Developing In Vilcabamba Ecuador
“I began my search for a place to live outside U.S. borders in early 2005,” writes Joe Simonetta from Ecuador this week.
“First, I looked throughout Central America. But the weather (the humidity and the hurricanes) was too similar to the weather in Florida, where I had lived for years. Plus, it seemed to me that the Americans who’d been moving to countries in this region in big numbers for a couple of decades had already inflated real estate prices.
“So I began looking farther south, in South America. Ecuador got my attention right away, mostly because of its proximity to the States. The closer I looked, the more I liked the place. The Andes Mountains are spectacular. But there’s also coast, jungle, the Galapagos Islands…
“For me the best part was the climate. In the mountains in this country, the weather is mild year-round, allowing for inside/outside living. No one uses heat or air conditioning. Nature has set the temperature just right. It’s warm (shirt-sleeve weather) and sunny during the day and chilly enough so that you want to sleep with a blanket at night.
“That’s the weather report every day. All year.
“A friend from California suggested I take a look at Vilcabamba. I had never heard of it before, so I started researching.
“Most towns in Ecuador have a town square. Vilcabamba is no exception. It’s tidy…clean.
“There are no traffic lights in Vilcabamba. No stop signs either. There’s no need. And there are always parking spaces, even right in front of where you want to go. Most people here can’t afford a car.
“It was more than the weather, though, and the tidiness of the town square that attracted me to Vilcabamba. This is a spectacularly beautiful place. And remarkably healthy, with pure air and abundant clean water.
“The negative ions are off the chart here. High concentrations of negative ions make you feel energized and invigorated. And that’s how you feel when you spend time here.
“The elevation, at 5,000 feet, is conducive to good coronary health. The growing season is year-round, so you’ve always got fresh local produce.
“The people are welcoming and warm-hearted. The way of life is simple. Crime is virtually non-existent.
“And very important, of course, the cost of living is very low. Building costs, for example, are $35 to $40 per square foot for high-quality construction.
“I visited Vilcabamba for the first time in June 2005 and realized almost immediately that this was where I wanted to live. And, indeed, I intended only to live in Vilcabamba. I came in search of a new life. But life, it seems, had bigger ideas.
“Fast forward three years, and, today, I own the largest hacienda (663 acres) in Vilcabamba and, with my business partner Carl, am developing 50 riverfront and hillside homes. How did that happen?
“I was introduced to a place called Hacienda San Joaquín on my first visit to this country. The property was impressive but overgrown and rundown. I made an offer that I was sure wouldn’t be accepted…but it was.
“Suddenly, I owned a sizeable piece of property in Ecuador. I decided the thing to do was to find a partner and to make a plan for developing.
“I returned to the States mid-July 2005 to wrap up my affairs back home. A month later, I was back in Vilcabamba…and a few months after that, I was an official resident of Ecuador. I hired a bilingual assistant, realizing immediately that I needed someone to help me overcome the language barrier.
“It’s been full steam ahead ever since. When people come to visit, they’re astonished at what we’ve been able to accomplish in three years. Really, though, the plan has been modest, and the priority has been to preserve the natural setting. About half of the more than 600 acres of the property has been kept in its natural state for walking, hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, etc.
“On the other hand, our ideas about how to develop Hacienda San Joaquín have evolved dramatically over the past three years. This was too special a place to develop into simple home sites. So what we’ve tried to build instead is a community of like-minded people…people looking for the same things I was looking for when I first came to Ecuador myself.
“When I was young, I had the idea that, someday, I’d like to own an island, a place where I could live with friends. This ranch is that island. And it’s better than that island. We’re surrounded by mountains on three sides and open to the Vilcabamba River on the fourth. It’s an island of tranquility…and it’s being inhabited by interesting, not-your-run-of-the-mill people. They’re special. They have to be, because, frankly, they’re doing a special thing. They’re looking beyond U.S. borders…to find Ecuador…and to find the Hacienda San Joaquín. A whole community of these adventurous souls is developing, just as I’d hoped it would.”