Who are you?
Jim Santos, retired from the computer / network support business, and now a fulltime freelance writer and blogger. I’m the Ecuador Coastal Correspondent for International Living, and recently had an article published in the Wall Street Journal.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
My wife Rita and I moved to Salinas on the southern coast of Ecuador in January 2014. We were looking for year round good weather primarily, but now that we are here the health benefits of lots of outdoor exercise and whole foods has been a big bonus. And of course, the lower cost of living allowed me to retire early and take up writing.
What challenges did you face during the move?
It was mostly a matter of timing. We were selling one property in the States and buying a smaller one, which we now rent out. We shipped a container to Ecuador, so there was a period of complicated packing – some for Ecuador, some for our kids, some into storage, and some into the rental house. We also brought a cat and a dog, which required carefully timed paperwork.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, there are a decent number of expats in the area fulltime, and a lot of North Americans (mostly Canadians) who come here to spend their winters. WE generally do not hang out with expat groups. We have expat friends and Ecuadorian friends, but tend to get together in small groups for conversation.
What do you like about life where you are?
The weather and food are the best features, especially the sea food. We also like that we do not need a car, and can walk 5-6 miles a day.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Probably the biggest challenge is the language barrier. We are both working on our Spanish, and we have come a long way in three years, but we are still a long way from fluency.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
I just blogged about this – there’s a lot of waste in the US that you do not see here. In general, the people here are more relaxed than in the States, and not in a hurry.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Make sure you understand the difference between a vacation and living somewhere. It is a new life, and it will be completely different from what you are used to. Find out as much as you can about the area before you move, and visit there several times if you can, during different times of the year. Mainly, take an honest look at why you are moving. Expats who are moving toward a new chapter of their lives and embracing a new experience are much more successful than those who are running away from a situation.
What are your plans for the future?
We are going to apply for citizenship this year, and we plan on traveling and exploring more of Ecuador, South and Central America. We are training now to walk the Inca Trail in August and visit Machu Picchu, and we will be exploring Lima and Cusco while we are there, and making a side trip to Bolivia and Lake Titicaca. I plan on continuing to write, and expand my publications to non-travel related pieces.
You can keep up to date with Jim's adventures on his blog, Travels Through Time and Space.