My wife Jo Lynn and I moved from Brandon, Man., to San Jose, Ecuador last year. Believe me when I say there’s nothing more exciting—or more stressful—than moving to a different country. But four years ago, Jo Lynn and I decided we didn’t want to go through any more cold winters. What we wanted was simple—to live in a warmer climate and to do it while we were still in our 40s.
Jo Lynn and I are family-oriented people even though we don’t have children of our own. For years, my mom and dad owned a small restaurant in a resort area outside Brandon. As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to buy the restaurant from them 20 years ago. I was just 23-years-old. While I enjoyed running it, it was hard work and entailed crazy hours. Still, one good thing came out of the experience—it’s where I met Jo Lynn. She was a fun and bubbly customer at the restaurant one day in 1992. Three years later, we married.
Jo Lynn was a nurse but she helped me at the restaurant whenever she could. The restaurant stayed open only from May to October so about 10 years ago, we started taking vacations in Mexico to get away from the frigid Manitoba winter.
We really loved the hot weather and set the goal to move to a warm-weather country as soon as possible. We were considering Mexico and Costa Rica. Then, a close friend from Ontario told us about Ecuador. He had bought some land there and invited us down for a visit, so we took him up on his offer. The people were friendly, modern conveniences were easily available and the standard of living was good. But it was the warm climate and easy-going atmosphere that won us over. So in 2010, we bought a piece of land in San Jose, a five-minute walk from the beach, for just under $50,000. We decided to build a house on it and make Ecuador our home.
In the spring of 2012, we sold everything we owned in Brandon, including our restaurant and house. Family and friends thought we were crazy. In truth, it was scary, but last fall, we packed the contents of our lives in four suitcases, waved good-bye and flew to our new home.
Today, we live in our 1,200-sq-ft Mediterranean-style house near San Jose that we paid less than $100,000 cash to build. We haven’t had to touch any of our investments, and manage to get by comfortably on the $1,000 a month we earn through part-time jobs—Jo Lynn as a tour guide and myself as an IT and marketing freelancer. I usually take my laptop and work while sitting on the beach, or from my terrace. It’s wonderfully relaxed here.
The money we earn goes towards paying for food, groceries, gas, insurance, TV and Internet. Property taxes are cheap too—a mere $200 a year. Health care is excellent and the fees are so minimal that we simply pay as we go. I know living on $1,000 a month sounds low but you have to remember most Ecuadorians in the rural areas earn about $200 a month, and they’re often feeding a family of eight. But they’re happy people, love food, family and church, and enjoy a simple life.
While I miss family and friends back home, I talk more to my mom now that Jo Lynn and I are 5,000 km away then I ever did when we lived in the same city. We make regular trips to Canada and mom visits Ecuador annually as well. For anyone interested in this lifestyle, we say just come here on an exploratory trip. Talk to the locals and spend time in the places where you’d eventually like to settle. For us, all I can say is we hit the nail on the head with our new home and plan to spend the foreseeable future here, living our dream.—As told to Julie Cazzin
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