A Simpler, Easier Life in Ecuador

by Manya on February 17, 2014

Seven months into our new life in Ecuador, I am so appreciative of how much simpler and easier life has become.  Only in retrospect do I realize just how stressful my/our life had become before we moved, stress that had been slowly accumulating over the previous few years.

Yes, there was a job loss that came unexpectedly and the accompanying tension that came with the loss of that security blanket and the anticipated income (even though my husband had planned to retire no more than 10 months later).  But really I’m referring to the “normal” everyday stress incurred by living in the U.S. that we take for granted.

It’s insidious, it creeps up on you, and you lose track of what a simpler, easier life even means or feels like.

First and foremost, there’s all the stuff.   You may be aware of it – or not – as somewhat burdensome but you accept it as a fact of life.   Stuff that breaks down and has to be fixed or replaced, finding places to keep all one’s stuff, being enticed to buy stuff you don’t need, and of course, the endless clutter  and management of paper mail.

I truly love the ease of having less stuff.   Although we probably still have two-thirds of what we had in the States, what a difference losing that last third makes!FranklinPlanner2-  Sure, I find myself missing a few things I wish I had packed (small conveniences I had assumed I could replace but now wish I’d brought).  On the other hand, there’s stuff I brought that I now either have no room for or for which I have absolutely no use and seem utterly ridiculous in my new life, witness the “How can I possibly let go of my purple leather Franklin Planner that I love”.

Then there’s all the bills, so many bills, related of course, to the all the stuff.  I used to hate the amount of time I would spend paying bills.  Not to mention late bills, late fees, interest….what a waste of money.  I’ve discovered that I love living in a cash-based society.  While you can use a credit card and/or check in larger stores and for large purchases, mostly it’s easier and less costly (both in time and extra charges) to pay cash.  Over and done with.  No more having five different credit card bills to pay monthly and tracking of a myriad of other bills.  Of course we still pay monthly for some things (electricity, water, internet,  cell phones),  but the first three are cash payments and if we miss a month or two, it’s no big deal.  Just imagine, omg, not having any snail mail!

And of course, there’s the ease of living in a temperate climate.  Especially this year!Screen shot 2014-02-16 at 9.19.10 AM  No digging out cars, scraping off ice, bundling up to go outdoors, not wanting to go outdoors because it’s SO cold.  No central heating or cooling, no heavy clothes (that take up more space) and none needed for ten months out of the year.  Wow!  A space heater and some extra blankets and sweaters do the trick in the two cooler months here in the Andes.


Did I mention the newfound ease of not being driven by a tight schedule?  Relocating to a South American culture, I resisted it at first, Western-born achiever-oriented brainwashed person that I am  was…this one is definitely a work in progress and I’m told it takes two-three years to fully let go of that relentless inner clock keeping one on a schedule, self-created as it may be.  Chao-chao, purple leather Franklin Planner!

Finally there’s the kind of stress we’re not even aware of, like driving.  I definitely took this one for granted, because unless one lives in the center of a big metropolis (and even then), having at least one car if not more, is the sine qua non for getting anywhere.

Not so in Ecuador.  For our first seven months here we relied completely on buses to get everywhere (it’s an hour to Cuenca, the city we go to for entertainment, good restaurants and some of our social life).  At first, it was novel and part of the adventure.  Then it became more of a frustration because of our limited mobility and flexibility.  So we bought a used car.


After a couple of days of driving, my husband and I both ruefully acknowledged feeling somewhat regretful that we were driving again, with all that that entails.  Weird because I used to enjoy driving!  In fact, driving didn’t even feel familiar in the way it was a short seven months ago.

Only then did I become conscious of the stress that having a car generates – the maintenance, the insurance, the required vigilance driving anywhere in Ecuador but especially on mountain roads where local drivers love to pass in short distances, watching for potholes, and in the city, parked car doors suddenly opening on the sides of the narrow, cobbled streets….you get my drift.

Do I regret having the car?  No, but it’s definitely a trade-off.

Despite the car, life is delightfully more simple and easier.  It’s as if an invisible burden has been lifted, replaced by the warmth and connection to the earth Ecuadorians from all walks of life have.  Here strangers kiss you on the cheek as a standard greeting.  We are surrounded by the stunning beauty of the environment, stumbling into a slower rhythm, and re-engaging the kind of creative ingenuity you have when all the conveniences and choices present in a top-tier consumer society are simply not available.

Loving and leaving the non-essential non-important stuff behind is a big part of expatriating for many folks.  It’s a really important exercise on multiple levels.  Do it even you aren’t planning a major relocation.  I promise you that you will make some kind of new beginning because the task requires getting really, really, honest with yourself about who you are and what’s important.

So take the risk, be brave. Lose some of your stuff, get rid of so many bills, simplify, reclaim your time.  Create space in your environment, and your brain.  When you have less stuff – mentally, emotionally, physically – you can be more present to the opportunities that life has to offer. There will be more time for things that are important, creative, and fun.  Your body, mind, and Spirit will thank you.

Why wait? After all, life is short.



Scott February 23, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for reminding me!!!

Nancy Helgeson February 17, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Wonderful post, Manya! It is motivating… and has me thinking of how I still want to make a move to a simpler life, and a simpler place to live. Living in a large city has it’s benefits, and at this chapter of my life, it also has it’s downfalls. I envision myself living in a smaller town/city, and what seems to be holding me back the most is being by myself. That factor hasn’t held me back for many other things in life, but right now it is not helping me make a focused move. Attempting to do the clutter clearing to help with the motivation and energetic clearing.

Manya February 17, 2014 at 11:30 pm

Thanks so much, Nancy. One thing to consider is that there are places, Cuenca, being one of them, where there are quite a few single women expats who have quite an amazing community of support and friendship. You’re probably not considering an international move, but if you were, know that there are places where you will find women in similar life circumstances. And yes, unless you really feel the need financially to make this kind of move, I’m sure it is/can be more challenging to find the motivation.

Deb Nystrom February 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm

We are planning seriously at downsizing, for MANY of the reasons you mention. A home that was once a good size for all we wanted to do, now seems to take too much care and concern. It’s a great opportunity to ask “What’s important?” Having cars, all that expense, all that stuff to do. No, that is not really it.

This is a very helpful post, full of new perspectives from someone who has made a giant leap that can help us all. What a story that keeps unfolding! Thanks Manya.

~ Deb

Manya February 17, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Thanks, Deb, and good for you Especially for being able to see in the midst of your “comfortable” lifestyle that there might be a way that is even more optimal at this point in your life.

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