Saturday, August 2, 2014

STILL LIVING IN CUENCA ECUADOR - 20 MONTHS LATER! We burned the bridge.......


TO OUR BEAUTIFUL OREGON HOME - and returning to Cuenca Ecuador

So, we decided to make the BIG DECISION to return to our Oregon home and BURN THE BRIDGE!  By that, I mean - we still had our home and enough of our STUFF to go back to if things didn't work out as we expected it to here.  When we originally landed in Cuenca on December 5th, 2012, it was with the intention of staying - of course.  But unlike most who decide to ex-pat, we did not do any exploratory visits, had never been to Ecuador, and we moved here with 6 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.  Yes, we did sell LOTS of our STUFF before we left on our ex-pat adventure.  However, because of timing and also the thought, "What if we don't like it?" - we ended up renting our home and then storing in our property sheds the remainder of a household of 40 years of treasures that we weren't ready to let go of.

Here we are 20 months later and comfortably settled into a South American culture and lifestyle, and our simplified way of living - loving our retirement and freedom.  Of course this CHANGE didn't happen without frustrating challenges (Bo calls them "opportunities to grow"), moments of panic attacks, melt-downs, and questioning ourselves in the beginning, "What in the world have we done?"  Yet, because of the amazing people we immediately began to meet and the loving Ecuadorian people who continued to embraced us and welcome us into their lives and families, Cuenca grew on us and  challenges became victories as we began to feel more and more like this was HOME.

Living thousands of miles away from the familiar, from family and friends, and from all the luxuries and conveniences of the USA is not an option for many who might dream about leaving their country and retire somewhere else.  Not knowing the language is also a big part of the decision not to leave your comfort zone.  Yet, so many take the big leap, get out of their box, and go for it.  After a year or two, they sell everything and return back to their country and families.  Did they fail?  I THINK NOT!  I admire anyone who takes a chance and makes the leap to brave a new adventure.  We've talked to so many people in our 20 months here who have come for different reasons - some for an adventure, some for economic and financial reasons, some for political reasons, some are even here to save money and then plan to return to the USA and continue their retirement.  One couple lost everything in a flood and chose Cuenca as an affordable area to start all over again.  I could go on and on.............

Why did we come?  Our main reason was to find a new location out of the Oregon Willamette Valley 8 months of rain.  Summers were beyond beautiful and the weather was perfect, but 8 months of overcast, damp, LONG winters was a continual yearly struggle for Bo.  In the end, it became a struggle for me too.  Our second reason was to retire early and enjoy our 60's free to travel and enjoy life together NOW while we still have our health.  Our third reason?  The changing political and economic atmosphere of the USA inspired our decision in a big way to ex-pat.  Oh, there's lots of other reasons why we made such a change in our lives, and we are still learning how to adjust to a completely different culture and lifestyle - but we are back in Cuenca, happy to be home, and ready to continue our ex-pat adventure.

After our recent return to Cuenca from the USA - and weeks of selling and giving it all away - we admit that if we knew it was going to be such a difficult, heart-wrenching, letting-go-of-everything task, we may have never done this.   Garage-selling our beautiful household treasures for practically nothing was a hard one for me.  Bo sold a 25-year accumulation of his shop tool treasures, and the first day he struggled big time.  By the second day, he was blessing people and ready to sell and give it all away. When we were ready to let go it became easier and easier, but the work part of it was exhausting and draining.  Our weeks in Oregon were not a vacation.  It was a time of purging and selling and letting go from morning until late evenings.  I could not see a light at the end of the tunnel.  A few generous friends blessed us with their precious time and helping hands, making this exhausting task a bit easier (Thank you dear ones - you know who you are!!).  Emotionally, it didn't end for me until the day when I was able to walk away from our empty cleaned out property and head for the airport.

So, IT IS DONE!  Bo and I are back in Cuenca and we both feel like we are on vacation.  I have an even greater appreciation for our simple lifestyle here, for our small but lovely apartment that is truly home, and for the many friends that have embraced us since our return.  This few weeks' journey has inspired me to reflect on the last year and a half of living in another country and my reasons for wanting to go "BURN THE BRIDGE" and return back to Cuenca to call this HOME.

1 - COST OF LIVING - Isn't this THE BIG ONE for so many who have left the USA?  We noticed it even more this last visit - hearing that the cost of everything has gone up.  Well, we were in "reverse" culture shock after living in a country that allows us to live such an inexpensive affordable lifestyle.
The COST of groceries and eating out (which we did a lot of because of the hours of work and exhaustion) put us both over the edge.  We finally had to accept that this is the USA not Cuenca when it comes to the cost of anything.  Homeowners and auto insurance, and gas and auto expenses were also things we dealt with there that we do not have, need, or want here.  Yes, maybe we will have an auto down the pike - but for now, walking, buses, and taxis suit us fine.  One day, while in Florida, my girlfriend and I were in a shopping mall.  There were two stores we needed to go to a few stores apart.  I wanted to walk to the next store, she wanted to drive there.  I said, "It's right there!"  She replied, "Yeah, they look close, but it's a mirage.  Besides, driving saves time."  Here in Cuenca we have TIME, and we walk miles and miles and love it.  Bo said that  the most walking he did in the States was walking from the door to the car.  I agree!

