Diane and I feel quite fortunate as we frequently meet numbers of hopeful expats coming to Ecuador for “look around” visits. My Kindle book, Our Ecuador Retirement…The First 8 Months has inspired many of these folks to connect with us while visiting our area and we’ve learned of their challenges trying to find the right place to settle. We remember!
Imagine deciding to move from your lifetime home in Bailingoutastan to the United States. You’ve heard many wonderful things about the States but you’ve not yet been there and you don’t speak the language. You have done some research and thanks to the Internet, you have even connected with a number of others from Bailingoutastan scattered about the United States, each proclaiming the advantages of the particular area where they have settled. You have determined that, generally, the United States offers all the advantages you seek but how will you determine which region, state and city will be your best new home?
Might a booming metropolis such as New York City or Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami be best? Maybe a slower pace such as might be found in Squirrel Nest, Arkansas or Talkeetna, Alaska would be better. Should you settle along the miles of coastline in Texas, Florida or California or maybe move to the interior of the nation…Indiana, Ohio or Nebraska or perhaps a quaint village in New England? How about the densely populated Eastern seaboard or the magnificent Rockies of Colorado?
Your second cousin, Gerp, has settled in the small town of Possum Belly, telling you about eating some small rodents that live in trees and finding plentiful and varioius game animals, alongside the road where kindly motorists have conveniently killed and gutted them.
Is it even possible or essential to see the entire country and all regions, states and cities before making a decision? I don’t think so. The truth is that folks tend to make a life wherever they are.
According to Pew’s Research on Social and Demographic Trends (http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/Movers-and-Stayers.pdf ) most Americans still live in the state where they were born. A minority of Americans has lived in more than one state and many prefer to live near biological family so making the choice to move to a new country is a huge deal. Research tends to indicate that one can truly bloom where they are planted. As a former military guy, I agree.
Although Ecuador is a much smaller country than the United States, it is extremely diverse in geography, climate and altitude offering a number of beautiful, seascape coastal environments such as Salinas, Guayaquil, Manta or Bahia de Caraquez and all the small towns and villages in-between. Then there are the stunning vistas and rich history and culture available in the high Andes altitudes of Quito, Cuenca, Cotacachi or Loja or the mysterious allure of Vilcabamba.
When given the choice of an entire country to select your new home, or for that matter, the entire planet…the process can be overwhelming! There are so many possibilities; almost too many!
Remember the old Sears catalogue? They would offer the buyer 3 choices; Good, Better or Best. Three choices for a product; that was it. Sears knew if they offered more choices, the buyer would become confused trying to sort through all the variables. Good, Better or Best? Need a new blender or a lawn mower? Three choices…Good, Better or Best.
I think one’s research on selecting a retirement destination could easily follow the tried and true Sears format. Hard as it might be, distill your research so that you have selected 3 likely choices. Establish the criteria that are right for you such as weather patterns, size of community, desired infrastructure, transportation requirements, proximity to good quality medical care and shopping, cost of living and some really basic things like a coastal or mountain environment and size of the city you select. For younger families with children, you will certainly want to consider schooling options.
Once you have distilled your research to 3 choices, connect with folks who live in those 3 communities using any number of expat forums available on Facebook and other sites. Develop a dialogue, learning all you can. When you are confident of your 3 choices, plan your trip to spend as much time as your resources will permit in each of those 3 locations. Sometimes, one will know very quickly if one location or another either feels right or it doesn’t. Other times, it may not be that simple.
We had the good fortune to recently spend some time with a wonderful couple here for their “look around” visit. In their case, their resources permitted them to visit a number of countries and several locations within each country, staying in each location for some weeks. They may have been the most organized travelers I have ever met, keeping detailed spread sheets of their expenses in each location and regularly blogging of their experiences, essentially taking detailed notes along their journey. When finished, they will select their new home based on their adventures. I suspect their decision will be based on their collected data as well as their gut instincts. One gets a feeling about a place that data, alone, may not support.
Planning your “look around” visit is time consuming but like most other things in life, a good plan will greatly assist the outcome.
Finally, there are a small number of us who made the move to Ecuador without making a “look around” trip first. We did our research, distilled our choices down to one location and simply moved, deciding that we would use that location as our base for future exploration. The Pocket Babe and I are still in the same place.
You have our best wishes for your future success and remember, very few thngs in this life are permanent and won’t allow a change. Go ahead. Enjoy the journey!