Debra Rambo, age 59, has been living in Ecuador for 16 months now.
“When I knew I wanted to retire I spent a few years exploring countries and options. In February 2014, I visited Ecuador by myself with Latin Frontiers.” When her private guide stopped in Cotacachi, Debra got out of the vehicle, looked around…and she was sold. “The moment I arrived I knew this was where I wanted to live. The vibe, quaint stores, sweet people and charming, clean streets of the small town immediately had an impact on me. The town center with all the leather shops reminded me of a time when I would go antique shopping when I was younger. It made me feel at home immediately.”
One of the primary reasons Debra moved to Ecuador was the low cost of living and good interest rates in the banking industry. Ecuador is also a stable and safe country. Now, Debra also says that she is feeling healthier in Ecuador, than when living in Texas. “I sleep better, lost weight and have less problems with diabetes. Having markets with cheap fresh food makes it easy to cook healthy meals for myself; and the walking you have to do to get around is good too. Besides this, I spend time doing things I love, like teaching English to locals, occasionally eating out in diverse restaurants and dancing to modern and Andean music”, Debra tells us happily.
Debra also enjoys living near some of the most beautiful natural resources of Ecuador; like the dormant volcanic mountains of Imbabura and Cotacachi, the hot springs of Chachimbiro, the crater lake Cuicocha and the Peguche waterfall. Debra speaks enough Spanish to communicate and really likes the local culture. Although, having many expat friends who feel the same, sometimes Debra experiences other retirees who are having a bit more problems fitting in. “The reality is”, Debra explains, “this is not the USA. Living in Ecuador has many great benefits, but it also has challenges. It is important to realize that moving to another country, no matter where you go or how old you are, always requires making adjustments and being open to other cultures.” Debra studied Anthropology and her studies presented opportunities to live in different countries and cities. She has always had a multi-cultural mix of friends and considers that an asset in her endeavor to integrate with the locals; an endeavour which she finds making life more fun.
In the future, Debra has plans to venture to southern Ecuador. She loves the area where she lives now, with the windows of her home providing a stunning view of Imbabura and Cotacachi mountains. Yet, she is also interested in spending time in Vilcabamba, a green valley close to Loja. “And, who knows, maybe one day I will decide to spend some time in Quito too! I like the countryside, but I am happy in Ecuador and have no plans of moving elsewhere, anytime soon. There is so much more to explore in beautiful Ecuador!” So far, moving to Ecuador has been a great adventure for Debra. She keeps in touch with her loved ones in the US by using Skype and Magic Jack; and a flight to the US is only a few hours away. “You will always miss little things from where you grew up. But, the only thing I REALLY miss? Jif peanut butter!” she laughs. “They sell it here, but it`s imported and therefore very expensive!”
Debra at her home in Cotacachi
“Hola! Soy Mary de Estados Unidos. I lived most of my life in Wisconsin and retired 3 years ago. When I retired back home I knew I didn`t want to spend another winter in the US. I like to be active and outside, but couldn`t find a warm place in the US I liked and could afford spending the winters in. So, in 2015, I spend 3 months exploring South America in a combination of tourism and “home-scouting”. In Ecuador, Latin Frontiers took me on interesting touristic activities and our great tour guide showed us where expats lived, and what the different areas in the country had to offer. What I experienced in this trip brought me back 9 months later.”
“I am now living in Cuenca and working on my residency visa in order to stay in this wonderful country. Cuenca is a World Heritage Site, and a delight to the eyes. The market with exotic fruits, vegetables, meats and bread is just blocks from my house, and there are plenty of green urban spaces and plazas to spend time outdoors, which the weather is great for. I usually lunch out, rarely spending more than 5$. Cuenca is a city easy to get around by foot. If I need a ride, taxis are metered and very cheap, and the busses, though confusing, only 25 cents. Shopping here is different from the US, I find it more interesting and satisfying, but it also takes more time.”
“Most evenings there are cultural events in Cuenca, and my favorite has been the symphony. I have met loads of wonderful people, expat and Ecuadorian. The expat community in Cuenca is large, friendly, organized and active, both in giving back to the community and in having fun. I socialize more than I did in the US; meeting for lunch, going to events, exploring and just walking. I also do some volunteer work and made it a priority to learn Spanish and spend approx. 9 hours a week on lessons and studying.”
“A well timed misfortune introduced me to the health care system in Ecuador. My second week I developed an abscessed tooth. Without telling the gory details – I discovered that the quality of care is excellent, the products used are sometimes superior; I love my dentist and I can afford all the dental care I need! Seriously, I am financially able to handle a huge dental emergency (out of pocket!) and not sacrifice on quality. I would not have been able to pay for the same care in the US.”
“It was important to me to fit in. I don’t delude myself that anyone will think that I am Cuencanan, but I want to live like the locals with a good standard of living, and high standard of health and sanitation. Is life perfect here? No. Are there challenges? Yes, and everyone’s experience is different. I think of retirement as a choose-your-own-adventure time. When I visited Ecuador for the first time with Latin Frontiers I came with an open mind and focused on possibilities. It turned out that Cuenca is a wonderful place for me now. Words that I would use to describe my life here are healthy, more indulgent, happy, easy, satisfying.”