So, what does a month in Ecuador cost anyway?

$3636.35

That title question was posed by a blog reader and, since I obsessively track expenses anyway and my guess is if you’re a reader of jlcollinsnh you’d be curious, it suggested a fun and easy post topic.  Since I was actually there only 27 days, that’s $134.83 per day.  But you could do it a lot less expensively and below I’ll point out how.  Of course, you could spend much, much more too.  But you don’t need my help for that.

But before we get into the specifies, I want to share this cool story with you.

If you’ve seen the movie “Romancing the Stone” you might remember this scene:

Kathleen Turner (Joan Wilder) and Michael Douglas (Jack) find themselves in a small Columbian village and at the door of the local drug lord seeking transportation.  It’s looking grim as the drug lord sticks a huge pistol in their faces and his armed and sinister looking compadres are closing in.

Jack:  “OK, Joan Wilder, write us out of this one.”

Drug lord:  “Joan Wilder?  The Joan Wilder?!  I read your books!  I read all your books!!”

I’ve never personally met one of my blog readers.  Of course I know those friends and family who read it.  And I’ve had coffee with two other bloggers who read mine as I read theirs.  But I’d never met a person who’d independently found the blog and started reading it with no prior connection to me.

After a long day of bus rides and planes I landed at the Quito, Ecuador International Airport around 9 pm.  Since this ain’t my first rodeo and I knew I’d be dragging, I had arranged for someone from The Travellers Inn where I was staying to meet me.

The Travellers Inn

Sure enough there was a young man waiting for me as I emerged from Customs holding up a sign with my name on it.  Shamefully, especially since he didn’t stick a pistol in my face, I have forgotten his name.  But, as I said, I was dog tired at the time.

He put up graciously with my bad and broken Spanish on the walk to the car before switching to his own perfect English.

“I read your blog,” he said.  “I read all your posts!”

Airfares:  $1046

American Airlines flew me Boston – Miami – Quito and back for $812.

Lan Airlines flew me from Quito to Cuenca for $80.

Aero Gal from Cuenca back thru Quito and onto the coast at Manta, then Manta to Quito for the flight home, $154.

Lan and Aero Gal are both Ecuadorian airlines and are absolutely first rate.  The planes were new and, unlike American airline companies, they haven’t jammed every possible seat into the cabins.  I actually had comfortable leg room and was served a tasty empanada snack and drink (even though all of these in country flights were less than an hour) by flight attendants who were bright, friendly and gracious.  Not because it’s in their job description but just because they are bright, friendly and gracious people.  It was like what flying in the USA used to be like in the 1960s.

Hotels:  $1137.65

Not much you can do about the airfares we didn’t already do, but if you wanted to take this trip for less than I spent, cheaper hotels and hostals would be a place to start.  The hotels I stayed at were mid-range or better.  You could easily shave $5-600 off here.  Of course, you could also spend lots and lots more.

My night at the Travellers was $47 and included an excellent breakfast.  The room was clean, simple and in an old converted house.  Private bathroom and a good shower with plenty of hot water, which is not always the case in South America.

Cheryl’s farm house

The next several nights were spent with Cheryl at her farm.  By way of thanks for her hospitality, I took her and her boyfriend Rich out to eat a couple of times for a total cost of $27.50 (accounted for in the restaurant category) which made this the bargain of the trip.

Her EcuaTruck.

Been rolled once by the farmhand’s son and so now has serious character ground in.  Fortunately with no one in the bed.  It is the local custom to stop when you see someone on the side of the road and offer a ride.  They hop up and tap on the roof when they want to be left off.

Her place is about 2.5 hours out of Quito near the tiny town of Santa Elena, far up a very rough rock and dirt road. We had a great time and laid out plans for the Retreat.  I can report now that this will almost certainly happen. Date: September 7-14, 2013.  In addition to Cheryl and myself, two additional presenters will be on board.  Both are seriously interesting guys I look forward to hanging out with and I bet you will, too.  We’re still massaging the details and when the time comes I share them with you in a post right here.

I stayed here.  Join us for the Retreat and you will too.

