This is part of our Expat Profile Series.
Ecuador Expat Profile: Ben Pilgreen, Quito Ecuador
The Expat: Ben Pilgreen
Where 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 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 Andaluz. 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!