2 - HOME IN THE COUNTRY vs CITY LIVING - I must say that being back at our beautiful Oregon home had it's allure.  I loved hot-tubing every evening after a long day of purging and selling, and I loved the summer country smells and quiet country life.  I loved being surrounded by trees and having no traffic zooming by (we lived in a very isolated area).  Yet, I looked at all that work - yard work, big house to keep clean, old house to keep updated constantly, and imagined STUFF once again pouring out of every room and shop and shed.   Then, I thought about our Cuenca apartment in the city, so cozy and comfy and beautifully furnished with EVERYTHING we need, near our market, pharmacy, and every other store we need something from, including walking distance to the Tomebamba River, Parque Calderon, Parque De La Madre, and so many other fabulous beautiful sites.  Knowing that this season of our lives is for living in the city and not the country made me want to leave it all behind and return to our Cuenca city life!

3 - FAMILY AND FRIENDSHIPS - It was such a non-stop working time for me in Oregon that I was only able to spend time with friends that came by the house to see us and/or help us.  I didn't realize how much time and how difficult a task this would be for me - my emotions and energy were low during this working trip.  I'm grateful for the friends I did get to see, but sad I didn't get to say goodbye to others.   I am thankful for the friendships we now have in Cuenca, and I realize how much time we are able to spend here with the people we love.  Retirement life isn't as busy and all-consuming where we are constantly working and unable to spend time with the people we enjoy.  Being retired ex-pats is a good thing for us.  More time to play and be with our friends - and we have some quality and wonderful friends here.  For this I am so thankful to my God.

4 - HEALTH - I must say, when Bo and I go back to the USA, we become foodaholics.  Eating healthy and exercising are a big part of my life.  So I always return from our trips back home feeling fat and sick and tired of food.  Do I enjoy my garbage-gut meals and zillion Starbuck's White Chocolate Mocha's, and on and on?  You betcha!  That's what you do when you're on vacation - eat out and pig out.  Well, 6 weeks is a long time to be pigging out for me.  So, I'm happy to be back in Cuenca where I'm home and able to eat healthy and exercise again.  What a joy to go to the market and get those amazing fresh fruits and vegetables and organic eggs, and fresh meats.  I LOVE IT!  Since we've been back, I've been enjoying my daily market trips even more - with a greater appreciation for the quality and inexpensive cost of food here.  Oh, it's the little things.........

5 - MEDICAL - While we were back at our house, Bo was spraying a mold remover solution on his shop ceiling, and he got some in his eye.  It required a visit to a 24-hour care clinic where they flushed his eye out and gave him a prescription for antibiotics (which he never filled - who could afford it??).  There went $160 of our meager garage sale money.  We are so grateful for the excellent and inexpensive medical care we have and continue to receive here in Cuenca.  It's a big question for many planning on moving here, and we have both personally experienced nothing but the best of medical care here.  We now have the IESS government insurance for $80 a month - and we are covered for all of our medical, dental, eye, and pharmacy expenses.  We've heard about the pros and cons of this coverage, and some choose to use the IESS for catastrophic coverage and continue on with their already established medical physicians.  Our excellent family physician whom we have been patients of for a few months now charges $10 for an office visit (and spends as much time with us in that visit as it takes!).  We've had x-rays, dental work, and eye care here.  Every out-of-pocket expense is crazy-affordable-inexpensive!  We always laugh when we leave an appointment - for joy!  Back in the USA, we paid over $500 a month for our medical premiums and that was for a $10,000 deductible and catastrophic coverage ONLY!  What's not to love about our medical care and caring physicians here???

6 - HOME - Last and best of all - We're home!  Coming home was a long long journey.  To fly back from Oregon to Guayaquil is beyond a long journey.  Well, this time Bo and I stopped in Florida to be with friends until our return.  So, we flew from Tampa to Miami and were supposed to have only an hour layover, ready to arrive in Guayaquil at 7 pm - where our driver would be waiting to pick us up and drive us to our Cuenca home that evening.  We should have been in Cuenca by midnight.  Unfortunately, our plane had mechanical difficulties and they had to board us on another flight, landing us safely in Guayaquil at midnight.  Our driver patiently waited for us (what a guy!!!) and drove us safely home by 4 am.  Now, that was a LONG journey.  When we opened our apartment door and I walked in and saw my lovely place, I was SOOOOOOOO HAPPY!  It was as though we had been gone for months.  I have come to love our home and Cuenca more and more the longer we are here.  As tired as we both were, Bo managed to haul our 8 suitcases up 3 flights of stairs.  We fell into bed by 5:30 am, and slept most of the day.  Yes, we had arrived home at last!

 It takes time to readjust to the altitude, food, and lifestyle upon returning, but we are now settled back into our daily routine, eating healthy, exercising, and enjoying our beautiful city.  The worst is over - BURNING THE BRIDGE - and the best continues - LIVING IN ECUADOR!

