Ecuador Expat Profile – Jamie Stambaugh and Family, Cotacachi
The Expats: Jamie & Bo Stambaugh and Family
What is your blog url?
Where are you currently living?
Cotacachi, Imbabura, Ecuador
What’s Your Story?
We are a family of 4 living in and traveling around South America for the 12-15 months.
My husband, Bo, worked for the ski resort in Crested Butte, CO and I was a stay at home mom to our two young boys Vaughn (6) and Luke (4). At the start of 2012, Bo quit his job, we sold all our belongings, packed up 4 suitcases, a backpack, and 2 pillow pets — and boarded a one-way flight from Denver, Colorado to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?
We’ve lived in Colorado our whole lives, but love traveling outside our state and country lines to experience and participate in the world around us as often as we can. Bo and I have been married for 10 years, and for each of those years we dreamed off and on of someday living abroad as a family. We feel strongly that the experience of foreign travel and cultural exposure will be about the best gift we can offer our children as they grow and decide what role they want to play in the world. It doesn’t hurt us either, to re-think what we believe, how we do things, and what really matters.
How’s your Spanish?
Bo and I had both studied Spanish in high school and college, although we are embarassingly rusty. The boys knew nothing coming into this, but part of our plan was to settle for the first 6 months of this Family Sabbatical and enroll everyone in school. Language classes for Bo and I and local school for the boys. Which is what we’ve done here in Cotacachi. Vaughn is attending 1st grade at Las Lomas, and Luke is attending Pre-kinder at San Bernadino. Both boys have done an AMAZING job just getting up each day to try and try again with a strange class and new kids and a different language. They are both about 3 weeks in to their schooling now and picking up new words all the time. It’s fun to see them light up when the come bounding out of their classroom saying, “Mom! I learned more new words today!” Of course, that doesn’t happen every day- but often enough to give us hope that some powerful language neurons are being laid in their young and developing brains.
The hope is that all 4 of us will leave this learning time speaking Spanish well enough to have it really enhance the rest of our travels in South America.
What do you do?
Well, we aren’t making a living right now. I feel like writing “we’re making a life” — but I know how cheesy that sounds. (Ha! It’s true though!)
We have been saving for this experience for a while, we sold our house, our cars, and most of our belongings and are using that money to fund our Sabbatical. There is a limit in our bank account at which we are not willing to go home without, so when that point is reached we’ll head back. We are hoping that we can stretch it 12-15 months at least, but travel is full of (financial) surprises and so we just don’t know for sure.
How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?
The cost of living here in Cotacachi is tremendously cheaper than what we lived on in Crested Butte. That said – there is a learning curve to meeting a budget, even here. The local produce is great and cheap, but if your kids won’t eat it and you give in to another pizza night… that can sometimes add up. And yes, there are places to rent for as low as $250/month. But each of those places we looked at weren’t ones we felt comfortable in. Some people would, we just didn’t. I think being very honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle about your living space will help a lot when budgeting for a place to live. We are currently renting a 2 bedroom apartment on the top floor of a renovated hostel for $500/month. That includes all our utilities – although we are paying extra for faster internet and an empleada (housekeeper) who comes 3 mornings a week. We are looking around for a more affordable option that we’d still feel at home in, but even $500/month is INFINITELY better than the $2-400 a week a family of 4 can spend on hotels. A lot of guidebooks will tell you that a place is, say, $10/night. But the fine print is that that is per-person. So for us, a super-budget hostel is around $40/night- 7 nights… $280/ week. You can imagine how happy we are to be settled!
What do you love about Ecuador?
We spent the first month of our time traveling Ecuador scouting out different places that might work for this settled down phase of our trip. We saw a lot of beautiful country and met a lot of friendly people, but nothing struck our hearts as much as the culture and countryside here in the Cotacachi/Otavalo area. We love the towering green volcanoes that rise up all around the city. We love living side by side with the beautiful and justly proud indigenous people of this area. We love the abundance of healthy produce that can be had for a quarter, or less! We love that we are really living in another country, with another culture, and another language. There is a lot to get used to and some of our adjustment has been harder than imagined – but not a day goes by that we don’t know we are living a dream come true.