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Ecuador > Expat Experiences


Gary Kesinger, Cotacachi

Published Monday November 28, 2011 (20:00:00)
My wife and I
My wife and I

My name is Gary Kesinger. I worked as a middle school teacher for nearly 20 years, traveling internationally nearly every summer. After tiring of the stress of modern life, my wife and I decided to start a new life in South America.

I had been interested in the idea of breaking away from the rat race and retiring early for several years. After much research and discussion, we made an exploratory trip to Cotacachi, Ecuador during a week long break from school in 2008. We immediately fell in love with the idea of spending our days in this beautiful mountain town. Within a few days, we had purchased an apartment and made plans to move at the end of the school year.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Some of our family and friends thought we were crazy to quit our jobs at the age of 43 and move overseas. However, we knew that we did not want to look back someday and wonder what our life could have been like if we had followed our dreams. Sink or swim, this was something that we felt that we had to do, and we have never looked back.

How did you find somewhere to live?

On our first trip to Cotacachi, we looked at several properties through a local realtor. We settled on a new development that was under construction in town. The prices were so low that we felt confident that it would be a good investment. We closed on the property just before we had to leave and return to our teaching jobs, excited about coming back to live permanently as soon as we were able.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are around 150 expats, mostly Americans, who live in Cotacachi full time and that number is growing steadily.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

The locals are generally very friendly and welcoming of expats. We have made friends among the local population, both indigenous and mestizo, whom we socialize with on a regular basis.

What do you like about life where you are?

Our stress level is so much lower than in our previous life. Also, the climate is as nice as you will find anywhere in the world. The low cost of living makes it possible to live here with a very small budget. I wrote an article about living in Cotacachi on ($1,000) per month which can be read here.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Until you get used to the slow pace of life, it can be frustrating getting anything done. That was especially difficult in the beginning when we were trying to furnish our apartment and get settled into our new life.

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

My advice would be to do your research, make sure that you can swing it financially, and go for a trial run for at least 3 months before selling everything and making the move permanently. After you arrive, get involved in the culture, study the language, make new friends, and continue growing and finding new challenges!

What are your plans for the future?

My wife and I plan to explore other places that interest us. We would love to spend time in Europe, Argentina, New Zealand, and several countries in Asia. There is so much to see and do that we want to make the most of every day. I plan to continue to document our experiences on my website at

Gary can be contacted by email on

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