Ecuador Expat Profile: Ben Pilgreen, Quito Ecuador

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Ecuador Expat Profile: Ben Pilgreen, Quito Ecuador

The Expat: Ben Pilgreen

Ecuador-Expat-Profile-Ben-Pilgreen-Quito-EcuadorWhere are you currently living?

Quito, Ecuador……I’ve been here almost 2 weeks!

What’s Your Story?

I am a 60 year old single, retired ‘self-employed’ vagabond. I was born a little black child ….. no, wrong story …… I was born in Monroe, Louisiana, USA. I have lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Georgia before now living in Quito.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

I have traveled for 30 years or more and have always had the idea that it would be an ‘experience’ to live in another country. I never really thought I’d have the ‘guts’ to do it though…..and neither did any one I know! I needed a change. Thirty-five years of doing the same thing burned me out totally. SO, I decided I would do it. I would move to another country. There was never any question in my mind where I would move.

The first time I came to Quito, Ecuador three years ago I stayed in the Historico Centro at the Patio Andeluz. The Centro was overwhelmingly beautiful to me….especially at night. I remember standing in the Plaza Grande, looking at the beautifully lit buildings and actually crying. At that moment I knew, somehow, someway, I would live in Quito. It was up to me to make my dream come true. There was nobody to help me.

So, I returned to the US and formed a ‘plan’…..I would sell my house and then proceed to become debt free so I could make the move to Quito. I was able to sell my house just before the ‘bottom’ fell out of the housing market in the US. I sold furniture I didn’t need and downsized into a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment.

I had been a church musician (what we call a Minister of Music) for 35 years. I did the same thing every week…..planned and carried out the Sunday worship service or services. Every week was pressure-filled to bring about the best worship experience possible. I also worked with Senior Adults. That was the ‘fun’ part of the job….most of the time.  I planned trips and carried groups to Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Canada and many places in the USA. I totally enjoyed this part of the job!

So, when I began to formulate my escape plan I naturally thought about living out of the country. After I sold my house and found that I enjoyed the freedom of apartment living I still didn’t really know if I could really do it….move to Quito. I still wasn’t debt free because I still had a car and a car payment. When I told a friend about my plan and that I was going to sell my car, he immediately said that his wife needed a car with good gas mileage (I had a 2010 Prius). He ended up buying the car and I was able to pay it off! That was the last ‘piece of the puzzle’ and that sale put the jets to my Quito plans! I came to Quito over Labor Day weekend, looked at apartments, found one and rented it. I went back to the USA and resigned my job (to retire) and began the process of again getting rid of unneeded furniture and clothes. The amount of clothes I had amassed was incredible! I took clothes to a consignment shop for days! They now have a fully stocked men’s store that will last a while…and maybe I will have a little income from the sales! I loaded up a 22′ Penske truck and drove it to Mississippi where we stored the rest of my stuff……stuff I really don’t need but just couldn’t throw away…..yet. I flew to Quito with 2 suitcases and a carry-on! I’ve been here almost two weeks and haven’t worn all the clothes I brought!

I have signed a two year apartment contract. I don’t know if I would do that again. But, by signing that contract I made a commitment to stay here in Quito for at least two years. In my mind, I want to stay forever but we’ll see how that develops! I have subscribed to International Living Magazine for years. Reading this magazine planted the seed for my move to Quito. By reading the magazine and following the excellent advice they give, I got in touch with an attorney before I moved to Quito and he has been well worth the cost. I now have a bank account (in less than two weeks!) and he is advising me on many matters that I wouldn’t have a clue about. I would advise anyone to get an attorney if you move to a new country. I am here on a tourist visa right now but, when the time comes, he will work to extend the visa. It’s great to have somebody you can trust to advise you when you move to a different country.

How’s your Spanish?

Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish now but learning to communicate using the language is one of my biggest goals! I feel that it is very important to be able to communicate with the people in their language.

