Thursday, January 31, 2013

73 days and counting...we booked our tickets!

It's official - we're heading to Ecuador for a month. We booked our tickets this morning, flying out on April 15th and back home on May 14th. We opted for a longer flight time with two stops, saved us $200. Guess the seats from JFK to Miami are harder to sell because it's cheaper to fly DCA->JFK->MIA->GYE than DCA->MIA->GYE. Go figure...LOL.

Yesterday our Amazon order arrived with the following items:
Frommer's looks like a good read; the pocket dictionary print is so small we have to use a magnifying bookmark that I had to read it, the Spanish phrase book is definitely a great buy, both the bag bungees and the digital scale are perfect for our needs and we've yet to open up the Immersion Spanish CDs.

The biggest apprehension for both of us is the language barrier. Fortunately we have made enough good contacts that we should be okay for the first few days. We will spend some time with the Immersion Spanish CDs though, trying to at least know a little bit. The only other apprehension is mine, a little nervous over the food and my digestive system. Hopefully it won't be an issue.

We're now making our lists of things we need to do before we leave, gotta love lists. Then we'll make a list of the things we want/need to accomplish while we are there. Needless to say, we're getting really excited now. I even put a count-down clock in the blog sidebar. WOOT!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Luggage Buying

When we returned from our last cruise, we had to throw away a medium sized rolling duffel that I've had for years. We had also, for the umpteenth time, sworn to get rolling backpacks. Backpacks make good carry-ons but tend to get a bit cumbersome and heavy - especially for me.

After much research we settled on High Sierra AT3 rolling backpack. We found the local Sears store had them in stock so we went to look. We not only bought the backpacks, which give us the bonus of a daypack, but the High Sierra AT3 32" Rolling Duffle. Stu got the dark gray and I got the red and we're really pleased with the bags. The 32" bag is bigger than our old luggage and will allow us to use one less bag on our cruises.

The bonus is the combination of these two bags will cover our needs for our month in Ecuador. Yippee!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Plan "B"

We've been asked what our Plan "B" would be if our move didn't work out. Initially we plan to keep Big Red (Stu's trike) as well as our pickup truck, Scooby. We still have our property in Tennessee and since it has an RV site there, we could easily put a small trailer there. Our storage shed will hold all the basic household needs, the things that don't get taken to Ecuador. We could easily purchase a small travel trailer or used mobile home for living space. So, with minimal effort we would have a place to live and transportation.

This works for year one and maybe two. By the end of year two we would decide whether to continue keeping the motorcycle and pickup or sell them at that point. Being debt-free will be the bonus that comes out of all this adventure!

Friday, January 25, 2013

First Step Planning

So where are we at in planning? Well, I have a spreadsheet with ten tabs right now...I'm sure there will be more tabs before we are done. There are so many questions and so far we're getting the right answers, even if they aren't what we want to hear.
  1. Medical Care and Insurance: There is good quality medical care in Cuenca. Many of the doctors are US trained so they speak English. Medical insurance is available for under $100/month for us both.
  2. Water Quality: Cuenca has some of the best water around BUT you need to remember parasites and amoebas are no fun. Here is the best analysis I've seen and probably something we will invest in ourselves if we move.
  3. Pollution - Air & Noise: It's there, ever present in the main city area. This will be an adjustment and we will have to weigh the option of being out of town slightly to get away from it or being in town and being able to walk to everything. Our visit in April will help in this decision.
  4. Climate: At an altitude of 8200 feet and nestled in the middle of the Andes Mountains, Cuenca is similar to Colorado Springs in the early- late summer. Morning low's in the 50's are the norm although there may be a few mornings in the 30's. Daily high's are in the 70's although a few days may hit the low 80's. The humidity? What humidity? Homes don't have air conditioning or heat. A few folks get a portable heater to take off the morning chill. Everyone dresses in layers, shedding them as the day grows warmer and adding them back as the day cools into evening.
  5. Seasons: Since the temperatures are pretty much the same year round, there aren't true seasons. They do call Nov-Apr the wet season and that is their summer. May-Dec is the dry season and that is their winter.
  6. Power/Voltage: Power is good but goes down from time to time (like when it rains). Typically it lasts less than an hour. Voltage is 110/120 but most outlets are 2 prong so I see a stash of adapters and power strips (surge protectors) in our future.
  7. Transportation: Buses (avg .25) and taxis (avg $2-3) are the major means of transportation. We do not plan on buying or shipping a car. The cost and liability are not something we want to get into, plus the need to get a local driver license. Oh yeah, and the poor roads along with the very aggressive local drivers. Gulp!
  8. Language: Spanish is the main language used in the area. We will be doing our best to learn enough to be comfortable.
  9. Currency: The US Dollar is the currency of choice. Ecuador is mostly a cash based country. Cash and debit cards are used the most often, with nothing larger than a twenty. One blogger wrote about paying for $2000 worth of furniture with all $20 dollar bills.
  10. Phones/Internet/TV: While on our exploratory trip we will use text messaging for emergencies on Stu's phone only (same as while we were on our cruise). If we move there we will get a local phone and use prepaid minutes. There is Internet available, the avg being $60/month, plus wi-fi in many public locations. DirecTV has a presence with some English channels.
We know there will be local, cultural things to get used business closings during mid-day and kissing each other on the right cheek. Still a lot to learn but this is a good start!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ecuador Locals: Lessons Learned

