While I and many others have written pieces regarding the lower cost of living in Ecuador, the cost of relocation is rarely included. For now, just know that relocation expenses can be quite significant. I will address that topic in another post. Another thing that is often overlooked when considering a retired life in Ecuador is the cost of periodic returns to the States or Canada.
Certainly, there are those expats who come to Ecuador with a well-feathered nest; plenty of extra dough to live a wonderful life without much concern. Then there are those, like the Pocket Babe and me, who need to watch our budget and plan for major expenses such as multi-thousand dollar trips back to the states.
I need to return to Florida periodically for my VA Health overhauls. In the past, I have had the good fortune to stay in a friend’s vacant house but staying with friends and/or family is not always assured and is impossible if one is traveling to a city where there are no friends or family present. The solution that first comes to mind is a hotel. The most modest of hotels will run around $45-$60 per night with nicer, major chain hotel/motel easily running from $75-$120 per night…TO SLEEP! I don’t need a hotel to entertain me! I just want a clean bed and a hot shower and it has always bothered me to pay to sleep.
As I was planning an upcoming trip to Florida, the expenses were adding up quickly; airfare, food, rental car and hotel for a 12 day trip. Yikes! I would be spending part of that time with my son and his family but they lived a couple of hours away from the VA Med Center where I would be spending the better part of 4 days. I needed a place to stay that was relatively close to the VA Hospital. To really complicate things, the recent government shutdown had delayed a significant reimbursement check that was owed to me and had not been processed. It would not be processed prior to the trip. I had already spent that money and was awaiting the reimbursement check from the Feds. I was counting on it, I really needed it for the trip but it would not appear in my bank before my departure date. As a result, my checking account was frighteningly skinny and yet, I was committed to the trip! Tickets had been purchased and the rental car had been paid in advance…both non-refundable. Important and mandatory appointments at the VA had been made after much effort and confusion. There was no choice. I had to go!!
The two areas where I felt I could cut expenses were in food and hotel costs. Food…no problem! I know how to eat cheaply. The hotel thing was an issue I didn’t seem to be able to resolve….until Diane reminded me about Couch Surfing!
About a year ago, a young couple had taken the condo next to ours for about a month. They explained that they often “couch surfed” but could not find a connection in our area.
“Yeah. We belong to an organization whose members offer their spare beds and/or couches for fellow travelers…for free!!”
I asked a few questions and thought it was a great idea for the younger, backpacker crowd. But now that Diane had mentioned it…and quickly registered us as members, what would be the harm in exploring the concept? It seemed pretty straight forward. I read about the obvious safety issues and how to protect one’s self from harm, whether surfing on another’s couch or accepting a guest(s) into your own home. There were common sense guidelines and in only a few minutes, we were couch surfing participants!
Diane began to search the area where I would be going. There were approximately 3500 couch surfing members there. Wow! Each had a profile and many had photos of themselves and/or their place. Some truly had couches and a large number offered spare bedrooms in nice homes with private baths, kitchen privileges and offers to show guests around town, etc. Couch Surfers enjoy the hospitality of their hosts without charge. The arrangement is, of course, reciprocal. If you should receive a request and accept, you cannot charge your guests for your hospitality. While the notion of dropping in on a stranger and spending a number of days/nights in their home was a little freaky, I decided to take a look at some profiles. Diane took a swing at reading a few to me but none sounded like a good match for me.
The next morning, I began to search in earnest. I was seeking a situation in the home of a mature adult. I had no interest in partying till dawn. I actually discovered a number of options and sent a number of inquires. Much to my surprise, I received several positive responses.
In my next post, I will share the results of my couch surfing experience but I can say this now. Couch Surfing can be an amazing opportunity to meet new people and make new friends across the globe. Watch for my next post. You won’t believe what happened!