Living Comfortably in Ecuador on $1,100 a Month
By Cathy McKay
My journey to overseas retirement started about 10 years prior to actually retiring. Although I have traveled a fair amount both domestically and internationally for work and pleasure over the years, I never thought much about retiring abroad. I tried living in some nice retirement communities in Florida and Arizona but found that lifestyle a bit limiting.
I loved visiting new countries and experiencing different cultures but I was concerned about moving to another country as an unmarried woman. I had googled retirement abroad from time to time and read some articles on International Living that were very inviting. My concerns other than being an unmarried woman were cost of living, climate, and adjusting to a new culture. It seemed many of the more affordable retirement destinations were in warmer climates and I had a problem with the humidity in Florida.
One day I was researching online and found Cuenca, Ecuador. High in the Andes mountain range at 8,500 feet, it had a very mild climate ranging from 40 F at night to 70 F during the day. It was perfect. I also was able to connect with some other single female expats on the Facebook expat exchanges who were living in Cuenca and felt very comfortable there. It didn’t take long at that point for the spirit of adventure to kick in, and before long I was selling off my belongings (very liberating) and making plans for the move.
I am traveling light with three suitcases and one little dog. I wasn’t sure where this journey was going to take me so I wanted as much flexibility and I could get.
I have spent most of my time in Cuenca. It is a bustling city of about 300,000. It has a European feel in its architecture most likely left over from the Spanish occupation some 500 years ago. It is a walking city with beautiful parks aligning the four rivers that run through the city. The Ecuadorian culture is warm, inviting, and always polite. There are many multi-cultural restaurants to choose from and I find myself cooking more with the wide variety of fruits and vegetables available. There are few additives in the food here so healthy eating is easy. With an estimated 8,000 North American expats living here it is easy to find friends for help and support. And I live comfortably on my Social Security income of just over $1,100 a month.
After being in Cuenca for a little over a year I decided I needed to get out of the city and try country life. So in August 2016, I packed up and moved to Cotacachi, a small town of around 9,000 about one hour driving north out of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The expats support the community with volunteer opportunities and host a Thursday morning mercado (market) where many expat and Ecuadorian homemade foods and delicious fresh picked fruits and vegetables are sold. I was also able to take a number of short bus tours arranged by English-speaking guides to other cities such as Quito (the capital), Otavalo (known for its textiles), and Ibarra.
I am not sure if Ecuador will by my final destination. I feel a sense of wanderlust now that I am able to navigate a bit better in the expat world. However, this country is home for now and will always have a special place in my heart.