I read this blog post and it touched my heart so much that I wanted to post it here. I think I will go back and read it often. We are spoiled Americans here in the USA- there is no comparison.

We plan to do all we can to NOT be Ugly Americans (rich gringos) in Ecuador. We do plan to use local labor whenever we can but we need to remember to help keep the balance. If we are willing to pay 'anything' for what we want/need, we are helping price things out of the reach of the locals. We don't want to do that.

Exploratory Trip Planning

We've spent the morning talking out our options for our initial visit to Cuenca, Ecuador. Originally we thought mid-summer or next January. Well, after much discussion it looks like we'll be taking our month long evaluation trip in mid-April through mid-May of this year. We decided it makes sense to give it a 'yeah or nay' sooner rather than later. If we think it won't work for us, then we can continue researching other areas.

So lots of list making, airline flight checking, hotel comparisons going on.  Will post more as we make decisions and plans. Stu is handling any Visa/Passport issues and the airline tickets. I'm working on the hotel/apartment stay for a month as well as what we need to take. April is the last of the 'rainy' season so I already know we need raincoats and an umbrella. It's the little things like taking Rx bottles rather than our 30 day pill containers. Or remembering our expandable walking sticks, helpful for me especially, with a not so great sense of balance at times.

I'm also going to invest in a pair of the custom orthotics now being made at many Walmarts. Being flat-footed, I think they will pay off. We need to look at rolling backpacks. Two years now we mentioned them after our cruises but never looked into it. The time is now. LOL!

BOOK: Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered

We found this ebook about Amazon and downloaded/read it yesterday. GREAT guide, lots of contact information and even more reality checks. I highly recommend it to anyone else considering this move.

Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NEWS: Ecuador plans to invest close to ten billion dollars on highways

Ecuador plans to invest close to ten billion dollars on highways

Posted on January 18, 2013 • Filed under: Economy, Ecuador, TRAVEL reported that Ecuador to invest near US$10bn in major motorways
Construction to begin during 2013

Reasons are to reduce trip times, improve safety levels, and give direct benefit to freight movement.
Plans include linking a road from Manta Ecuador to Manaus Brazil which will link the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic.