What I Missed About my Cuenca HOME!

It was a joy to walk back into our cozy colorful apartment in Cuenca after being gone for several weeks.

Seymour was waiting to greet us - with all our lovely lush green plants. I missed our colorfully splashed walls.......

I missed our spacious organized kitchen.......

.........where we love too cook healthy gourmet meals.......

......and I missed having special friends around our table for delicious dinners or weekly English classes.

I missed opening my curtains every morning and seeing our beautiful Historic Cuenca view and letting the hustle bustle of city life sounds into our apartment.

I  missed taking care of my beautiful lush green plants (thank you to my three ñañas for taking care of my home).

I missed hibernating in our TV room and watching a knuckle-gripping Thriller movie.

I missed cozying up in our living room, lighting a Yankee "Midnight" Candle........

....and just relaxing and reading a good book.

I especially missed spending time in my "girl cave" with my photography and other artsy pass times.

.......and at the end of a "City Life" day of retirement - I missed cozying up in our comfy KING bed and resting for the next day's adventure!


Yes, it was a couple months back in the states of working and purging and letting go - but what a blessing of an apartment and home to come back to.  Not bad for $280 a month, hey??? 


  1. Bo and Linda, I just found your blog and started to read from the beginning of your journey. I got as far as when you found your fifth apartment, then had to jump to last post to see if you had decided to stay! Your reasons for moving to Cuenca resonate very deeply with where my husband and I are right now. We've begun to pray about and to research doing the same thing as you two. Thanks for sharing--it's a huge help to us as we pray and process. Lord willing, we will be visiting Cuenca next June & would so love to meet you both! -Deanna & Michael (my email is dlr1229@swbell.net)

    1. Welcome to our Blog, Deanna and Michael!
      How wonderful that you have begun your journey of research and planning as you get ready for an ex-pat adventure! I hope you find our blog and my photography informative and inspiring if you are considering coming to Ecuador and especially Cuenca. So, now you know - We did decide to stay - and with joy! Stay in touch and before you know it June will be here and so will you. We'll do coffee at Cafe Nucallacta - yes?
      God bless you and guide you both,

  2. Linda, you are speaking my language! I am a total coffee snob, so your suggestion is one that we will take you up on if God opens the doors for us to visit! We do have a few personal questions we'd like to ask if you wouldn't mind corresponding through email. -Deanna

  3. Linda and Bo, it is so good to read your new entry into living in Cuenca. I have missed seeing your adventures, and it is so good to read how important God is in your lives. My husband, Jeremiah, and I are contemplating moving from our Wyoming home, friends and family to Ecuador and it is an encouragement to us to see how you are doing. We were worried about church life in Ecuador but after reading your post on your trip to Vilacabamba and your mention of Bible Fellowship groups our hearts were so happy, as that is an important part of our lives. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I know we have many questions but for now, welcome back. Paulette and Jeremiah Mehl

    1. Thank you for continuing to enjoy our BLOG and for leaving your comment. It's been a LONG journey for us, and a very challenging transition from life in the USA to a simplified life in Cuenca - but we are so happy to be back in beautiful Cuenca and continue to enjoy our early retirement. I hope you continue to read and enjoy our adventure and I hope to post more often about our Cuenca-Ecuador adventure. So you know, you will not be lacking for wonderful Bible Fellowship here in Cuenca. I will be in touch.

    2. Linda, we are praying for God's guidance on our own Ecuador adventure for we cannot do it without Him. At this point after the 1st of the year we will make our 1st trip to see and feel for ourselves the lay of the land, the people, and how we may fit in, first as visitors then as residents. God has been leading us in our moves so we are confident with Him we can't go wrong. Praying for you to continue to have a blessed time in Cuenca.

  4. I stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago while surfing the internet. I visited Cuenca while on vacation in February 2013 after having read up on it in a guide book when I visited Guayaquil and Quito the previous year. It is an enchanting town with such friendly people. Your blog makes me think about possibly retiring to Cuenca when the time comes. Keep on writing about your adventures and good luck.

    1. Welcome to our Blog!
      Thank you for your kind words - and yes, I will keep on sharing our adventure! Keep on reading, and who knows? Maybe, you too will be living in Cuenca one day. For now, enjoy my photography of this beautiful city.

  5. What a lovely blog, thank you for the clarity and detail. At the age of 23 I upped sticks and emigrated to Australia from WA. now, nearly 40 years on, I'm thinking about another big move, to Ecuador.

    Like yourselves, I won't be making a visit before deciding (the airfare from here is nearly $4000!), so I'm doing a LOT of reading. Thank you again for all the useful information and insight.

    1. HI Polly,
      Welcome to our BLOG! I hope you enjoy reading about our adventure, and also that you find what I share helpful and informative. We also did a lot of reading and then decided to just "go for it!" Now we are thankful we did and continue to love Cuenca and our simplified life here. I'm sure you will find your answers and know when it's time to "move on."


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)