In 2012, on a plane coming home from a one-week trip to Jamaica, I saw an episode of House Hunters International on HGTV. It took place in Cuenca, Ecuador. This was the first time I'd ever heard of Cuenca. And I never forgot it (okay, I forgot the name a few times, but I never forgot what I'd seen). The show followed a young-ish Canadian couple and their daughter looking for a place to stay in their new home country. I was impressed by the beauty of the city, the friendly nature of the people there, the low cost, but high standard of living, the emphasis on health, and so many things. Cuenca first became popular in 2009 when the magazine International Living named it the number one spot to retire in the world.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years after I saw that video. I now have a completely remote job as a professional legal proofreader. All I need is the internet, e-mail, and my iPad and I can make a solid salary ... anywhere in the world. My husband, Ben (whom I now want to call Ben-HA-meen ;-)) had been working a solid job at some universities doing financial aid. He has in recent months decided that he doesn't want to work for someone else's dreams (literally, he is helping students achieve their dreams, which is a good thing, but not forever, when you have dreams of your own). For a while, the idea that we could pick up and leave, go somewhere, do something crazy, and not be "normal" adults that work every day, stay home on the weekends, and watch Netflix to kill time, seemed out of our reach. But it also seemed sad. Now and then I'd think about it, we don't have or want to have children, so... what? We are just going to sit here and get old and THEN go do something? Um, no. And I never thought Ben, with his background, would ever quit the corporate rat race. Until....
...Ben decided he wanted to work on starting his own software company and enrolled in a hands-on entrepreneur development program called The Foundation. It's six months long, cost almost $5000 and Ben. is. SO. into it. I've never seen him THIS EXCITED or THIS MOTIVATED to do anything. Ever. It's awesome. I know I don't have what it takes to do what he is doing, but I know that he does have what it takes and he isn't giving up.
We'd already been discussing Ben taking a leave of absence from his job for a period of three months for him to focus on his new business. We started talking one evening (okay, it was two days ago) and the subject of Cuenca came up... the low cost of living...the high standard of living... the friendly people... the cooler climate... you hate your job.... I make more than enough to support us here, so definitely there... we could rent out our house... Mom is cool with it and said she'd take the cats... WHY DON'T WE GO!? Ben said initially to "sell him" on it, because he had his doubts, but it really didn't take long to do that... like an hour. Not even kidding.
So we're going to Ecuador in six months. We have set our "leave time" for April... our next vacation will be at least a year long ;-) The first two weeks will be actual vacation, looking for a place to live, etc. and once we are settled into our own pad, I can begin working again as usual. We'll be looking for someplace furnished, as we don't intend to stay forever.
What's happening in the next six months??
Well, first of all, I'm going to learn Spanish. I started yesterday, in the McDonald's by my house. I was having issues with verb conjugation and asked one of the employees for help. Well, he didn't speak English. I eventually figured it out but sitting there, I thought to myself, Self, you never would've spoken to him if you weren't trying to expand your soul by learning his language. There, in the McDonald's, I felt immersed, because I was.
I am actually ENJOYING learning Spanish. A shocker, if you know me! I have already learned German, so I think it makes it easier... plus, I am really motivated. I want to be able to communicate with people when we're in Ecuador. I've been using Duolingo and Cat Spanish, both free or low-cost programs on iPhone and iPad. They're fun and I can't believe all the words and phrases I've learned so far!! Me llamo Caitlin, soy extranjera, y me gusta!! (I'm called Caitlin, I'm a foreigner, and I like it!)
We're going to sell a bunch of stuff... clean out the garage, get rid of stuff we don't even know we have, stuff we don't use, donate, donate, donate... we'll eventually sell Ben's car, and knock down the insurance on mine and find someplace to keep it while we're away. We're still deciding whether we want the house to just sit here, rent it out to someone for a year (cheaper rent, just take care of the place) or pay a service to host our place on AirBnB... there are a lot of rentals here in Orlando so we're not sure exactly what the best option is. Right now, we're leaning toward a long-term house sitter type deal. They get a furnished place, everything they need, for a good sum less than what they'd pay in a comparable place... we just want the mortgage covered with enough on top to cover any additional expenses like our insurance and property taxes. Otherwise, we'd have to pay for cleaning services for short-term rentals, etc. and what if it doesn't sell every day and we don't make enough to cover the mortgage, etc... which it probably won't. Seems like a less-hassle option to choose someone to live there full-time. I'm sure we can find someone!
Oh and... we know it won't be easy :) We've both lived abroad before, experienced culture shock before, been homesick before and gotten through it before. Heck, when I lived in Germany, once I'd finally arrived in my little apartment, the first thing I did was break down into tears. It took me a few days to leave the apartment. But this is normal. Culture shock is real. The main reason we WANT to do this is to get uncomfortable, pop our American bubbles and enjoy more of the world. Get to know more people. Learn a new language. All of it. Having been through the process before, we know there is nothing we can't handle.