We constantly hear discussions about where in the world is the best place to live. There are literally thousands of blogs and websites dedicated to this discussion, some worthwhile, some not so valuable. Each will reveal what the author thinks about why he or she chose that place to live but, as is a common human trait, most people defend their choice whether it is a car, computer or city. So it goes with these blogs and websites. Each carries its own message which should be put into perspective. Contrary to what you may read on the international postings, there is more to this life changing move to another country than just the glitter. The decision on where to live is a terribly personal one. Let us give you an idea of why we think it is so personal by explaining what our priorities have been and continue to be, priorities that addressed our personal needs. Everyone will have different life-style categories of what is important when deciding on a new living location. There might be dozens of categories where a person would compare countries, states, or cities. We came up with four main criteria – Climate, Cost of living, Education for Jonny, and safety. Using only our own experience and knowledge, we placed them on a scale of one to five and compared them to four destinations– Cuenca, Southern Florida, Coastal North Carolina, and St.Thomas, VI. Without going into all the details of our ratings, we were surprised to find that Coastal North Carolina came out slightly best with Cuenca just behind in total score. But what was most revealing was not the total score but the disparity between the different categories. In our evaluation, Cuenca was best in climate and cost of living and was the worst choice in education and safety. The other three destinations were about in the middle on everything except cost of living which came to a distinct disadvantage. So, Cuenca scored exceptionally high in climate and cost of living and was at the bottom in education and safety. These categories were, however, like apples and oranges and had different personal values for us. Looking more carefully at how important each category was to us, we realized that no one could change climate or cost of living but we could change education and safety. It would just require some changes in how we lived. We chose Cuenca because climate and cost of living were the best we could find anywhere. Where Cuenca was lacking we could make changes by supplementing Jonny’s mediocre educational situation with additional tutoring and try to follow the US educational grade guidelines. He is a bright boy and eager to learn which is half the battle. Safety, however, became another story and has required some important life style changes. Over the last six months, we have been careless and so have a number of our friends. There have been way too many simple assaults by young men in order to steal handbags, cell phones, or to make car break-ins. Petty thieves are getting more brazen as they are almost everywhere in the world but this is somewhat novel to Cuenca and, as the police seem to do nothing, creates an individual responsibility for all of us to be more careful. We have learned to wear or carry nothing that looks valuable, to have only essential credit cards and minimal money in our pockets, to call radio cabs not hail street roaming taxis, to be sensible where we walk at night, and above all, to be alert to suspicious looking people around us. These are simple tasks and can all be done easily once you realize you are not in a bucolic suburb in the US with police cars roaming the neighborhood at all hours of the day and night and totally ignore safety concerns. Once you accept the fact that you are in a poor country with a very young population, what seems like an inconvenience quickly prompts you to become street smart. For us, being more conscious about security and supplementing Jonny’s education with additional tutoring has allowed us to fully enjoy Cuenca’s extraordinary climate and low cost of living. It is a trade off but, as with many other things in life, compromise is the route we have chosen to follow.
A New Kind of Blog
There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.