After all, I am in their country! I am currently meeting with a 10th grader (the son of my realtor) two days a week for him to practice his English and for me to learn some Spanish. (He speaks and knows English because it has been taught in his school since the first grade. He only needs conversational experience.) I, on the other hand, need all the help I can get! I intend to enroll in a school to learn Spanish. I Am going to do it!

What do you do?

I have no job and have faced the reality that I probably won’t have a job here in Ecuador. I really don’t want a job! I have saved enough to live on until I start receiving my Social Security at the age of 62.  (No, I’m not going to wait!)

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living here in Quito can be what you want it to be. It’s definitely cheaper than living in the US. I probably made an unwise decision moving into a $700 per month apartment. Oh, but it is in the perfect location in the city and since I don’t have a car, I needed to be in a location so that I could walk to everything. This is the location! I have two malls and another shopping center within walking distance and two SuperMaxis attached to those malls. I am also within walking distance of a MegaMaxi. And, the wonderful La Carolina Park is less than two blocks away. Coming from the US, I guess I thought I needed to have something that was similar to what I had in the US. I needed to get over that….but, alas, I didn’t. I can walk to a restaurant and pay $3.50 for a total lunch or I can pay $15. I have to choose and try and restrain myself! But, I resolved not to worry about money issues and I can do that since I am single. I could have an apartment here in the city for $500 per month or less. Nobody has AC or heat. I have no car….so no gas or insurance. Incredible!

What do you love about Ecuador?

When I look out of my apartment windows and see the beautiful and awesome Andes Mountains it takes my breath away every time. I still can’t believe I live in such a beautiful place! I especially like the watch the clouds come over the mountains. So incredible! Of course, since I chose to live in the city there is noise and some pretty severe pollution from the buses, etc. I can always get away from this by just walking into the park.

There is a lot of security here. Everybody talks about needing ‘safety’ and security here. Although I see many ‘guards’ or gun-toting security guards at just about every store or bank or apartment building, it doesn’t bother me. I have yet to see any of those guards use their weapons. I am careful … or as careful as I can be. My years of travel have taught me to try to blend in as much as possible. What I have left of my wardrobe is mostly black and dull!!

If you are the ‘city-type’ and want everything a city offers but with fantastic mountain views, incredible weather and a mostly stable political situation, well then, I can’t recommend Quito, Ecuador to you enough!! And don’t forget…..the dollar IS the money here! No money exchange! Come on down and try it out! I think you’ll like it!


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Meet the Author

Since moving to Ecuador in 2009, Dena and Bryan have made their living as bloggers. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. She is a contributor to Bryan Haines and is co-founder of Click Like This - a photo tutorial blog.

32 comments… add one
  • Lourdes Alfonso Jun 10, 2016, 7:11 pm

    Hello Ben,

    Really enjoy reading your profile. I had the same emotional experience when I saw the sunrise in Quito.
    It was during my first visit in April, 2012. I just was in awe of the beautiful masterpiece. I began to cry and wanted to share the beauty with my love ones. I was surprised you mentioned the similar experience. I am sure many new comers to Ecuador are amazed by the beauty of the country and the warm and friendly people.
    I will be going back to Ecuador next month July, 2016. I will be visiting Quito, Cuenca and Santo Domingo. This time my daughter will be travelling with me. She will be on vacation and I know she will like Ecuador as well. It will be my third visit and hopefully to stay for three months. I really love the country.

    Thanks for sharing,



  • Jennifer Apr 9, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Ben you made me laugh so hard with the first sentence that I had to read the entire thing. Your story is very similar to mine semi retired not old enough for social security but love Equador and have known for years I needed a beautiful quiet affordable place to retire to, I looked at every country for over five years I too subscribed to International Living magazine. I visited Quito two years ago and went to Cotacachi to look at three homes I saw on Craigslist and I fell in love with that place. I came back to the US and tried to stay until social security kicked in but I was not able to put my life on hold until then, so I made a decision last month 3/28/2016 to go for it, so I will be there on May first to start my happy dance thanks for a lovely article.

