After long professional careers, Vancouver couple sell off everything and head for retirement in Cuenca

Sep 27, 2011 | 0 comments

It's the sort of thing most people fantasize about while stuck in yet-another rush-hour back-up: chucking it all and moving to a tropical country.

For Barb and John Porter, it's more than fantasy — come October, the Burnaby couple will be in their new home in Ecuador, South America, fulfilling their retirement dreams after many years of planning.

The pair have spent the last several weeks holding one garage sale after another to rid themselves of the vast majority of their worldly possessions — everything from couches, to dining room suites, bedding and kitchen wares, art, and yard tools. Their two cars haven't sold yet, but they expect them to soon.

"We are not taking much at all. Shipping is outrageously expensive and there is pretty well everything available at the other end," says John. "Furniture, for example, is often of fantastic quality and available at very good prices."

In all, says Barb, they'll be taking along just what fits in two suitcases apiece — later, a few boxes will be shipped down with "extremely precious" personal items.

Getting rid of it all piece by piece is both difficult and enjoyable, the pair say.

John says there's a certain feeling of freedom in getting rid of all the "stuff", but Barb notes that there can be an emotional attachment to things you've had a long time.

"For some things there is a stronger emotional attachment that needs to be severed first, and once you detach, it's easy."

But, with time ticking down and lots still to do, both agree that it's just plain stressful at the moment.

"With each sale we have, lots has sold, but there is still more," says Barb.

The pair are planning to have a special party this weekend with friends and family to say goodbye, though they do plan to return regularly to visit.

"We also hope that (they) will come visit us and discover a taste of Ecuador," says John.

The pair left Sept. 24 for a week in Mazatlan, before arriving in Cuenca.

Their method for choosing their new home was methodical and organized – but in the end, it came down to a gut feeling.

"Why Cuenca? Because we fell in love with it, just over a year ago when we visited. We chose the location via our heart and our eyes and other senses," says John.

He explains they had five criteria for picking their retirement home: cost of living, weather, availability of quality health care, safety and friendliness.

"Cuenca excels in all of them, but we explored to quite a few places directly after doing lots of research online, too," says John.

Barb says that many places sounded great after research, but visiting in person helped narrow the search.

They plan to rent first, and spend some time there to ensure it's the right fit for them. But both are confident that they've found their new home-away-from-home.

Cuenca, the capital city of the Azuay province, is in southern Ecuador, and has a population of over 600,000. The country was home to the ancient Incan Empire, and was later conquered by Spain, before gaining independence in the late 1800s.

The climate varies by area, but one thing is a near-constant: thanks to its location near the equator, there is little variation in sunset and sunrise through the year. In other words, no more dark winter mornings; sunrise happens at about 6 a.m., every day, while sunset takes place about 12 hours later, at 6 p.m., give or take a few minutes.

After 20 years living in Burnaby – with John working as a salesman and Barb as an elementary school teacher – they're in for a big change.

But they're excited for it. Planning the move has occupied the majority of their retirement so far leaving time to "kick back and sunbathe yet" says Barb.

The pair say that what they will miss most is the people, friends and relatives, and particularly their grown children, but hope that technology will help alleviate that.

"We live in a day when tools like Skype, email, texting and so on make communicating relatively easy and inexpensive, even from a great distance," says John.

"What we are most excited about is that, instead of sitting in rocking chairs and whittling wood, we will be embracing a new language and discovering a fascinating new culture, which is so different from ours here, and new volunteer opportunities."

They are hoping to set up a blog for family and friends to follow their adventure, and have promised to send updates of their adventures.

Credit: By Christina Myers,


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