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Expat Life

Being a part-time expat is becoming acceptable … and it makes good sense for those with strong ties back home

By Julie Freeman

I had never heard of the term “part-time expat” until recently. In my mind, one would be either permanent expatriate … or not.  But it seems the “six-months / six-months” scenario is becoming quite accepted, and that the nomenclature is being commonly used. And I believe it to be a significant shift in perception.

Julie Freeman
Julie Freeman

In our case, Canada holds our family, our history, our income sources, our citizenship and our passports. And it exerts much emotional power: loyalty, pride, and love of country. My partner was born there. It’s always been his home, his homeland, his Motherland. He has never experienced any deep disillusionments or disappointments in the country, nothing to drive him to find new shores for a new start. For him, the love of travel and the ability to live to a higher standard of living on a fixed income makes him amenable to spending time abroad each year.

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I’m a Brit, born and raised. Until I finally took my Canadian citizenship three years ago (two Canadian children, three Canadian grandchildren, forty-five years of working and paying Canadian taxes later), I would not have believed another country could possibly root deeply in my heart. My love for Canada surprised me when I was formally presented with my citizenship, and the pride I feel in being Canadian grows with each passing year.

Each summer, we return north of the 49th Parallel, and spend our summers living aboard my partner’s sailboat, cruising in and around the thirty-thousand islands of Georgian Bay, on the Great Lakes.

All this to say, frankly, we’re not ready to cast-off our own shores completely. And yet … we have established a life in Ecuador and are welcomed into the community as though we had our all-empowering cedulas.

Of the last two years, we’ve spent almost one of them in Ecuador – just about to conclude our second six-month stay. Our first three months on the coast last year were less than ideal, to say the least. We had signed a six month lease on a condo on the Salinas Malecón, expecting to settle into an extended vacation-mentality paradise. Months of grey, overcast skies didn’t quite compensate for the warm temperatures. And we didn’t push ourselves into the local expat community because we were, after all, just visitors. Christmas for us was miserable: family was so far away.

And then … we experienced Año Viejo, the letting go of the old year, and the welcoming of the New. Two-hundred and fifty-thousand Ecuadorians, whole generations celebrating together, thronged the Malecón with such joy and anticipation of a good year ahead. We were entranced, delighted, and began to fall a little in love with this place.

Two years later, we have many wonderful friends throughout Ecuador, and we know the lines are blurred, smeared almost to non-existent, between being an expat and simply being a visitor in terms being at home here. What we all have in common now, is a love for the beauty, diversity, culture, complexity – and for the Ecuadorian people.  We love that the history forming the personality of this country is so rich, so powerful it can’t be down-trodden to come a ‘little America’ in the way that, for example, Costa Rica could be seen to have become.

It’s a fascinating time to be here, even part-time, as the economy, politics and emergence onto the ‘windshield of the world’ creates an energy likely never experienced before. Is there still poverty? Yes, very much so. Is there discomfort about the stability of the currency, the presidency, the management of the natural resources? Without a doubt. But the Universe gave this little gem on the face of the globe every possible gift needed to thrive and succeed.

And I believe that as long as those of us whot have chosen to participate – in whatever way – in this country’s forward momentum, continue to work together to help it stay true to itself, ‘All you need is Ecuador’ will be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Julie Freeman divides her time between Salinas and Canada. She is the co-founder of Ecuador Coastal Newsletter. Reposted from the Ecuador Coastal Newsletter. For more about part-time expats, see the Feb. 27 post in CuencaHighLife.