As part of my relentless dedication to you, my readers, I then spent two nights at the El Encanto Resort.  We plan to hold the Retreat here and I wanted to be sure the rooms, service and food were up to par.  Work, work, work.  They were.  One example:  The resort is built into the side of a ridge and it is about a 45 minute hike down to the river and waterfall.  It is a bit steep and a somewhat tough climb back out.  When I made my way back to the top, Veronica the resort chef was waiting for me at the trail head with big smile and a glass of fresh lemonade.

Two nights and three meals a day: $124.

From there I made my way back to Quito and flew on down to Cuenca for a couple of weeks.  This was the longest stop of my trip and for good reason.  Check it out:

Cuenca

Photo by:  Dario Endara

Home in Cuenca for 16 days was Apartmentos Otorongo at a cost of $500.  I had a small apartment with a kitchen so I had a place to stock and prepare food for the rare occasions I felt like staying in.

Otorongo

My apartment was the door on the far left in the back of the photo, second floor.

There is a lesson here:  The longer you settle in to a place the less expensive per day the accommodations become. Otorongo is run by Xavier y Samara Montezuma, their family and staff.  Just wonderful people and within a day or two it felt like home.  Sara and Angelica took especially good care of me and they put up with my broken Spanish.  

Bahia

The last five nights were spent on the coast in the town of Bahia.  Patricio Tamariz was my host at his Hotel Casa Grande, which is exactly like it sounds like:  A grand home converted into a hotel.  It is located near the tip of the peninsula shown in the photo above.  Easily the most luxurious place of my trip it was also the priciest at $466.65 or $93.33 per night.  But as is frequently the case, you get what you pay for.  This is a first class place.

Each morning began with a unique and tasty breakfast served poolside by the genuinely friendly, caring staff. Ecuadorians are remarkably hospitable.  I am impressed enough that it is high on my list as a destination for Retreat II.

Oh, and if you go try to spend some time over coffee with Patricio.  Fascinating guy who, among other things, served as the Executive Director, Ecuador Tourist Authority.  He’s traveled all over the world presenting the charms of his country.  He has endless great stories well told he’ll share in flawless Spanish or English, your choice.

Inside Casa Grande

Patricio also owns and operates Chiriji (Chee-Ree-Hay), an ecolodge/archeological site with bungalows on a pristine Pacific Coast beach.  I’ve not been to it, but I’ve met people who have.  Those conversations have convinced me I need to go.  These pictures, too:

Food and water:  $44.   

This covers the bottles of water bought during the trip and the groceries with which I stocked my Cuenca apartment. Milk, cereal, cheese, sausage, yogurt and such.  Also, stunningly good freshly baked croissants for a dime each.

Restaurants:  $479.

I took most of my meals in restaurants.  The most expensive meal was in a first class Cuenca restaurant with two other expats I’d met.  We all had filet mignon and downed a couple of bottles of pretty good wine.  Shared a dessert, too. My share was $30, fully $10 more than the next most expensive meal.

The least expensive meals were “platos del dia” in local Ecuadorian joints.  Juice, soup, meat (or chicken or fish), rice, vegetables and most often a dessert.  A banana or scoop of ice cream is typical.  $2.50.  If you focused on these places you could cut my restaurant tab by 2/3rds or better.

Tours:  $515.

As regular readers know, I am not a fan of tours.  But I took two on this journey and only one was a mistake.  The $500 one.

Visting Refugio Paz de las Aves was definitely not a mistake.  This bird reserve is run by Cheryl’s pal Angel Paz and his family.  His story and that of the reserve is seriously cool and well worth checking out by clicking the link.  For $15 you get to show up at dawn and hike down the trail to various viewing stations where you’ll get to see cool birds like these:

Cock of the Rock

Photo by Crijnfotin

I don’t know what this one is, but I saw it.

We also saw several others, including about a dozen different types of hummingbirds.  In addition to the birds, we sighted four French birders armed with cameras and three foot lens.  These, it seems, are also common in the Reserve.

Back at the house, a great breakfast is included.  We had strong coffee and Bolons, balls of mashed plantains with meat and cheese in the center.  Yum!  Since I was a friend of Cheryl’s it took more than a little effort to get the Paz family to accept my $15.

