This is where you might expect a hard-luck story, but we don't have one. We walked away from Dubai willingly. Purposefully. The bank didn't foreclose on our home. We weren't downsized. We didn't lose our retirement nest egg to nefarious Wall Street bankers or bad investment decisions. We moved because we wanted more out of life than Starbucks-filled shopping malls.Some told us we were crazy to "retire" to Ecuador at the age of 44, and, looking solely at the numbers, they had a point. They didn't get it and probably never will because our departure from Dubai was not about money. If money were our priority, we'd still be living in Dubai. In Dubai, everything looked great on paper, but, in reality, we were experiencing a steady decline in the quality of our lives with no end in sight.During a trip to Ecuador, we saw an opportunity to reverse that trend. And reverse it we did, agreeing to buy our current home five minutes after seeing it on our first day ever in South America. Carpe diem! We hadn't even seen the nearby town of Vilcabamba yet. FYI, it's not a strategy I recommend for everyone.With the deed to our nearly 2 acres of "dream come true" property firmly in hand, the decision to walk away from Dubai was easier to make. So, one year later, we put aside a life of much in Dubai for a life of so much more here near Vilcabamba, and we have never looked back.While you may be considering Ecuador for its lower cost of living, we saw a chance to live in a place that is remarkably beautiful and where the weather is just the best. So are the locals. Even though the health care is not, it's more than adequate and affordable enough that pay-as-you-go really is a viable option. While Ecuador is not as safe as Dubai (few places are), with more than seven years of experience living in this country, we feel as secure as we would in most rural areas of the United States or Canada.Some say there's nothing to do in Vilcabamba, but I'm busier now than when I was working. Since moving here, I've been designing houses, working on graphic designs, building furniture, doing some public speaking, traveling a bit, writing, and taking lots of photographs. Sue's been busy helping me as she continues to hone her baking skills while dabbling in things like welding and cement crafts.And we both tend to our property. That alone can be a full-time job the way anything green grows here in Ecuador. It's a rewarding experience eating homegrown bananas. And using them to make banana bread. And banana muffins. And banana cream pie. And banana jam. And banana pancakes. And...well, you get the idea.We used to "look forward" to getting up at 5 a.m. to beat Dubai's rush-hour traffic. Now we look forward to just getting up each day. Our rooster can't wait either. In theory, we traded more for less moving from Dubai to Vilcabamba in 2007, but we'd say today, seven years later, that we definitely came out ahead. We made a change in our life because we wanted a better life, the kind that is measured not by cost but quality.Of course, we've enjoyed the budget benefits of being in Ecuador, too. The low cost of living is a great perk for a country that already has so much to offer.So while economics may be a driving force in your considering a move to another country—for example, Ecuador—I urge you to explore other motivations too. You'll be glad you did. By doing so, you'll increase the chances of being happy in your new home. The low-cost-of-living benefit can be there, but move to a new country solely for that reason and you're limiting your upside.John Curran
Continue Reading: Part-Time Retirement In Cuenca, Ecuador, And Medellin, Colombia
"Ecuador law requires a two-year minimum for rentals," Graciela pointed out. "You don't want to deal with that until you're certain of your plans." Again, the best news about the rental market in Cuenca is that rental rates remain very low on a global scale. A typical monthly rent for a standard, unfurnished, one- to two-year rental is US$300. "When trying to find a rental, don't believe everything you read on the Internet," counseled our man in Cuenca, Ecuador Correspondent David Morrill. "You can find a lot of information about apartment rentals on blogs and social media, but you really need to get in the market and see for yourself. "Tell an expat in Cuenca that you're considering renting an apartment for US$500 a month, and he's likely to say something like: 'What?! Why would you pay that much? I'm renting for just US$300 a month!' "Maybe he is, but those kinds of conversations usually don't consider differences in neighborhoods and building amenities, for example. If you were renting an apartment in New York, you'd understand that you'd pay more in downtown Manhattan than you would in Queens. The same is true everywhere in the world, including in Cuenca. Neighborhoods can be very different when it comes to rentals, both in terms of what's available and also in terms of cost." Expats in Cuenca typically prefer to be near the historical district, not in it. More than 70% of Graciela's rentals are in this area, within walking distance of the city's historical center. How do you launch a search for a rental in Cuenca? As most anywhere in the world these days, the typical place to start is the Internet. When you go online, search in Spanish. Look for arriendas or se renta. Local newspaper classifieds can also be a good place to start, especially if you are looking for something long-term. Otherwise, you can walk the streets looking for rental signs and asking around. The best deals are found through word-of-mouth. "It's important, when renting a place to live in Ecuador," Graciela explained, "to try to understand the culture. Many of my clients will say, 'In the United States, we do it this way...' "You need to remember that we are not in the United States. In Ecuador everything is different—the culture, the workers, how we work, the legal system, the bureaucracy... "'Unfurnished,' for example," Graciela continued, "may mean no appliances, no curtains, no lighting fixtures...very basic." To state the obvious, rental agreements are going to be in Spanish, so you'll want someone who speaks Spanish and English and who you trust to review your agreement before you sign. Confirm how to get your deposit back, for example, and, very important, who is responsible for what. "It is common for the tenant to be responsible for small repairs like a leaky faucet," Graciela said, "but we've had cases where the landlord has said, 'I'm not responsible for replacing the roof.' "Or there could be an old microwave that's not working," she continued, "and I mention it during the inspection. The owner might say, 'Well, the tenant needs to pay for it, because it's in their hands.'" "None of this should frighten you off the idea of renting in Cuenca," David added. "We're just trying to help you understand so you can be prepared. You want to do more due diligence here than you would back home, not less." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Graciela and David's detailed and tell-all discussion of how to be a renter in Cuenca during last week's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference was recorded, along with every other presentation over the two-and-a-half days of this event. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit. You can purchase your copy of this everything-you-need-to-know-about-Ecuador resource pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
