have already returned once for a conference in Quito and a terrific visit to the Galápagos, and who knows – once we tire of travel we may want to settle there.

We are looking forward to a future with new and exciting sights and experiences, and it is a future that is only available to us now because of our decision to move to Ecuador back in 2013. We owe it all to a few things we found there, and a few things we lost as well.

LOST:

What did we lose by moving to Ecuador? For me, the biggest thing I lost was about 120 pounds of fat. The healthier foods, the great climate, relaxed lifestyle, and ability to walk everyday all made me a healthier, albeit somewhat smaller, person. While in Ecuador, I also lost the need to take two types of medication for Type 2 diabetes, and another for high blood pressure. It is no exaggeration to say that living in Ecuador added years to my life.

I also lost the rat race – or at least, I dropped out of it. We were not a couple who were looking for a cheaper place to live. While not wealthy by any stretch of imagination, we are at least mortgage-free with a couple of protected income sources. We can live anywhere we choose, and we chose coastal Ecuador mostly out of Rita’s desire to never be cold again. But seeing our monthly living expenses drop from over $6000 down to under $2000 went a long way toward quickly building up our retirement accounts and allowing me to leave the 9-5 workforce at age 57 after just a year and a half in Salinas.

Lastly, I should mention we both lost something we didn’t know was dragging us down – the constant barrage of the 24-hour news cycle and commercials on TV. Expats soon learn there are ways to stream media and even watch commercial TV overseas, but for us it mostly was not worth the effort or expense. It always surprises us now when we visit relatives in the US and see the TV on in the background all day long. We are much happier reading our news on the Internet, or in e-books and magazines on our own schedule, rather than having a “talking head” tell us what we should be thinking or what we should be outraged about. We got along just fine streaming an hour or so of commercial free entertainment most days or downloading a movie on the weekend. More often, we would just go out for a walk.

FOUND:

We found so much in the last six years it is hard sometimes to keep it all in perspective. Number one would have to be new friends, both Ecuadorian and expat, that have enriched our lives in so many ways. More North Americans should see how other people live, and how you can be happy without all of the technology and gadgets of day-to-day life. It is very humbling to see that some of the most generous people are those who have almost nothing themselves.

We found a self-reliance that we didn’t know we had, and a fresh confidence to tackle new languages and accept new cultures as a joyful challenge rather than an annoying burden. We found a sense of empowerment and confidence that allowed us to take on and succeed at a major goal when we trained for and completed the 26-mile Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu in 2017.

We also found that contrary to what you may have been told, living and traveling in many foreign countries is not dangerous. We find that beyond differences in culture and language, people everywhere we have traveled are more or less the same. They care about their families and their friends and want to make the world a better place for their children. They don’t all hate America – but they don’t want to be just like America either. They like some of our music and movies, but by and large they are proud of their country and their heritage, and if you treat them fairly and with respect they will respond in kind. If you complement their local cuisine, admire the beauty of the countryside, or make an attempt (however badly) to communicate in their language, you too will find the same feeling of welcoming that we have found in so many places, and look forward to finding in more as we embrace roving retirement.

All of this and more, everything we lost and found, was made possible by our decision back in 2013 to take a chance on living in Ecuador. Sure, it hasn’t always been easy and in fact there were things that were quite difficult. We are prepared for both similar and new challenges in our next chapter, but thanks to Ecuador and life overseas we know we are up to the task, and that we will find a world full of possibilities and wonders.

So to our friends still in Ecuador, let’s not say goodbye, or even adios. I will keep track of our wanderings here and in other publishing venues. Maybe the best thought to leave you with is:

To be continued …

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