  • Sarah Apr 3, 2016, 2:04 am

    Hi Ben, I know it has been awhile since anything has been added to this post, but I am an undergraduate in the US working on a thesis project about expatriates in South American cities, including Quito, and I would love if you could answer a few quick questions for me, or anyone out there really who has lived in Quito.

    Answers to any or all of these questions would be greatly appreciated:
    What neighborhood do you live in?
    Why did you choose to live there?
    In your impression, what types of people live there?
    What areas do you feel like most expats live in?
    Do you interact with mainly other expatriates or do you have many Ecuadorian friends? Was it difficult to make friends outside the expatriate community?
    Do you speak Spanish?
    Do you work, and if so what do you do?

  • Jim Schuh Dec 27, 2015, 9:38 am

    We are seeking Ex Pats in Quito as we are visiting soon, 3 adults, and two teenage children. We need to find lodging near Plaza Grande in south Quito for last week of January and first week of February. Can you help?
    Thank you for your kindness,

  • Leah Jul 2, 2015, 11:31 am

    I found your first sentences to be offensive to people of color and tinged with racism: “I am a 60 year old single, retired ‘self-employed’ vagabond. I was born a little black child ….. no, wrong story …… I was born in Monroe, Louisiana, USA.”

    • Stewart Jul 6, 2015, 12:03 pm

      Hello Leah,

      Although I don’t know Ben and he hasn’t responded to my message, I can only imagine that he is not racist as you say. He is living in Ecuador that is mostly people of darker skin, mestizos. Maybe he imagines himself similar to Steve Martin when he said this in his movie, The Jerk.

      Check out

      Best regards.

    • Jack Mar 1, 2016, 2:43 am

      More political correctness run a muck. Lighten up Leah!

  • Andrew Feb 11, 2015, 8:42 pm

    Hello Bill

    Im from Monroe as well. Cheers.

    Hows your spanish coming along? I lived briefly in cancun and enjoyed it altho i did get “mexicaned” out or maybe gringo lonely is a better description.

    Im 51 went to Neville High and Northeast (NLU) would love to chat and learn more.

    • Ben Pilgreen Mar 1, 2016, 12:54 pm

      Hola Andrew….
      I have just seen your message.
      I didn’t grow up in Monroe. We moved to Mississippi when I was only 1.5 years old. I grew up in Mississippi until the 9th grade when we moved to Lafayette, LA. I finished high school (Ovey Comeaux HS) and university (USL) there. It was USL then…I understand it’s the U of LA at Lafayette now?
      Since both my parents were from North LA we went back there to see relatives every Summer. My father’s parents (the only grandparents I ever knew) lived out of Farmerville. My mother was from around Bernice. I had an uncle in Ruston and one in Shreveport so we ‘made the rounds’ in North LA every Summer…..the only ‘vacations’ I remember when growing up. My dad died suddenly (heart attack) while we were living in Lafayette. I was a Junior in university. My mother moved back to Mississippi to be close to my only sister. I went on to graduate school in Texas and then lived in Arkansas and Georgia. I retired in 2011 and moved to Quito. Last October 10 I went to Lisbon, PT thinking I might want to live there. I returned to Quito on January 4. Lisbon wasn’t for me.
      Do you live in Ecuador?
      My email is It would be easier to communicate using this address.
      Thanks for the contact.

  • Maggie Dec 17, 2014, 12:31 pm

    Hi Ben, I´m glad you are doing fine and happy in my city. I´m ecuadorian and would like to practice my english and the best way to do it is with native speakers of it. Would you please get in contact with me? Thanks

    • Ben Pilgreen Dec 17, 2014, 2:49 pm

      Hello…..leaving today. Will be in Lisbon, Portugal until 17 January. Please contact me after that date.