Includes a major planned Troncal Amzonica road and the Ruta del Spondylus which will transverse 1000 kilometers along the Pacific coast of Ecuador. Read Article

Our current list of helpful links

Here are some of the current bookmarks we've saved - hoping they might help others.
Details From Locals
AHHH CUENCA!!: Observations - 1st Edition
AHHH CUENCA!!: Observations - 2nd Edition
AHHH CUENCA!!: Observations - 3rd Edition
AHHH CUENCA!!: Speaking of Dinero
AHHH CUENCA!!: Expat Social Life in Cuenca
Cuenca Law Office, Ecuador -
ecuador_expats : Message: Banking in Ecuador
Can I Watch English Television in Ecuador? -
Where Are the Dangerous Areas in Cuenca, Ecuador? -
Living In Ecuador - City or Small Town? What We've Learned -
Expat Interviews: A Family Sabbatical in Ecuador : Blog : Expat Info Desk
Cost of Living in Cuenca, Ecuador. Prices in Cuenca.
How To Send and Receive Mail in Ecuador -
Club Correos: A New Way to Receive Online Purchases in Ecuador -
Life Startup Costs Abroad - Expat Start-up Costs -
What Should You Bring When Moving to Ecuador? -
What Should You Bring When Moving to Ecuador? -
Discover Cuenca EcuadorDiscover Cuenca Ecuador-
Forums & Groups
Expat Exchange - Expats - Moving Abroad 
ecuador_expats : Ecuador_Expats
Gringo Tree Cuenca
Basic Info
Moving to Ecuador ~ Ecuador Chat ~ Cuenca ~ Quito ~ Expat
Moving to Ecuador
Welcome | Cuenca Ecuador For Expats
Ecuador Travel | Travel to Ecuador | Travel Ecuador
Ecuador Visa | Ecuador Visa Requirements | Ecuador Residency Visa
Ecuador: Live Like Royalty on Your Social Security
Cuenca frequently asked questions
Ecuador George - Forest Falls, California to Cuenca, Ecuador in 12 months
Cuenca High Life | Cuenca, Ecuador News
New Beginnings in Cuenca | Chronicles of a new adventure in Ecuador
Cotacachi Living | Cotacachi Living
Embajada del Ecuador | Washington, DC
Expat Exchange Country Networks - Visa Requirements
Retirement in Ecuador
Apostille convention - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Other Links
SpanishDict | English to Spanish Translation, Dictionary and Translator
US State Dept - Ecuador
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Background Checks
Living Abroad: How to Choose the Country Best for You
Why Millions of Americans are Moving to Mexico
Live in First World Comfort in Uruguay

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why we are considering a move to Ecuador

Where did this all begin? Maybe a year ago, we were watching an episode of House Hunters International. The couple was looking at homes in Ecuador (wish we could remember the town). One of their options was a somewhat rural house that rivaled anything we could ever wish for AND it included a guest house for the caretaker/cook to live in. The price? $40,000 We both chuckled and from time to time Stu would drag out this story and share it.

Recently we watched another episode of HHI that featured a young couple from Canada that was looking for a rental in Cueca, Ecuador. The three homes they showed were all in the $500 or so range (rental) and were huge.

We started talking and started reading online about Cuenca, the expat community, the cost of living and even found the blog for the couple featured in the most recent show, Bryan & Dena Haines

So why consider this move? One, to save money. Over the last couple of years we've played a lot and we've seen our savings depleted by 1) the economy and 2) a lot of unexpected expenses. We talked about a five year plan and estimate we could easily come back at that point and pay cash for our cabin. Of course, we could opt to stay longer.

Here are some of the pros and cons as we've discussed them.

  • Ability to save money
  • A more laid back lifestyle
  • Healthy lifestyle (lots of walking and fresh food)
  • Special perks for those over 65 (once you have a residency visa)
  • Good healthcare
  • The adventure of seeing the country and traveling South America
  • Currency is the US Dollar
  • Scuba diving monthly for Stu
  • Missing our family and friends
  • Selling our RV and possibly our pickup and motorcycles 
  • Not knowing Spanish (but we plan to learn some basics)
  • Cost of car ownership, liabilities of driving and SAFETY (eek)
  • Missing first run movies & our favorite TV shows
Then there are the questions:
  • How do you handle mail?
  • What do you take with you?
  • What to do with Sadie?
  • What to sell and what to store?
  •  ...and a gazillion more

A lot to think about....more posts coming on various subjects as we work through all this. We've bookmarked a lot of websites, are following blogs of several residents, and have signed up in a couple of forums/groups about living in Ecuador.

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