My 3 weeks spent scouting Cuenca, Ecuador was enough to give me a feel for the city and enough information was gathered to make some major decisions about living there. In 3 weeks time, I walked close to 200 miles within a 2-mile radius of where we were staying in our AirBnB.
Doing this much walking taught me several important things about living in Cuenca:
* This is a very walkable city, so not owning a car will not be as traumatic as I first thought. There are plenty of cabs to catch and the most we ever paid was about $3.00 within the city.
* If you live in the right location, everything you will need is within walking distance. The things that were important for me to be close to were a **supermarket** and a **gym**. Those are two places that I go to regularly.
* Comfortable shoes for walking are important. We plan to and will have to walk a lot more in Cuenca than we ever did in the states. We’ll have no car. There are sidewalks to everywhere in Cuenca and lots of other people walking. People with big feet may want to consider bringing a few extra pairs of shoes down because large sizes, ie. 12,13 and up, are not going to be easy to find.
* Knowing the language would have been really helpful. Fortunately, I was with a friend who spoke and understood Spanish pretty well. On my own, I was pathetic.
* Bicycling in Cuenca is iffy. There are some bike paths, but not many, and the roads can be narrow, filled with crazy drivers. That said, I would be willing to give it a try, and learn where the bike routes are. I saw more bike shops than I did people biking. I’m packing my bike helmet!
Things I will miss the most about leaving the U.S.:
- The ability to hop in my truck or car and take off someplace.
- Natural foods stores with plenty of organics.
- Close friends, although I know I will make new ones, I will still miss not having the old ones close by.
- My tools. I love having an assortment of power tools available to me.
Many people would say, “well what about your family”. We see our family members about twice a year right now. We will probably travel back to the states to visit about twice a year, so nothing changes except the distance.
- Not having auto expenses, ie. insurance, gas, repairs.
- The ability to walk everywhere.
- Cheap transportation, utilities, rent, food, and more.
- Low cost of living.
- Great weather year round…low humidity.
- A higher quality of life at a slower pace.
- The enjoyment of being immersed in a culture of greater simplicity.
- Living in a country that is not a warring nation.
- Distance from the tiring U.S. political system. Not being immersed in it felt wonderful when I was in Ecuador.
- There is no mail delivery that is reliable so don’t expect to get anything from the states delivered to you this way.
- Some things are more expensive than in the US, ie, imported foods and goods.
- Large size clothing and shoes are hard to find.
- Electronics, like computers, cost more…a lot more.
- Not knowing the language is a barrier and can be frustrating.
- Don’t expect to find a good assortment of organic foods or goods.
- You can’t find food grade baking soda in Ecuador.
- The bureaucracy will be frustrating at times, especially if you don’t know the language.
These are my conclusions after spending almost two months in Ecuador, in two different areas of the country. I highly recommend to anyone considering a move there to visit first. Spend at least several weeks. That’s enough time to know whether you will be able to live there or not. Walk around, take taxis and buses, meet other gringos and gringas as well as Ecuadorians. Ask questions and explore different areas.
Ecuador is different world than in the U.S. and maybe that’s what makes it so appealing!
Note: The author spent one-month living and exploring Cotacachi, Ecuador and about three weeks in Cuenca.