For a young expat family, Ecuador is just one stop in a life’s journey

Dec 1, 2015 | 4 comments

I’m regularly asked something along the lines of: “How did you guys end up in Ecuador?” or, “How did you decide on Ecuador?”chl chris col logo

The question has perplexed me and I have to admit that I struggle to answer it. There was no single factor that tipped the scales toward Ecuador. My wife, son, and I moved to Ecuador more than a year ago but the decision to come was made before our son was born, almost three years earlier.

My wife and I had wanted to move to a Spanish-speaking country for some time. We’re both attracted to the language, the food, the cultures, and the music of South America.

But that doesn’t answer the question of “Why Ecuador?”

The Cañar and Inca ruins north of Cuenca

The Cañar and Inca ruins north of Cuenca

In Guatemala, I found a better supply of good coffee, and wine and other imported products were much cheaper. I’ve met people from other counties in South America and I’ve heard great things about Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and so on.

The closest I can come to an answer is that we had done a fair amount of reading about the countries we were considering and the preponderance of information pointed us to Ecuador. Here, we were told, we could find good healthcare and the currency is the U.S. dollar, both true. We also knew that basic infrastructure was better than in most other Latin American counties. None of these, however, was the deciding factor.

Why couldn’t I come up with a simple answer that tells why we sold everything, quit our jobs in the U.S., and moved to another continent?

The implication of the questions people had been asking didn’t really occur to me until I was riding with an Ecuadorian one day last month. As I dodged holes in the terrible dirt rode near the coast, I told him about a house I am renting. He interrupted me and asked why I’m wasting my money on a rental when I could buy a house.

Buy a house? In Ecuador?

I didn’t want to offend him and tell him the truth: “I wouldn’t even consider buying a house in Ecuador. I don’t expect to be here long enough to make it worth the investment.” It’s not that I don’t like his country — I really do. But this isn’t my last stop (God willing).

It was then that I realized that many expats in Ecuador — with the exception of backpackers, English teachers, and the like — are here for the long-run. They are retired North Americans or Europeans who have found a nice place to rest after a long career in their home country. And, of course, there are the Ecuadorians who have no reason to leave their home country.

Salinas, on Ecuador's hot, beautiful coast.

Salinas, on Ecuador’s hot, beautiful coast.

I’m sure there are others who fit into the “I’m staying here” category. But I’m not one of them. My wife and I were not looking for a “perfect” place to spend a large portion of our lives. Instead, we were looking for what we hope is the first of many destinations.

There were a lot “convenience factors” that went into the decision to move here: a language we’re familiar with; Western culture, which we are familiar with; a family we knew who happened to be living here; and a cost of living that made the move possible. Other than that, as I said, we didn’t spend a lot of time planning, researching, or debating before making a decision. Ecuador just showed up, accompanied by some good reports.

All that said, I’m very happy it “just showed up.” In a recent interview, Ecuador’s Minister of Tourism Sandra Naranjo said, “Our main challenge as a tourist board has been showing Ecuador beyond the Galapagos. Showing what we call ‘the Four Worlds of Ecuador.’ And perhaps that is part of the uniqueness of the country.” (Read the interview.)

We happened to choose a country that has so much to offer in such a small space. We recently enjoyed the hot, beautiful Pacific coast. Then, we drove through the flat coastal lands around Guayaquil. By the end of the day, we were cold, surrounded by tall mountains and waterfalls. This week we enjoyed one of Cuenca’s many beautiful days as we walked through Ruinas de Pumpapongo with the mountains surrounding and looking down on us.

My family and I might be in Ecuador for another year and we might be here for many years. The one thing I do know, though, is that it’s just a stop in our life. And it’s a very good stop.

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