Sunday, May 30, 2010

You May Move To Where?

In order to get feedback from others, I have been telling almost everyone I know I am thinking of retiring in Ecuador. The responses I am getting are very interesting. Usually there is a long pause during which friends are mentally trying to figure out exactly where Ecuador IS in the first place.

A common first response is: "I never hear anything about Ecuador." I usually reply by saying"Exactly" meaning that there is little political unrest there or things to worry about such as drug running (as in Columbia), drug-related murders (as in Mexico), weather calamities or other newsworthy events. In short, it appears to be a relatively peaceful place to live.

A second common response is: "Aren't you scared to go so far?" Well, the answer, frankly, is yes, but just a little bit. I am at the place in life where I want another adventure while I am healthy enough to experience it and enjoy it. In the end, it indeed may be too big of an adjustment for us, but I currently feel strongly that I want to give it a try. I had the same feeling some thirty years ago when I moved to California from Northern Minnesota. At that time I was getting "hardening of the thoughts" and felt I needed to expand my horizons, perspectives, and world views. I feel the same way now having lived in California for so long!

We actually have investigated other places to live. specifically Panama which is also rated very highly as a retirement haven. But, real estate and cost of living has risen greatly in the last several years due to the huge influx of gringos into Panama. Also the weather was way too humid there for our tastes.

By far the most frequent response so far..which encourages "Wow: Can we visit you?" Or, "we want to be your neighbor." Not sure what that means: may be code for "we think you are crazy but include us if it works out for you."

Will keep you all posted as we progress in our adventure and more people give us feedback on our plan......

Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Ecuador Retirement Plan

It is now about three weeks before we begin our adventure to a country to which we have never been - Ecuador. Our plan is to probably retire there in the next two years, from our current home in Orange, California where we have lived for twenty-eight years. First step is to visit for a month, then make serious plans for a move, if things go as planned.

We have been telling almost everyone we know about our plans, to get as much feedback as possible. Does this sound like a crazy thing to do, we ask ourselves? Why Ecuador, of all places? Can we adjust to the many cultural differences that we will most certainly experience? What about medical care? What about language problems? Can we disengage from a lifestyle we have known for so long? What do we do with all our furniture now in a 2900 square foot house? What about leaving our friends and family members? These and scores of other questions loom in our minds as we prepare for the first step of our Ecuador adventure.

First things first! Where IS Ecuador, people ask, usually after a glass of wine. We explain that it is between Peru and Columbia on the West Coast of South America. The Galapago islands are part of Ecuador, 600 miles off the coast. Ecuador has four basic regions. We are most interested in living in the Andes mountains either near Quito (the Capitol city) or Cuenca

Of all of the cities in Ecuador, Cuenca (population 467,000) is arguably the most charming with its cobblestone streets, old-world cathedrals, colonial parks and urban rivers. The famously traditional Cuencanos continue a proud intellectual tradition that has produced more notable writers, poets, artists, and philosophers than anywhere else in Ecuador. Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay province, the third largest city in Ecuador, and the economic center of the southern Sierra. These distinctions, along with the city's incredibly preserved history, recently earned Cuenca the honor of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.

So, why would we leave beautiful Southern California for Ecuador? The main reason is economic. I am a 67 year old psychologist who is ready to retire in a manner such that would allow me enough economic freedom to write books, and produce other mental health products (I specialize in Anger Management and Couples Therapy) that I have on the drawing board. Truth is, to continue my life style in Southern California, I would need to continue working pretty much full time. As an ex-pat in Ecuador they say one can live like a king for much less money (and stress).

For over a year now I have been following newsletters and blogs about Ecuador. For instance, International Living gives Ecuador high ratings in terms of places to retire. Gary Scott publishes a daily newsletter explaining all asepcts of life down there for ex-pats. Seems like other advantages include the great spring-like weather year around in the mountains, the incredible natural beauty, the tremendous bio-diversity of plant and aninmal life, and the friendliness of the people. It is also politically stable, although the government leans to the far left, which may or may not be an issue for the average ex-pat.

As I write this, I asked Pam what she would like to add. She says "I'm excited about the opportunity before me. I am looking forward to finding out what Ecuador is all about, meeting new people, tasting new foods, and seeing beautiful lush greenery. And the spring-like weather year around sounds great."