"Rule #4: Acknowledge your bad Spanish. "I've found that this gets you a lot of points. Unless your Spanish is legitimately fluent, begin any conversation with, 'Excuse me, my Spanish is not very good, but...' First, this makes the Spanish-speaker more attentive to what you're saying, but it does something else, too. It lets the person on the other end of the conversation know that you're not a cocky American who's going to barge in and belligerently demand what he wants. It signals instead that you're asking for help. That really puts someone in a different state of mind. "Rule #5: Pedestrians do not have the right of way, ever. "Lots of people get run over. One trick when crossing a street with a stop sign is to cross behind the lead car. Locals don't ever cross in front because that car is watching the traffic. When there is an opening to go, they will go whether there is someone in front of the car or not. The pedestrians are just expected to scatter. It takes some getting used to, but you can't expect crosswalks to be honored or for pedestrians ever to have the right of way. "Rule #6: You've got to drive aggressively. "If you're a yield-to-the-right-of-way person, you're going to be sitting at the first intersection you come up to until doomsday. Ecuadoreans are very aggressive behind the wheel. They don't let people in and they don't show courtesy, neither to pedestrians nor to other drivers. If you can't drive like them, you're better off not driving. I found it fun, so much more fun than driving in the States, when I got used to it. "Rule #7: Forget your ideas about personal space. "We tend to treasure a little space around us and don't touch or rub up against each other in public. Once in this country I was taking the bus and sitting next to a 12-year-old girl on her way home from school. As we were riding along, she fell asleep on my shoulder. When we got to her stop, she woke up and got off. That's a kind of closeness we're not prepared for. "Rule #8: Don't get in a taxi without agreeing the fare in advance. "I just read that Cuenca now has metered taxi. Guess what? Cuenca had metered taxis in 2002 when I was living in that city. They became law, but the taxistas refused to use them. They still do. They get away with it because customers don't complain. The taxista just puts a rag over the meter so you can't see it. So you want to get an idea of what the fare should be before getting in. "About a year ago, I arrived at the Cuenca airport and asked a driver, 'How much to downtown?' He said, 'Six dollars.' I said, 'I don't think so. I live here!' He said, 'Two dollars.' "Rule #9: Don't wait to be seated and other restaurant etiquette. "In the United States we wait to be seated, but here you seat yourself. Also, in our culture, a waiter is designated to certain tables, and you only ask your waiter for more water, etc. That doesn't happen here. All the waiters are happy to help. If you need something, don't worry about who took your order, just grab the next guy you see. "Also, you need to ask for the check. I can't tell you how many times I've seen folks angrily waiting for their checks while the restaurant has wanted to close 20 minutes ago. All the waiters stand shoulder-to-shoulder by the kitchen wishing the people would just ask for the check so they can go home. It's a standoff that happens all the time. It would be rude for a waiter to bring the check before you ask for it. By asking for it, they know you're done. You can say, 'La cuenta, por favor.' "Restaurant bills here include a 10% tip. If you want to leave something extra, that is fine but not expected. If I know the restaurant owner doesn't distribute tips to the wait staff, I leave cash on the table. "Rule #10: Bring patience with you. "Know that nothing will be as efficient as where you're from. Be patient. You're gonna' love it here if you learn to appreciate the differences." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Lee Harrison was master of ceremonies for last week's event in Ecuador. His presentation on Ecuador etiquette was recorded, along with every other presentation. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks from today. Meantime, you can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
"Dear Team Live and Invest Overseas, I thought this might interest you... "According to my Weather Pro App (widely used by Irish farmers) we can see that our trip to Dubrovnik next week will be somewhat of a disappointment weather-wise compared with Portugal. I never expected that. Just goes to show your weather reports in your recent Retire Overseas Index report were spot on." --Bea D., Ireland
"We also sell honey. My friends own an apiary. The flavor of the honey depends on the flowers that the bees are accessing. At my friend's apiary, they make a variety of flavors, and now their honey has been approved by the USDA. It's organic, certified USDA. "Tagua is a nut that grows on the coast. It's polished for a nice finish to make jewelry. Bracelets made from tagua range anywhere from US$2–US$12. One of my clients buys the tagua bracelets at US$2 and sells them wholesale for US$15 each. I'm not kidding you, US$15! The retail value for the bracelet is US$20. Angel ornaments made from tagua are a bestseller at Christmas, and we deliver each of these in a box. We sell them by the hundreds. The angels sell for around US$7, and people resell those for as much as US$25. "We in the import-export business here in Ecuador don't have access to big accounts. We have built our business on many small accounts, accounts that we can put in place only with the help of someone like you, someone with connections in the United States that we'd never be able to make without your help..." Kathleen Peddicord Editor's Note: As always, we recorded every presentation at last week's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference, including Roberto's on how to capitalize on import-export opportunities in this country. Now that the final speakers have left the stage, the complete collection of audio recordings is being edited to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference Kit. You can reserve your copy now, pre-release, saving more than 50% off the regular price. Do that here.