The remaining $500 was the price for a three day real estate tour I signed up for.  From the moment I found it I had serious misgivings.  It was offered in an e-newsletter on Ecuador I subscribe to.  This thing is filled with relentless self promotion and sales pitches by the author, normally a red flag.  When I emailed for more information, getting my questions answered was like pulling teeth.  Even then, the answers were frequently vague and unclear.  More red flags.

I stepped away from it for several weeks, but ultimately pulled the trigger.  Since I had only a few days on the coast and wanted to see some property while I was there, the concept perfectly fit my needs.  The email stating the hotel would be discounted to $65 per night sealed the deal.  Of course, that turned out not to be true.  I remain unsure if the promoter was simply clueless or just lied outright.

I landed at Manta airport figuring there was a maybe 50% chance that someone would be there to meet me and working on my plan “B”.  Over the next three days I heard even more bitter complaints from the other people on the tour.  None of us knew precisely what our $500 covered.  Some thought hotels.  Some thought meals.  Nope.  Not even, for instance and as it happened, the return trip to Manta airport after it was done.

For all these reasons, I’ll not be naming this tour operator here.

The irony is, the tour itself turned out great.  This is due to Xavier Gutierrez Salazar, the Bahia local who actually took us around.  Xavier is an extremely knowledgeable guy, especially concerning the ecology of Ecuador, his main passion.  In addition to running the occasional tour, he is a real estate broker, operates a shrimp farm, is an environmental activist and launched Green Global Solutions to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable projects.  Oh, and he is developing just such a beach house community on the shore a bit north of Bahia.

When I stepped out of the Manta airport, Xavier called my name.  I guess picking out a big ugly solo gringo isn’t that tough.  He was there with his cousin Jorge and his drop-dead gorgeous wife, and mother of his four beautiful little girls, Maria.

We had great fun together running up and down the coast all day and eating lunch at little beach side shacks with beer and seafood.  Each evening he took us to small, friendly, inexpensive and tasty local places for dinner.  He’s one of those guys who knows everybody, local and gringo alike.  Often we’d stop to meet and chat with them.  One night after dinner we approached a small house.  Music and singing could be heard a block away.  Knocking on the locked door, Xavier called out whatever needed to be called out.  Inside was a small group — Ecuadorians, Americans, a Nicaraguan and an Australian — singing, playing music, talking in English, Spanish and the odd mix of both.   We had dessert.  Someone brought out a bottle of the local liquor.  Clear as water and clearly with the kick of a mule.  Never has my Spanish been better.

My advice, should you go:  Skip the irritating $500 middlemen.  Contact Xavier directly:  [email protected]  Tell him I sent you.

Ground Transportation:  $255

The big expenses here were the $45 taxi each way for the 2.5 hour trip from Quito to the farm, $30 taxi from Bahia back to the Manta airport, $18 bus from New Hampshire to Logan Airport going out and $100 for a car to take me from Logan back home on my return.  I splurged on this last because I knew by the time I landed I would have been up for 36 hours and flying all night.  The balance was taxi fares around Cuenca which are mostly $2 a ride.  I also tried the city bus but that was only a quarter.

Odds and Ends:

Chocolate.  Ecuador produces what is likely the finest, purest chocolate in the world.  But it ain’t cheap.  The two bars I brought home cost $18.

ATM fees:  $4.50.  For one withdrawal. Yikes!  But cash is king in Ecuador.  Credit cards are only accepted in the more expensive places and then with a premium of 3-4% to cover what the cards charge the merchant.  Makes better sense than, as the USA merchants do, building the fee into the price and charging it whether you use a card or not.

By the way, Ecuador uses the US Dollar as their official currency.  If you’ve ever wondered what happened to all these coins…

Sacagawea Dollar

..they’re in wide and popular circulation in Ecuador and you’ll hardly ever see a dollar bill down there.  So unpopular are they in the USA, that last year when I tried to spend the leftovers I brought back the sales clerks didn’t know what they were.  Took some convincing that they really are US money.

Laundry:  $7.20.  Dropped off and picked up.  Done twice.

Book:  $10.  Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish by Margarita Madrigal.  This book came highly recommended by an expat I met in Cuenca and now I highly recommend it to you.  If you are interested in picking up Spanish.

Tips:  $20.  

