Travel Professor
by on July 11, 2021  in Retirement / Real Estate /
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You only have so much time in life, and hesitation is the enemy of accomplishment. I once saw a quote that said, "You rarely regret the things you did in life, just the things you didn't do". So it didn't come as much of a surprise when, a few years ago, the sentence, "It's time for another adventure before I have to start wearing a diaper," popped out of my mouth.

Both my wife and I are "why not?" people.

Right out of university my wife, Sharon, climbed on a plane, flew north to Iqaluit, and started teaching in the far north of Canada for nine years.

Instead of finishing university, I decided to hitchhike around the world.

I picked tobacco in New Zealand, worked for the Moscow circus in Australia, and stood on top of the Cheops pyramid in Cairo. Eventually I landed in England, enrolled in drama school, and spent the next 50 years as an actor.

Shortly after we were married, and before I knew better, I made the mistake of mentioning to Sharon that I had always harbored the fantasy of sailing to the South Pacific. Of course she said "Why not?".

So we spent two years learning how to sail, and in my late fifties we sold everything, bought a sailboat, and spent the next three years sailing south from Vancouver, through the Panama Canal, and back up the east coast.

After returning to Vancouver we traded the sailboat for a powerboat and lived the boating life off the coast of British Columbia for the next 15 years.

When the diaper remark crossed my lips I immediately knew I was in trouble!

With Sharon alternately prodding and dragging me, in very short order we had a subscription to International Living magazine and were researching places where we could retire on our meagre savings and pensions.

While we were sailing, we had to wait out hurricane season in Panama, so we flew to South America for three months. We traveled through a number of countries, enjoying them all.

Standing in Machu Picchu gazing out over the magnificent Andes or sipping a dark Cabernet in the wine country of Mendoza, Argentina was magical. 

So, South America became our focus, and after attending an International Living conference in Las Vegas we decided that Ecuador checked most of our boxes. Stable government, good national healthcare, safe, affordable, various climates to choose from, a number of easy paths to permanent residency, and a good jumping-off place to continue exploring the rest of South America.

The next order of business was to decide where in Ecuador we would drop ourselves.

A scouting trip seemed in order. So we hopped on a plane (ah, the good old days!) and headed south.

We spent a month between Guayaquil (too big), Cuenca (too cold for us), Vilcabamba (too many expats), and Loja (Spanish a necessity). Although the coast was an option, while we were sailing we had experienced the heat of Panama for six months and knew that was not for us.

Loja is a small city with a number of universities, a thriving arts, music, and cultural scene, and almost constant spring weather. It seemed ideal for us. And because very few people here speak English the necessity to learn Spanish would mean we would, eventually, become more embedded in the real Ecuador. After all, one of the main purposes of a move like this is to expand your horizons.

So in January 2020, Sharon and I, our cat, our dog, and five giant suitcases got on a plane on a snowy morning in Vancouver and began the latest chapter in our attempt to squeeze as much juice as possible out this strange fruit we call life.

Ironically, a month after we arrived, Covid hit, and here we sat, trying to avoid doing all the things we came here to do. How bizarre is that?

Don't get me wrong, the positive affect of this move on our lives has been tremendous regardless. For starters, life without a car has meant walking everywhere when we do go out. As a result I have lost 50 pounds and, to the enormous delight of my long-suffering wife, stopped snoring. From her perspective the whole upheaval is worth it just for that! 

The fact that English is not widely spoken here meant we needed to improve our Spanish and the lockdowns gave us time to learn.

The move south also changed our economic outlook tremendously. We live in a new, three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment within walking distance of downtown which includes all utilities, cable TV, and high-speed internet.

Back in Vancouver this apartment would have cost us $3,000 a month or more. Our cost here is just $350 a month. We do have to pay for healthcare (which is free in Canada) but $200 a month covers both of us so it's not a big bite out of the budget. Our food budget of $350 a month is less than half what we spent back home and we are eating a much healthier diet since fruits and vegetables here are ridiculously cheap. And perhaps most importantly, we are finally completely debt-free.

So what's the downside? There has to be a downside, right?

So far, the downside has been Covid, but that's everywhere. Our life in Vancouver wouldn't have been much different than our life here when it comes to seeing people during a pandemic. Zoom calls and masks became the norm everywhere in the world.

Of course, we miss our old friends at home but the locals here have been more than kind and welcoming so we already have a lot of new friends.

And when I'm out walking the dog here, I'm wearing a t-shirt. Year round! I saw the actor John Cleese on TV the other day saying that he only had one item on his bucket list: He never wanted to be cold again.

Score one for us.

By Kenneth Taylor

For more International Living content, click HERE


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Travel Professor
All content is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute advice. Consult with a licensed professional before making any wealthcare decisions.
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