Imagine life in the slow lane, days spent savoring each moment without the heavy burden of stress that so many in the contemporary world experience. That can best describe what expat life is like in Cotacachi, Ecuador, a small but growing town in the Andes Mountains. My wife and I moved to South America in May, 2009 to begin a new life and have not looked back.
A typical day for us consists of waking to the sun as opposed to an alarm clock. No day can begin without a cup of hot, fresh Colombian coffee and a check of the Internet to see what is happening in the world. After our bodies are satisfactorily awake, it is time for a walk or a jog. Mornings in Cotacachi are sunny, crisp, peaceful, and beautiful, and a morning jaunt is just what the doctor ordered for a dose of fresh air in the lungs. During the course of our morning outing, we often run into and visit with friends who are also enjoying the mountain scenery. Once we have returned home and showered, it is time for an early lunch.
Cotacachi is blessed with a year round growing season and has an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables at the local market. Avocados are our favorite, and an every other day trip to the market keeps us well stocked with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, bananas, grapes, and virtually any other produce you can think of. Very few expats own a car here. It's simply not necessary. We always walk home from the market with our bag full or take a $1.00 taxi ride.
Eating healthy in Ecuador is quite easy. For lunch we often make a salad with lettuce, onion, beans, tuna, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and avocados. After lunch, it is time to break out the Kindle to read a book and allow our food to settle. We are able to choose from a library of thousands of titles, so we are never without something interesting to read. All that mental exertion often leads to a mid-afternoon nap. When hunger sets in by late afternoon, we are off to one of the many good restaurants in Cotacachi for a meatloaf sandwich, pizza, trout, or the local specialty, carne colorado.
The length of the days stay the same year round and darkness falls around 6:30. Evenings are usually reserved for expat get-togethers or possibly watching a movie. Satellite TV with HBO, Cinemax, and many other English channels are available, and DVD's cost a dollar at any video store.
Typical days as described above are interspersed with frequent day trips. The city of Otavalo, 10 minutes away, is the scene of one of the world's largest craft markets. Ibarra, 40 minutes away, has a shopping area with a well stocked supermarket, restaurants, and stores for home furnishings, hardware and clothing. Not far from Ibarra, the town of Chachimbiro has warm mineral springs ideal for relaxation and soaking tired muscles. There are also several lakes in the area with great restaurants, fishing, and water sports. South of Cotacachi is the Guayabamba zoo with Speckled Bears, Galapagos turtles, and Andean condors.
Becoming an expat in Cotacachi, Ecuador brings with it many rewards for those searching for an alternative to the high stress modern lifestyle. An opportunity to slow the pace of life and stop and smell the roses awaits those who make the move.