Charity:  $100.  Cheryl has the habit of helping her frequently very poor neighbors.  Since there is no charitable organization pulling expense money off the top, every cent goes to helping.  Plus, these are people she knows and she can see the impact up close.  While I believe in more formal giving, I prefer this up close and personal approach when it presents itself.  BTW, we’ll also be giving at least 10% of any retreat profits in this fashion.

Want to do it for less?

Were I traveling as I did in my 20s, I’d go the hostel route and shave about $600 off the hotel bills.  The restaurant costs could easily be cut in half, saving $240 and with more use of buses ground transportation would drop by $130. Skipping the real estate tour, chocolate and book saves another $528.  Total saved $1498, cutting the trip cost to about $2138 and you’re still tipping and giving away some money to help others.

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41 Comments

  1. PFgal
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    That sounds like a fantastic trip, and it really makes me want to go to Ecuador! The pictures are amazing. Thanks for the great descriptions and detailed accounting. If I can ever get down there, now I’ll know exactly how to budget for it!

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Or you can join us for the Retreat and see it that way.

      It really was a fantastic trip and a wonderful country to visit.

  2. Posted November 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Nice accounting of the trip!! Sounds like it was a lot of fun!

  3. Posted November 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello Jim,

    My name’s Darrell and I have become a fan of your blog … found you via MMM. I’m an aboriginal Canadian, in my early 50’s … and happily (and gratefully) married for 20 years. My wife and I are the proud parents of two teenagers; the oldest of whom will be heading off to university this coming September.

    I know that I like your blog for a few reasons … not least of which I can identify more easily with you (than MMM for instance) due to our similar ages … you have an easy-going maturity that typically comes from experience: ie “been there and done that”. A Canadian-equivialent blog that I enjoy (that is more real-estate centric) is Garth Turner’s http://www.greaterfool.ca – again, another “wise” man with a gentle, yet humorous, no “BS”, take on life. Anyways … thanks for the work (and I use the word “work” lightly as I suspect you do not view this as a labour) you do for us readers. It is greatly appreciated.

    This post about Ecuador was wonderful … fantastic pictures, informative anecdotal tips … and I now have added Ecuador as a place to visit soon. Again, beautiful “work” sir … thanks.

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi Darrell….

      Welcome. Always nice to see young fellas in their 50s like you show up. :) Glad you found you way here.

      Thanks for the very kind words. Actually, I find writing to be a lot of work. But as Gloria Steinem, at least I think it was her, said: “I don’t like writing but I like having written.” or something.

  4. Posted November 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Great narrative, Jim, and glad to see you back and posting.

    It mystifies me as well how airline service in South America is a throwback to America in the1960’s. Courteous, professional, with smiles all around.

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Thanks 101C…..

      ..one of the recurring comments I heard from expats during my visit was how much Ecuador 2012 is like the USA 1960s…

  5. Posted November 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jim and all the friends that read this post! My name is Patricio Tamariz and I was born here in Bahia de Caraquez Ecuador. I hope the best for all of you.

    Jim, it was great to meet you in person.
    Thank you for your staying with us and it was a true pleasure to sit down oceanside and just talk about our governments projection for tourism and how they are attracting property investment here in Ecuador. Most of all to hear straight from you all the smart advice that you gave us on how we should handle some of our family investments here in our country. I hope you the best.

    Please if anyone is interested in coming down to Ecuador especially to our coast, Bahia de Caraquez is a beautiful little beach town with many amenities but with a genuine taste. We have the Manta airport close by that is served by many daily flights from Quito our capital.
    If you need a place to stay we own http://www.casagrandebahia.com and http://www.chirije.com
    Also if you begin to investigate this area, please look up my book in Amazon.com for history and a good in depth dive into the Coast and Bahia, the name of it is The Secret of Paradise by Patricio Tamariz and Bo Rinaldi. It should be online next week.

    Muchas gracias y muchos saludos,
    Patricio

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Hi Patricio….

      Thanks for checking in and your kind words. When the book comes out, please post a link here for it.

      To my readers….

      This guy is the consummate host. If you find yourself in Bahia, and finding a way to find yourself in Bahia is a worthy goal indeed, be sure to look him up!

  6. Posted November 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    No one’s better story teller than you are my friend. I feel lucky to know you in the blogosphere, and I want to have a cup of coffee with you.