"Right now it's fall in Nebraska. While fall is a beautiful time of year, it's also a sad time because it signifies the end of the growing season. We don't have that here. The growing season is continual. As a kid, I knew what a poinsettia was. It came in a pot, and you bought it at Christmas time. Here poinsettias are trees. Impatiens, which were annuals back in Nebraska, grow to be bushes here. "I have a house with a yard and a gardener to take care of it, but I'm a Nebraskan. My parents taught me to mow the lawn. My neighbors all think I'm a gringita loca because I like to mow my lawn. They don't know what to make of it. The gardeners here pick something and stick it in the ground and, wow, it grows! There's joy in that. My second F-word for Ecuador is: Fantastic. "We tend to throw around the word 'fantastic' to the point where it ceases to have meaning. Fair enough. We should use it only when it really applies. 'Fantastic' means extraordinary. "I travel with some frequency to Ecuador's three major cities to try to stay on top of my businesses. On any given flight you can have a fantastic experience just looking out the plane window. The Andes...the volcanoes...these are fantastic sights. "One time in Baños, a little town with hot springs, our guide told us to go across the river and up the mountain and wait. At around 4:30 to 5 p.m., our guide told us, the clouds will part. So we went, and we waited, and, just as the guide had promised, the clouds parted...and there was the volcano. Not only that, but we could feel it rumble. I thought, 'Wow, this is definitely not Nebraska.' My next F-word is: Frustrating. "Now we get to the reality of living in a place that is not your home. After living here for nearly 15 years, I still have to remind myself not to become the person who thinks everything in the United States is turn-key, perfect, and efficient and then is unhappy because that's not how things are here in Ecuador. "Banco Pichincha is one of the largest banks in this country, and nearly everyone has an account there. On the 15th and the 30th of each month, there is a line like you would find at Disney World for their most popular ride that just snakes around and around outside the door of every Banco Pichincha branch. That's because everyone just got paid and is waiting in line to cash their paychecks. For me as a business owner, this can create huge frustrations. I can have to wait in line hours to make a simple deposit. But what are you going to do? Nothing. You just have to roll with it. "I applied for my citizenship here months ago. My lawyer and I compiled all the required paperwork and went to the immigration office. They told us, 'You're missing this paper.' "We got that paper and went back to immigration...where they told us that 'this document that you got two weeks ago was only valid for 10 days...' "After a few visits, even my Ecuadorian lawyer was frustrated. I finally said to him, 'I know what I have to do. Let me see what I can do on my own...' "I finally went by myself, said a prayer outside the building, and they took my application. "As I said, you've just gotta roll with it...all of it. Next F-word: Flexible. "This has to do with expectations and attitudes going into a new experience. If you expect that living in another country will be like a U.S. experience only in a different place, you'll struggle. But if you go into it with the attitude 'I'm gonna roll with whatever challenges come' and keep your mind flexible with a capital F, you'll be more likely to enjoy your experience. My final F-word for Ecuador is: Focus. "One thing that has really helped me make the most of my life here in Ecuador has been shifting my focus so that it's not on me and what I want but on other folks. For me this has led to becoming involved in the local community as a volunteer. Several years ago, in the English language church where I attend, they were asking for volunteers for the women's prison ministry. I raised my hand, and it's been life-changing..." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Thank you to Conference Director Lauren Williamson and Master of Ceremonies Lee Harrison who have co-hosted this week's event in Ecuador for us...and who have provided me with from-the-scenes reports to make it possible for me to share some of the goings-on in Quito with you. More to follow next week... Meantime, as always, we're recording every presentation of this week's event, including Theresa's introduction to the F-words of Ecuador. We'll bundle this collection of audio-recordings and other materials to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks after the event has finished. You can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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