Taking The Bus And Other Impossible Misadventures In Ecuador
Kali Kucera is a full-time Quito expat who addressed the group assembled in that city this morning for this week’s Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference, making a presentation that he titled:
“Taking The Bus And Other Impossible Misadventures.”
“Welcome to Quito,” Kali began, “my beloved city that adopted me.
“Welcome to the middle of the world, which on certain days can make you feel like you’re on the edge of the planet.
“This is a wonderful city,” Kali continued, “of about 27 cities put together. If this is your first time here and you’re walking around in Mariscal and feeling overwhelmed, multiply that by 27 to begin to get a real sense of this energetic capital.
“You may be wondering why I chose to title my presentation the way I did. Don’t worry, I’m not here to convince you to take the bus or to sell you bus tickets. I’m not even here to convince you to move to Ecuador. Taking the bus is a metaphor that I use for the process of adapting to being an expat.
“And that’s what this experience is all about—adaptation. Taking this bus, as I’ve chosen to do, has been for me a delightful experience that has allowed me to reset my expectations and assumptions about life and living and redefine my understanding of the difference between assumption and reality. Taking this bus has been a catalyst for me to reconsider everything.
“I’m from Seattle, born and raised there. I had a 15-year career at Microsoft before I moved down here to Ecuador. In the middle of that career, in 2007, I came to Ecuador and met a lot of people who you’re meeting at this conference, including attorney Grace Velastegui and Cuenca real estate expert David Morrill.
“Why did I decide to make the move from the life I had in Seattle to the one I have here now? It was almost a supernatural experience for me, not anything I could quantify.
“I love the Andes in general. That’s one thing that attracted me to Ecuador originally.
“I’ve traveled all around the Andes, not only in Ecuador but also in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. In doing that, I discovered a problem that seemed like an opportunity. It was nearly impossible, when I first started traveling in this part of the world, to find bus or train schedules that crossed borders. So I, along with a few other bus geeks, started a company called AndesTransit. We are now the number-one South American bus and train schedule resource. Next year we’ll be expanding to Argentina and Chile. The site works like Kayak and Expedia. You can even use it to find hotels in these countries.
“Bottom line, I came to Ecuador because it felt right. And I’d say that’s the most important thing, to choose the place that feels right to you, depending on what you’re interested in doing with your time and with your life.
“One great thing about Ecuador is that it’s easy to get traction here. I think that it’d take longer in other countries to go through the getting-established process. Getting residency, for example, can be easier. Not easy. Just easier than elsewhere. I loved Colombia so much, but the process of gaining residency seemed more difficult to me.
“Am I happy now that I’m here? No question. Cities are jungles, too. You don’t have to go to the jungle to have that experience in this country. Quito is a jungle, too. In a good way. After two years, I’ve seen only 10% of this town. It amazes me every day, the little corners that have their own traditions and their own interesting things to see. I find this exciting and invigorating.
“Of course, there are downsides living here, as anywhere. Ecuadorians don’t have any tradition of personal space, for example. They cut in front of you in lines, and they can be pushy on the street. People walk arm-in-arm on the sidewalks, and you have to walk into traffic to pass them sometimes.
“The flip side of how close people can be with each other here is that there’s a great sense of community. Everyone is family.
“Another downside is inefficiency. It’s everywhere. The flip side of inefficiency is business opportunity. The bus situation was my opportunity that I identified out of an inefficiency.
“Another challenge is banking. There’s no banking infrastructure in this country to speak of. I’m not sure what the flip side to this is. I think you just remind yourself of all the other things that Ecuador does offer!
“Language can be a challenge. Or you can see the limited English spoken as an opportunity for you to learn Spanish.
“And every inconvenience you identify is another excuse for an adventure.
“If you see it that way. That’s the key—your perspective.
“Taking the bus, as I think of it, and starting your life over in a new country, Ecuador or somewhere else, isn’t easy. But I’ve not regretted my decision one day since I made it. My life has been completely reinvented, and I know that, living here in Quito, I have so much more adventure to look forward to. I can’t wait to find out where this bus takes me next.”
P.S. Alas, I was unable to be in Ecuador for this week’s event. “All is going well,” skyped Conference Director Lauren Williamson from the meeting room of the hotel in Quito this morning, “but you’re missing out! Really, we’re having a great time.”
It was Lauren who shared details of Kali’s presentation today. Lauren and Lee Harrison, who’s acting as emcee for us, promise more from the scene tomorrow.