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Elliott Segelbaum, Cuenca

Who are you?

My name is Elliott Segelbaum.I’m 46 years old, and I retired at 40 from computer programming because my wife, Stephanie, and I realized that life is too short to spend our best years in a cubicle. (She retired with me, and was 38 at the time.)

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in 2013 because we could not support retired life at our age in the United States.

What challenges did you face during the move?

It was tremendously difficult for me to give up the “American Dream.” We had a big house, good jobs, and were doing what everyone else was. It was hard to leave that comfort zone. We lost some friends who could not overcome their jealousy that we were retiring ad they weren’t.

In addition, moving to a developing country comes with its own challenges. There’s a new language to learn, new customs and ways of doing things. We were geographically far from our familiar lifestyle.

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Are there many other expats in your area?

There are thousands of other expats in Cuenca, and they help make the transition easier. You can post any questions online, and there is always someone who is willing to help you out.

What do you like about life where you are?

Life in Ecuador is more “real.” Ecuadorians simply don’t worry about unimportant things like “does my overpriced handbag match my overpriced shoes?” The local culture is much more resourceful, and therefore generates less waste than us Americans do.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Some days it’s difficult to have to think in Spanish all day. And I must admit that I do miss the convenience of ordering items online and having them in my hands two days later.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The biggest difference by far is the relaxed approach to time that exists in the Latin world. It’s hard to get used to the fact that 5:00 might mean 6:00 or 7:00. Or tomorrow. Or whenever.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

I love that the food is a lot less processed than what we get in the States. Even the unhealthy stuff is healthier by comparison. I love the $2 almuerzos (lunch combos) and the access to foods we don’t always have at home like yucca. Personally, I like my food tongue-numbingly spicy, and Ecuadorian food is a bit bland for my palate, but there’s always some homemade aji (hot sauce) to be found.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Life in a developing country is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of factors to consider. Come down for a few weeks. Meet expats, and ask LOTS of questions. All the expats in Cuenca are open about their expenses, and eager to help newcomers feel settled.

What are your plans for the future?

We are going to try and spend a bit more time in the States, simply because we miss our friends and family. We do love our adopted home in Ecuador, and will not be giving it up. We also like to travel and Ecuador makes a good launching point for the rest of South America.

You can keep up to date with Elliott's adventures on his blog, MileHighDuo Meets The World.

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