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Works for me, my friend. We just need to pick a place. Atlanta? New Hampshire? This little cafe I know in Cuenca? :)

  7. Posted November 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jim,

    It was great to host you on the farm for a few days. I love sharing my paradise with others and I enjoyed your curiosity and questions. I also benefited greatly from out financial talk and it was just the motivation I needed in order to make decisions about spending.

    I am very excited about working with you on the retreats. We are going to offer people an amazing week to learn, reflect and plan for their future in an absolutely gorgeous setting. Your blog did a great job of convincing people of Ecuador’s welcoming people and beauty. So much to see in such a small country!! I hope you all join us.

    Yes, more to come on the retreats as we put the details together. But in the mean time, if anyone has any questions about Ecuador, they can feel free to contact me at [email protected].

    And I thank you so much for your generous donation. I have decided to purchase Christmas treats for the kids in town. Christmas trees here aren’t overflowing with gifts underneath them because the median income is less than $300 a month in my area. It is tradition here in Ecuador to hand out gift bags full of cookies and candies to the children. So your gift will put smiles on the faces of 100 children! Sometimes a kid just needs to be a kid!!!

    Warmly,

    Cheryl

    • Posted November 25, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Hi Cheryl….

      Thanks for putting up with me and for putting me up. I’ll be bugging you shortly on some of the FI goals we discussed. :)

      Just Skyped with our Retreat’s mystery presenter #1 and he’s pumped about it too. Caught him just as he was headed off to Hawaii for a few weeks on another project. (That’s a hint that should tip off some of my regular readers. Shhh. Mum’s the word.)

      Great choice for the $$. I’m all for kids being kids, just like I am.

      Cheers!

      Jim

  8. Malaika
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Jim, Enjoyed reading about your fantastic trip. Maybe next year I will be there. Thanks for sharing Ecuador.

  9. MaryMary
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Hey JLCollins….

    Big fan of your blog. I stumbled upon MMM’s blog late this summer, and after seeing your name in the comments several times ended up clicking on your name, and am so glad that I did! I’ve read all of your blog posts, and am about 5 posts away from being able to say the same about MMM’s blog. Love all of your stories and advice, and have designed my own investment strategy largely off of your recommendations!

    Looks like your trip to Ecuador went great.

    I have some questions (that don’t necessarily fit on this blog post, but here goes!)….

    For a little background on myself, I am a 25 year old female with no debt. I have always been frugal by nature, but am so happy to have been exposed to the early retirement/f-you culture. It just makes so much sense to me with all of the ideas I had about money and spending, and commend you for forging a path for yourself without having had handy blogs to follow!

    I have a couple questions that I am hoping you will be able to help me with. Being new to investing I am a little nervous still about putting everything into purely stocks, although I have about 85-90% of my portfolio in VTSAX now (per your advice to your daughter!). I have a little bit in an intermediate-term bond index fund. MY IRA is made up of a split between VGSIX (REIT) and VGSTX. (I am so happy to have found Vanguard!!). I also have a 403b through work that I contribute 6% to (to get the full employer match).

    My questions come in that I am a little unsure of the best financial path for my investment/saving’s goals. Being 25, I am hoping to be able to buy a house in the next several years to put some roots down. (Of course keeping in mind the article on renting vs. owning). This is where the uncertainty comes in. I wanting to be properly adding to my retirement accounts, but am trying to save enough money for a down payment. I live in southern CA, which unfortunately means rent prices are a bit outrageous and I will need to have a sizable amount of money to hit even the minimum (in my opinion!) 20% down. Do I only add the match to my 403b until I have saved up this money, or should I try to max out my 403b contribution keeping my retirement funding in mind. Not sure the best way to proceed. I would love to buy a smaller piece of property soon, live in it for a few years and end up renting it out in the future.

    With my Vanguard accounts, I tried to do my research and consider tax-efficient investing with the retirement and non-retirement accounts. However, any advice you have would be greatly appreciated! Let me know if you need anymore details on my situation.

    Glad your trip went well, and thank you in advance!

    • Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Welcome Mary….

      Glad you found your way over here. Thanks for the kind words.

