We are Glenn and Mara Gano, formerly residents of Anchorage, Alaska. But now we live in Cuenca, Ecuador! What brought us to Cuenca you might ask? LAN Airlines, of course! Oh . . . you mean what caused us to retire at age 53, sell our home and possessions, leave friends and family, jump hemispheres, embrace a new culture, attempt to speak a language we hadn’t used since high school Spanish class, and become a member of the minority in a small, developing country in South America?
About four years ago we, (Mara – an exhausted kindergarten teacher – and Glenn – a manager of a small computer printer business) began thinking about retiring sooner rather than later. We knew we wanted to downsize and spend more time traveling. Mara is fortunate to have a retirement pension coming to her from the State of Alaska. Glenn is fortunate to be married to Mara! But the pension alone was not going to be enough to sustain life as we knew it in Anchorage, Alaska. We needed to make a radical change for retirement to occur before “decrepitude” overtook us.
One day, MSN.com had a news item entitled “Top Ten Places to Retire Overseas” published by International Living. Glenn began reading. The usual suspects were on the list – Panama, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Thailand, etc. But number one on the list was Cuenca, Ecuador. We’d never even heard of Cuenca and had barely heard of Ecuador but we were intrigued. Upon further reading, we discovered that Cuenca boasts a low cost of living, stable government, American dollar as its currency, and because of its location near the equator BUT at 8,200 feet elevation, temperate climate all year long.
This required some more investigation. We began googling about Ecuador in general and Cuenca in particular. We learned that there was a growing expat community and many of these “pioneers” were blogging about their experiences. We read all of them! We also watched travel television programs, listened to travel podcasts, bought and read travel guides, and began planning our first trip to this little country straddling the equator.
We travelled to Ecuador three times prior to our move. The first trip was a three week overview of the whole country: Quito, the historically and culturally rich capital; Otovalo, home of the largest open air indigenous market in South America; the coast, beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean; and of course, Cuenca, a city of half a million people, nestled in the Andes, blessed with four rivers flowing through it, and a city center with blocks and blocks of colonial style buildings. After that week’s visit, we knew we were coming back to Cuenca.
And we did return a year later, specifically for language study and a home stay with an Ecuadorian family. Then a year after that, we “practiced” being retired, living in an apartment, shopping for our food, going to the chiropractor, attending church and further exploring what would become our future home. Each visit brought new friends into our lives and time to develop relationships. What a blessing.
Of course, a lot has happened since we made the decision to pursue this adventure of living in Cuenca. The last year alone could make up a blog but we sure don’t want to write it! The sorting, selling, cleaning, throwing, giving away, packing, repacking, storing, etc. does not need to be relived by us at this time.
Instead, we are going to dive right in to the transitions ahead of us. We hope you enjoy our blog, pictures, and vicariously, our new life in Cuenca, Ecuador.