A little over a year ago, my wife and I sold the bulk of our worldly possessions and moved to a small town in the mountainous South American country of Ecuador. In that time, we have learned an enormous amount about who we are and what it is that’s really important in life. In short, we have become… better.
Who We Were And What We Have Become
As a married couple from the northeastern United States, last year we were the owners of an unexpectedly headache-inducing laundromat in the city of Providence, Rhode island. We struggled, we spun our wheels, we were stressed and consumed with making ends meet while trying to carve out some periods of actual, purposeful and deliberate living.
On something of a whim, we got rid of everything that was tying us down to our geographic area and moved to the predominantly indigenous small city of Otavalo, Ecuador. We now work less than 30 hours a week… total, between the two of us. We earn about triple our monthly expenses, allowing us to put more money into savings than we ever could in the US, where we were working significantly more.
We live in a place with perpetual spring weather, a view of three different volcanoes, a unique culture, and a variety of outdoor activities. We have copious amounts of free time to pursue our hobbies, pet projects, and unfinished novels. We live slowly. We focus on our health and personal development. We have the perfect home base for further travel. In short, we found wealth while living abroad.
An Expanded Worldview
Spending any amount of time living in and among a vastly different culture yields some enlightening benefits. In Ecuador, where the minimum wage is just over $300 a month, we see people lead rich and satisfying lives while dealing with a level of poverty rarely seen in the United States, which has helped us to break free from the habit of equating our happiness to our bank balance.
Our small mountain city is mostly inhabited by the Quichua, an indigenous group with their own very distinct culture. We have the opportunity observe their customs and interact with them in a way that has helped us to be more open minded and understanding of other cultures in general. We see, on a near daily basis, these beautiful people treat us kindly and accept us into their community, making us always aware of opportunities to imitate their warm-hearted nature.
Happy and Healthy
Being on the equator, we have year-round access to unbelievable fresh produce. In addition to what we have back in the US, Ecuador also grows a number of unique fruits and vegetables that we have enjoyed experimenting with, including tree tomatoes which taste like a cross between a tomato and a citrus fruit and chochos which are a legume commonly soaked in citrus and served cold as a ceviche.
Eating a diet of predominantly fresh produce and minimally processed foods has yielded a noticeable improvement in our health and energy level, which is good, because we are extremely active here.
My wife and I opted not to purchase a vehicle in Ecuador, so we, like most natives, walk enormous distances to get around. According to our footstep counters, on active days, it is quite easy for us to walk upwards of 8 miles. Keeping our activity level high, especially in our high altitude environment (8,000 feet above sea level) has helped us to stay relatively fit and unbelievably happy.
Overall, traveling and living abroad was one of, if not the best decision that we have ever made as a couple. It has made us more well rounded and happy people while helping to disconnect us from the work to live mind set that is all too common in the more developed nations. Let us know how traveling has made you a better person in the comments.