      Sounds to me like you are off to a great start. Since you are very young, like my daughter, and have decades to invest VTSAX is a great wealth building tool. But over the years it will be a wide ride. If you have any doubt about your willingness and ability to stick to the plan when the dark years come tread lightly.

      As you already are, you can smooth out the ride with bonds and REITS.

      I’d also think carefully about buying a house. They are rarely good investments and they tie you down. I’d buy one only if I wanted the lifestyle benefits: Place to raise kids, school systems and such.

      But if you are set on owning, I agree 20% is the downpayment you want. The sooner you plan to buy, the more short term your saving vehicle should be. Anytime in the next five years, money market funds and/or bank CDs.

      Problem with that these days is the almost non-existant returns.

      What I would do, and this is just me, is invest my downpayment money in VTSAX and hope the timing works. If it does, you’ll get there faster and with greater return. If it doesn’t, you are still building shares ownership that will pay off over time. Of course, this means you might not get the house when you planned. I’d personally be fine with that, but you’ll need to decide for yourself.

      I have posts planned on Target Date Funds, which might meet your needs, and more on rent v. buy coming. Hope this helps!

      • MaryMary
        Posted November 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        I don’t doubt my ability to stick to the plan when things get rough, but I do like it being smoothed out by the bonds and REITs. Guess I’ll stick with this breakdown for now.

        The reason I want a house is for that time when I’m ready to raise kids and factor in school systems like you said. So maybe I don’t need to be in such a rush to buy a house. I can see that even a few extra years of renting could be beneficial for my savings.

        Any recommendations on monkey market funds?

        Thanks!

        • Posted November 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Sounds good. 85-90% in VTSAX is still plenty aggressive.

          To me, houses are the kinda thing you buy when you need them and dump when you don’t. But I’m not a putting roots down kinda guy. Different strokes.

          I’m afraid I am unaware of any ‘monkey’ market funds (sorry, couldn’t resist) but I use this money market fund:
          https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=0030&FundIntExt=INT

          as you can see, it pays almost nothing with interest rates so low these days. So a bank savings account works equally well. Some folks also speak highly of ING Direct but I have no personal experience with them. Although they just offered my $25 to open an account so maybe I’ll give them a try.

          • MaryMary
            Posted November 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

            haha, oops! thank you

  10. Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Hello Jim-
    I found your blog when searching personal finance online. Thank you very much for all of the educational information and advice you provide. It has helped immensely.

    As a newly married 26 year old I am very curious about personal finance and building a good financial future. I especially appreciated your segment on STOCKS which pushed me to purchasing admiral shares of VTSAX with Vanguard.

    I wish I had found your blog sooner, as in January of this year I started an account with an Edward Jones rep and transferred my IRA there and started a mutual fund, and had been transferring $1800 a month to these accounts. I plan on starting an IRA for my wife this month with Vanguard and may transfer my IRA over from Edward Jones as well.

    I have even been able to get my wife to read some postings and am working on adjusting her financial ideals; she is a bit of a spender with the mindset ‘you can’t take it with you’!

    Again, I appreciate that you take the time and you certainly are educating your daughter and others in her generation! Thanks again for your help.

    Mitch

    • Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Mitch….

      Welcome and thanks for checking in. Glad you are finding some value here.

      Too bad about having put your money with a broker. I keep hearing horror stories about how tough they make it to pull out. Let us know how that goes.

      Many years ago I had a friend who felt the same as your wife. His big fear is he would die with a few unspent dollars in his pocket. He lived hand-to-mouth which always seemed to me a big price to pay.

      In my experience, many people like your wife see saving and investing as a sacrifice made at the expense of enjoying their life to the fullest. And who wants that?

      My take is a little different….

      ….I’ve always seen it as spending my money on the most valuable thing it could buy: My time and my freedom.

      That’s why I can disappear to South America when the spirit moves me…

      Maybe you can persuade her to read the blog? Let her know I’d be happy to answer any questions she might have as she does.

  11. Prob8
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Welcome back, JLC! Sounds like the trip was very productive. Thanks for sharing your cost break down as well. Congrats on recruiting mystery presenter #1. That should be quite a retreat with the two of you available to the participants. Again, welcome back and I look forward to your next post.

    • Posted November 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! I’m not sure about productive, but it sure was fun!