  • Michael & Betty Jones Sep 8, 2014, 2:59 pm

    My wife, Betty, and I are recent retirees from the healthcare industry in Texas. We are in Ecuador right now researching the various parts of the country to see which area best suits our needs as a place to permanently relocate. We are both active painters and photographers, and like you find he scenery to be breathtaking. We were just in Parque Ejido yesterday looking at all the artworks on display. We will be in Quito until September 14th, and would love to meet you for lunch or a drink and get the benefit of your insight into living in Quito. If you have some time in your day, we would so appreciate it. Michael & Betty Jones

    • Ben Pilgreen Sep 8, 2014, 6:14 pm

      Hola Michael and Betty,
      I’d be glad to meet with you to talk about Ecuador! Please PM me at my gmail address and we can work out a time.
      I look forward to meeting you!

  • Stewart May 15, 2013, 4:23 am

    Hello Ben,
    I just checked out your story. I’m another Expat living close to Quito and working in Quito. Great to hear about your experiences here. Retirement is still 12 years away for me. Actually, this is the first time I even thought about it.

    It would be great sometime to get together during the week over coffee and talk about experiences.

    Best regards,

  • Tay May 7, 2013, 2:20 pm

    Hello Ben,

    Thanks for your update. It’s nice to hear when expats update their experience.

    Wonder if there’s a way to keep in touch with you, in case I might be coming down to Quito to check it out. I speak Spanish fairly well, and am trying to decide between Mexico and Ecuador.

    Thanks again.



    • Ben Pilgreen May 7, 2013, 8:26 pm

      My email is Email me with any questions or comments you may have. Mexico or Ecuador?? Ecuador of course!

  • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:24 pm

    A little ‘update’ on my life here in Ecuador. I’ve now been here in Quito since October 1, 2011. I haven’t changed my mind about anything. Still love it and don’t want to leave. I did break the 2 year contract on the first apartment I had here. The apartment owner was kind enough to let me do that and she even refunded half the deposit! I moved to a studio apartment on Republica del Salvador. GREAT location and I really liked the apartment. HOWEVER, outside my 6th floor window there was an old house that was not lived in. After I had been in the apartment for 6 months or so…all of a sudden that old house was torn down and construction on a new 12-story apartment building began. The construction noise was horrendous all day. When I was within 2 months of my one year contract ending, I moved….to a 2 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath fully furnished apartment about a 10 minute walk from my Republica del Salvador apartment. I like the area and want to stay here……….I have my Resident Visa now and just last week I got my Cedula!! I’m as official as I can be without being an actual citizen! Again, my attorney’s help has been invaluable in acquiring the visa and cedula in a timely manner. (I had heard horror stories and I’m glad to report that my process was smooth…thanks to my attorney and his expertise)……..Still happy in Quito!….Ben Pilgreen

  • Gene May 5, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Hola Ben,
    As a single sixty year old male, I would like to chat with you and find how you are doing down there now,,if you are sill there. I hope you wil write me. Thanks,


    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:28 pm

      Hola Gene…..Yes! I’m still here in Quito and still love it. I’d be glad to answer any questions you have. (I just posted an ‘update’ to the original story I posted after being here for only 2 weeks.)
      Please let me know if I can help you.

      • Gene May 7, 2013, 9:50 pm

        Hey Ben,
        Thanks for answering. Have you always been in Quito, or did you try other citys first? How do you find the life in a big city? I guess it is all relative, but what about crime? Is it possible to live in or near El Centro like in Cuenca, or is that much too expensive? I guess that is realitive as well, but I hope to find a real nice apartment for five hundred or less. I know a guy that lives in the suburbs in a nice three bed house for less than three hundred, but I perfer not to have a car, so I would like to live close in. Enough for now, Chat later I hope. Do you have Skype or yahoo messinger? Thanks again.

