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My Life in Ecuador: Jessamyn Living in Tena

Posted in: Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador, My Life in Ecuador

This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.

Ecuador Expat Profile: Jessamyn, Tena Ecuador

ecuador-expat-tenaThe Expat: Jessamyn

What is your blog url?

Where are your currently living?

I live in Tena, Ecuador. We moved to Tena in 1998 and I have lived here off and on ever since. Most recently, we moved back to Tena after an extended trip the US in 2011.

What’s Your Story?

I was born in Loveland, Colorado, USA. I’ve lived in Texas and Wisconsin, USA.

But I keep coming back to Ecuador. I’m married to an Ecuadorian and we have a 10 year old son.

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

My parents decided to move to a foreign country after a road trip to Baja California, Mexico. They loved the lifestyle. Plus we are volunteers for an international Bible work and wanted a way to expand our efforts.

After our trip we found out that friends of ours were moving to Chillanes, Ecuador. They told my parents of many “gringo” families with kids living in Ecuador and that was the beginning of our grand adventure.tena ecuador

We moved to Ecuador in 1997. A family of six in Ecuador. First we lived in San Miguel de Bolivar, a small town in Bolivar province.

After a year struggling with the water situations (we had water for about 2 hours a day) we moved to Tena.

My parents stayed until 2000 and only left because of the economic scare in 1999. They almost lost all of their savings that were in Ecuadorian banks.

Plus while their funds were frozen they lost out on a piece of property that they intended to buy, build a house on, and build a small hotel. So when they released money to those in the country on missionary visas my family took their money and ran.

See just some of the animals that live in the rain forest in this new guide: 47 Rainforest Animals

How’s your Spanish?

We didn’t speak any Spanish before moving to Ecuador. We learned the language through daily interaction with the people and some lessons given to us by friends.

Being married to an Ecuadorian has helped a lot to refine my language skills… since he isn’t afraid to correct me… and I’m not afraid to ask him questions.

I feel learning Spanish is key to enjoying life in Ecuador. Ecuador is full of natural beauty, but the people of Ecuador add to the beauty. They are kind and welcoming. And having friends in Ecuador is a big part of the reason we are still here.

How do you make your living?

mindo ecuadorI work online and I am also currently developing a discount travel card to encourage tourism in Ecuador: Ecuador VIP – check it out when you travel to Ecuador or if you live here and want to see more of the country – sorry one shameless plug :). My husband works locally in Tena.

We don’t make much, but we don’t need much to live. We saved up to be able to build our own house. Which we built and paid off in 2010. So we don’t pay rent.

We spend about $450 a month on essentials. About $300 of that is food. So we can live very cheaply if we need to. Tena is definitely not as expensive as other areas of the country…although much of the produce is trucked in from the mountains, making some items more expensive.

My $450 a month budget is with limited eating out and extras. We are simple people with a simple lifestyle and no rent.

What do you love about Ecuador?

I love the people of Ecuador. And I also love the variety of people I’ve met from all around the world while living here. I now have friends for life all over the globe. Living in Ecuador has opened my eyes to a way of life that is simple yet amazing educational and rewarding.

Ecuador is not free of problems. And safety is a growing concern. We live behind a massive wall and have bars on our windows. But that’s to be expect just about anywhere you are going to live… whether in Ecuador or elsewhere.

If you’re considering moving to Ecuador my number one tip is come down and visit. And not just for a couple of weeks during which you plan to travel every step of the way. Stay somewhere and experience day to day life.

Read more Ecuador Expat stories.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

7 comments… add one
  • nomad Feb 17, 2016, 10:29 pm

    Hi there. I am in Cuenca soon to be leaving back to the states. I would very much like to peak at the jungle. My idea was to take a tour bus from Cuenca to Quito where I can fly through Experia for $585 (OW) Is there a village between here and there that you would recommend that is still traditionally indigenous and not too ‘americanized’ where I can drink in the jungle? I am completely open to any advise and suggestions. Oh, I’m traveling with a small Chihuahua pup.
    Thank you

  • Betty Mullett Jan 17, 2016, 9:58 pm

    I am a 75 yr old retired public school choral director and music teacher. My son and I are considering moving to Tena. My question is: I am active and want to be involved in perhaps teaching music or organizing a choir for fun. Would there be any opportunities for these activites among the english speaking community?

  • Jessamyn Apr 24, 2015, 4:23 pm

    Hi Stewart,

    Yeah Tena is on the small side, but not as small as you might think. We have just about anything you need to live comfortably in the jungle.

    My son is homeschooled, but he did go to public school here in Ecuador one year. He learned Spanish really fast that way. But I homeschool him to make sure he gets a complete hold on English, since I know that will help him when he is older and needing to work. 🙂

  • Ernest Daniels Jan 12, 2015, 1:55 am

    I am a Realtor in the States. Thinking about retiring to the Cuenca area. Is it possible for an ex-pat to get an real estate license in Ecuador (Cuenca)?

  • Jen Jul 12, 2014, 11:35 pm

    Nice story. I think this is the longest I have heard of an expat living in Ecuador. I am currently here on a mission to buy land in the Cotacachi area. Crossing fingers that we get everything notarized on Monday!! 🙂

    I’m also curious about the schooling question.
    My own question would be whether your family may ever consider moving back now that the economy seems to be more stable here?


    • Jessamyn Apr 24, 2015, 4:19 pm

      Hi Jen,

      The economy doesn’t have too much effect on our decision to live in Ecuador. We could live in the States, make good money and live near my family, but I would always miss Ecuador! I love the way of life here. I walk and don’t need a car. There’s no snow EVER. And I have so many friends and meet more all the time. If my parents and brothers were still living in Ecuador I would never need anything else.

  • Stewart Jul 1, 2014, 3:38 pm

    Hello Jessamyn,

    Welcome to Ecuador! I see you´ve lived here longer than me so maybe you should be welcoming me.

    I see on google maps that Tena is pretty far from everything, but it does show a small town and an airport.

    Question for you: Is your 10 year old son in public school or private?

    Anyways, it´s also great that you have a relationship with God I see.

    Best wishes y saludos,


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