  12. thomas jacobs
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    jim ,

    What a great trip and you did it all . The good , the bad and the ugly . Fantastic and like you , I am a true believer in seeing a place like you did . You learn more and actually get a feel for the everyday . Thanks for sharing

    • Posted November 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Tom…

      Nice to have you here. Thanks for the kind words. Means a lot knowing they come from a South America ‘hand’ such as yourself.

  13. Posted November 28, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Great story, and sounds like an even better trip! Glad you enjoyed yourself.

    I’ll have to check out Cuenca sometime. It sounds like a fantastic place to spend half the year or so. Incredibly cheap, with warm people and good food. What’s not to like?

    I hear the bureaucracy, especially surrounding Visas, can be hell, however. But, that would be expected.

    Thanks for sharing. Always appreciated.

    Best wishes!

    • Posted November 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      Thanks DM…

      …glad you liked it. Cuenca, and Ecuador in general, is definitely worth the trip.

      Plus now I know a couple of good places for coffee…..

      • Posted November 29, 2012 at 1:46 am | Permalink

        Hey Jim, just wanted to mention that the retreat you keep bringing up sounds like a sales pitch. Not sure if it is or not, but I normally love your blog and have referred lots of people to it for investment advice, and now this “retreat” keeps getting mentioned multiple posts in a row… just wanted to let you know how it’s coming off to a reader. Please keep up the great posts. :)

        • Posted November 29, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the heads up and sorry to hear it is coming across that way. Not meant to be a “sales pitch” but my enthusiasm for the project might to running away with me….. :)

          • Posted November 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            No worries at all, I realize it’s just your enthusiasm coming through, but wanted to let you know how it might be coming across. By all means keep writing about it, but maybe not every post.. give us some of your other wisdom at the same time. ;) I just love your blog so much and know that if I wrote something like this I’d want someone to let me know. :) Cheers!

  14. Posted November 29, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Sounds like quite the trip. Two months next time! Glad you enjoyed….and Cuenca and all look beautiful. Nice post.

  15. Posted December 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I love the blog.. it has actually helped me think about where I want to be in the next twenty years. I am not sure I can get my guy to think about distant lands, but I think it will be awesome to travel and this gives me an idea about the amount of money I may need to make it work.

    • Posted December 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Welcome El Cheapo….

      Glad you found your way here. If you can’t get your guy to head out for the distant lands he’ll just have to wait for you at home. :)

  16. Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed this blog! Gave me some ideas for future vacations and the cost of everything is a real help, especially being I am living here in Cuenca on a low budget. Your photos are great and I admire your adventureous spirit. I believe I know the Real Estate tour you took and I discourage people from this tour.
    I will follow any future blogs you write.

    Gracias, Gary

    • Posted December 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      De nada, Gary…

      and welcome! Glad you like the blog and nice to see someone living in Ecuador checking in.

      I suspect you do know the RE tour I’m referring to. Most everybody I met down there knows these guys and their newsletter. ;)

      I’d be curious. What prompts you from discouraging people from taking their tours?

      • Posted December 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        These people are all about making money! They cause property to be over inflated and they are misleading to future expats.
        I understand one of them has been asked not to return to Ecuador.

  17. Posted December 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    By the way great photos!

    My blog link:
    Gary Sisk has sent you a link to a blog:

    Blog: AAA LIVING IN CUENCA
    Post: Sues last few days visiting Cuenca, Ecuador
    Link: http://gas2335.blogspot.com/2012/12/sues-last-few-days-visiting-cuenca.html

  18. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I headed over to your blog to read about your trip to Ecuador after reading your comment on MMM’s post on the cost of living in Hawaii. I spent half a year there when I studied abroad and I know that a month there can be done even more cheaply than $2138. For example, I got tickets from Quito to Cuenca round trip on LAN for 70 + tax during a sale. However, you had a more positive sleeping experience than I did, because you were staying in hotels. I was 19 and staying in hostels with my friends. In one place, cockroaches ran all over the room and through our stuff (http://www.hosteltrail.com/hostels/posadaolmito). You do get what you pay for when you are paying $8 per night.

    • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Welcome Caroline…..

      Sounds like a great time, short of the roaches. I’ve stayed in more than my share of hotel rooms with them over the years. :)

      When were you there?

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