So what made us choose Ecuador?
Lots of discussion. There were a few close runner-ups but Ecuador was a solid leader from the get-go. Here’s our take on our options:
Again, the countries we were interested in were:
- Costa Rica
Costa Rica is beautiful. The climate is extremely appealing, and an added perk is that we had some really good friends that we knew from Guyana living there. Bob and Amy were great at answering our thousands of questions, as they could relate life in Costa Rica to life in Guyana so we could get an idea of how they compared. Ultimately though, it looked like the cost of living was really high compared to other countries, which was a concern seeing as we weren’t sure how stable our income would be. We decided that this country would be a good backup plan if we couldn’t find something more affordable.
Panama seemed interesting but the heat there is pretty intense. The fact that this country typically doesn’t see a lot of natural disasters aside from occasional earthquakes was a nice bonus, but ultimately we wanted a more comfortable climate. We also didn’t personally know anyone in Panama and we found it a little trickier to find consistent information about living in this country.
Guyana was appealing because of the familiarity and the fact that we both have tons of friends here, but we wanted to try something new and were very hesitant about the bugs and heat. Really we wanted a new adventure, although we both said we were willing to go back if we couldn’t find another more appealing option.
Peru rated really high on our list – living in the mountains seemed like exactly what we wanted. I have a friend that lived there for a year and he had great things to say about it. The cost of living was within the range of what we were looking for and the country is absolutely beautiful.
Belize seemed nice, but expensive. Also hot. But this country is English speaking so we thought it would be easier to get settled. We both knew people who lived here for several years and really enjoyed it.
Ecuador was actually my first choice from the beginning. The Andes offered the climate we were wanting, it’s extremely affordable, we knew people that lived here and I always heard great reviews. The mountains had almost no bugs (and therefore no malaria and other nasty sicknesses). The downside to Ecuador was that there are lots of active volcanoes, but we did a lot of research on the actual risk. Volcanoes are really carefully monitored and lots of advance warning is given if there’s a risk of danger, so we figured that compared to an unexpected earthquake we’d prefer the notice of volcanic activity.
Dez had an old roommate, Tracy, that was currently living in an area of Ecuador that interested us. She was absolutely phenomenal in thoroughly answering our questions almost instantly (I swear she must type 150 WPM) and explaining the ups and downs of living here. That help did a lot to influence our decision.
Ultimately it looked like Ecuador had everything we were looking for – climate, health care, safety, affordability, decent internet and comfortable housing. Also the fact that we had a friend that was going above and beyond in helping us get set up and showing us the ropes really helped us make up our minds.
There were also a few other bonuses of living in Ecuador. This country has a special opportunity for people with degrees to move into the country and become residents. My wife has a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, so it seemed like it would be very likely that we would be able to get residency.
In Guyana we really faced the challenges of not being residents, we had to regularly cross the border to get visa extensions, and it was up to the customs officer to decide how long we were allowed to stay, up to 3 months at a time. Sometimes they would only let us stay a week or two before having to cross the border, which made living in Guyana very disruptive and unnecessarily expensive.
So residency seemed like the perfect opportunity to find somewhere that we could actually put down roots.
Another thing that I did as Ecuador became the increasingly obvious front-runner was contact other expat families that were living there with young kids. I got a very consistent answer from all the families I talked to – Ecuador was safe, and raising a family there is very doable.
So even though we had a few backup options in case things didn’t turn out as planned, we decided on Ecuador as our future home. In the next post I’ll talk about what it took for us to get here.