  • Alena Jan 21, 2013, 9:48 pm

    I would like to ask if you’ve visited Cuenca and if so, how you like it. Many expats have moved there and love it. I’m sure the size is the difference and perhaps Cuenca is slowed down abit more. I’ve thot of moving to Cuenca and haven’t considered Quito at all. Maybe I should. I will check it out more. Thanks for your info!

    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:33 pm

      Hola Alena….Sorry I have just now seen your post! I hope you’re still interested in Ecuador! I have been to Cuenca a couple of times. It’s a nice city but too “quiet” for me. I understand there’s a very active expat community there. I subscribe to their online newsletter GRINGO TREE. It’s very newsy about what’s going on in the Cuenca expat community. There are a couple of organizations here in Quito that are for expats but I haven’t become involved. I volunteer at a school here and it has kept me very busy…especially lately….I enjoy the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the city. Quito has a lot to offer and I really enjoy it. Please let me know if I can answer any questions and again, I’m very sorry I didn’t see your post until now!……….Ben

  • claudia Sep 27, 2012, 3:53 am

    Bill, are you still out there? Love the cut and paste job on the picture! Looks like it was an actual cut and paste, like we did in the olden days!

    Just wanted to drop a line because I appreciated your humor in word, and picture and to see, like a couple of other commenters, if you were still there (didn’t break the 2 year lease).

    After 40+ years of working, I’ve just about had it. Like you, I don’t want to wait until I’m 62 (3 more years) to start my 3rd act.

    It would be great to hear back,

    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Hola Claudia…..So sorry I’m just now seeing your post to me! I don’t know how that happened…but it did. Yes, I am still in Quito and still love it. I have just posted an “update” to that original story published after I had been here only 2 weeks. You are now closer to the glorious 62. (I’ve just received my third SS deposit!)….Please let me know if you still have questions or want to communicate…..Ben

  • valerie Jun 13, 2012, 5:20 pm

    It has now been 8 months since you have been in Quito, still loving it? I just moved here and would like to talk to you if you have some time, I live not to far away from your area


    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:36 pm

      Hola Val…..SO SORRY I didn’t see your post until NOW…May 5, 2013. I don’t know why. I hope you see this. Yes, now I’ve lived here since October 1, 2011 and I still feel the same way about the city and Ecuador. I’d really like to chat with you since you’re here too. Please let me know if you want to talk or even get together……Ben

  • gerry symington May 25, 2012, 10:21 am

    I would really like to talk to Ben.I presently live in the Dominican Republic.I worked for several years in the British Virgin Islands and in St.Maarten i am very familiar with the lifestyle as I have been living it for quite a while.My wife is Dominican so she speaks both Spanish and English I speak some Spanish and am able to communicate here with just a little difficulty.Please contact me at your convenience

    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:42 pm

      Hola Gerry……SO SORRY I am just now seeing your post about contacting you. I don’t know how that happened but it did. If you’re still interested in contacting me please do so and I will try to answer any questions you may have about Quito and Ecuador. Ben

  • Larry May 4, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I live in Lafayette, LA. I’m considering a move to the Quito area next year and a visit later this year to check things out. I would like to keep in contact with you to see how things are going. It would be nice to have a contact when I visit. If you have time, I would like to get an update on your experiences…
    Larry Mitchell
    Lafayette, LA

    • Ben Pilgreen May 5, 2013, 4:39 pm

      Hola Larry…..I have become very much like a true Ecuatoriano since I am answering your post almost ONE YEAR to the day after you sent it! I’m really sorry but I guess I never checked the post. I’m really interested in talking to you because, believe it or not, I graduated from Ovey Comeaux High School and USL in Lafayette!! (It was USL then…)……I’m still here in Quito and still love it. I’d be glad to answer any questions if you still have any. I hope to hear from you……Ben

  • nhu Oct 31, 2011, 1:58 am

    That’s great

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