With Significant Contributions from Diane Murray
It’s very interesting and, at the same time, a bit distressing. I recently shared that Diane and I accepted an invitation to speak at the upcoming International Living Conference in Quito, Ecuador. Soon after, I received a number of emails and private messages urging me to tell the “real truth” about Ecuador. It’s up to me, they insisted, to set the record straight and expose the rose-colored-glasses-lies about the realities of life in this tiny nation!
Before moving to San Vicente, Ecuador about 18 months ago, we reviewed information offered by International Living as well as numbers of other resources. We joined expat forums and communicated with those already living here. We read books written by expats and thoroughly researched weather patterns, cost of living, crime, political stability and everything else we could think of. I even built spread sheets comparing data between resources. We never expected one article, or even one source, to do our thinking for us, or to provide a comprehensive understanding about every detail of life in Ecuador. It was up to us to compile our own research and come to our own conclusions.
While I found no single source to be an all-inclusive, one-stop-shopping compendium of everything you need to know and consider before deciding on Ecuador as a retirement destination, I have not found that the information presented by International Living or any other resource was substantially inaccurate, either.
What I have discovered and personally witnessed is that no two people have the same experience here and some will blame others for their challenges in making the transition rather than accepting responsibility themselves.
“They didn’t tell me that someone might steal my cell phone while I was walking alone…on the beach…at night.”
“They never told me not to pay the contractor the entire amount…up front…in cash…before he began construction.”
“It costs me more to live here than the magazine article said it would.”
“The salesperson lied to me” or “The developer lied to me” or “The builder lied to me”
“How was I supposed to know? The paperwork was all in Spanish!”
“I guess I should have had that put into the contract.”
Yep! I’ve heard all of those statements. It is rare that these complainers take responsibility for their own actions and choices…a too-common tendency among some transplants. While it is true that some expats have found themselves on the short end of a business transaction or relationship, it is also true that no magazine publisher or book author is responsible.
I live in a community with approximately 200 expats in close proximity. Diane and I are among those who love our life here on Ecuador’s coast. Others have left this area to seek a better fit in the Andes or other places. Some have come, stayed for a while and returned to their home country, while another group remains and complains. That’s all just fine with me. We all have the right to decide where and how we want to live. If we don’t like it…we can move or stay and complain. No biggie! But to place the blame for one’s problems on some magazine publisher or book author makes no sense to me.
Diane and I can only speak of our experiences as expats living in Ecuador. We report on our lifestyle, our budget choices, our travels and the culture as we have experienced it. We cannot and do not intend to defend or critique all the previous information distributed by any other resource. What folks will hear from us at the upcoming International Living conference and on my blog, is simply our story; an inside look at our lives here. As Diane has said, “We’re not experts, we’re just expats.”
Many years ago while living in Alaska, I encountered an old, Inupiat woman on Christmas Eve. She found me sitting alone, weeping, as I was ruminating over the personal consequences of some poor choices I had made. In only a few moments, this stranger took the time to offer some kindness along with some great advice that has stayed with me eversince.
“Don’t expect so much from life. You can only be disappointed when your expectations are not met, so strive for the best but keep your expectations realistic.” I thought that was great advice: “Strive for the best but keep your expectations realistic.”
I think some folks come to Ecuador with grand and unrealistic expectations only to be disappointed when discovering that life here, in many ways, is much like life everywhere else. One will encounter challenges. One may even encounter a dishonest salesman. Imagine that!
There are many benefits to our life here on Ecuador’s coast; benefits that a life in the states cannot offer. But these benefits come with trade-offs. We love our life here and for us the compromises involved have been more than compensated for by the benefits we receive. For those with pie-in-the-sky visions and less willingness to adjust, disappointment is inevitable. What one may embrace as a culturally enriching experience another may find totally frustrating and intolerable.
The truth is that the citizens of North America live a relatively pampered life with a ready supply of clean drinking water, an incredibly stable electrical grid, well-trained first responders, an effective product distribution process and a network of top-notch hospitals throughout the continent. Once one personally experiences that those basic provisions are not taken for granted everywhere on the planet, a new perspective is shaped.
Although we’ve had our own brushes with drama and a normal amount of adjustment to our new home, we haven’t encountered anything that has significantly altered our opinions of Ecuador, or brought us to the point where we wanted to return to the States. And we’ve certainly never had a moment when we thought that any of our adjustment challenges were the fault of some magazine publisher or book author. In fact, we remain very appreciative of learning that Ecuador was a great retirement option for us; something supported by International Living, MSN Money, numerous books and other publications. As a result of our research and decision to move, our lives have been greatly enriched. We are learning a new language and integrating into a new culture. We have definitely stepped “outside the box” and are living intentionally; setting new rules, following new paths and embracing the adventure.
“They said I could live like a king for “X” dollars per month. That’s just a lie!”
Using the Google thing, I spent some time researching what various publications had published over the years regarding the cost of living in Ecuador. There were many resources to review and I found many inconsistencies. Much of the difference is attributed to the dates of publication. Some of the data was far from current. When doing your research, always check the dates of publication!!! Just like any other place in the world, costs have risen in Ecuador over time. Supply-and-demand is a global reality, and a budget that would have been more than sufficient in 2006 likely won’t cut it in 2013.
Also, some articles represent cost of living without including housing expense. The presumption is that a retiree would come to Ecuador, plop down a chunk of cash and buy a home outright. Living expenses are then reflected as quite low with no monthly expense for housing shown. One must read carefully!
Current estimates now place the true cost of living, for a couple, here in Ecuador somewhere in the range of $1350 to $2000 per month including rent, a figure much lower than a comparable lifestyle in the U.S. It is certainly possible to spend more. Much depends on where in Ecuador you live and what type of housing you select. Coastal and big-city real estate tends to be more expensive to rent or purchase than property in the interior of the country. I personally know of some whose comfort level with more modest accommodations allows them to live quite happily on less. Naturally, cost of living is only one consideration for making such a major life change.
Thinking of making the leap? You may be one of those for whom life as an expat in Ecuador will be fulfilling and rewarding. It’s not for everyone, though, and there’s no way to be certain if you can fly until you spread your wings and step off the ledge. For us, Ecuador has been a great place to land! If it’s an option you are considering, read, research, perhaps come for a visit, but don’t accept anyone’s thinking or opinion over your own.