GringosAbroad Ecuador

GringosAbroad helps expats and travelers navigate Ecuador. When you use our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

My Life in Ecuador: Matt Scherr and Family Living in Cuenca Ecuador

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

This is part of our My Life in Ecuador Series.

Ecuador Expat Profile – Matt Scherr and Family, Cuenca

The Expats: Matt Scherr and Family


Where are you currently living?

As of March 2011, we’ve been in Cuenca, Ecuador five months.

What’s Your Story?

Diana and I were travelers in the era B.K. (before kids) and we hope exposure to other cultures at an earlier age will be beneficial to our kids and make them better global citizens.

We both quit our jobs for this two-year family sabbatical (Di as marketing director at a construction company, I as director of a community environmental nonprofit, in Vail, Colorado).

This is our first real international travel with the kids (not counting vacations), and it has already been (though not as easy as you’d think) worth the effort and the sacrifices to make it happen.

Where did you get the idea of living in Cuenca, Ecuador?

We decided first on South America for our sabbatical, as neither of us had traveled to the continent before.

Ecuador was the ultimate winner for affordability; economic, social, and (enough) political stability; natural beauty; Spanish speaking, and a generally welcoming attitude to gringos.

Our plan is 21 months here, though budgetary considerations will be the ultimate factor in the duration of our trip. We came on a six-month tourist visa and are currently converting to what is essentially a work-sponsorship visa that is made possible the formation of our own company here.

How’s your Spanish?

My Spanish before arriving was of the beers and baños variety: it could get us by in most tourist settings.

One of our primary goals before leaving here is minimum conversational fluency for the whole family. There are loads of excellent and affordable Spanish instruction opportunities here, so we should have no problem hitting the goal.

I think it’s fine to arrive with minimal Spanish capacity as long as you understand the additional monetary cost (inability to bargain effectively, intensifying the existing bureaucracy, or simply paying for translation service).

But if you intend to spend a considerable amount of time here, commit to the language.

What do you do?

We currently do not have incomes during our sabbatical, but our new company will hopefully not only provide income, but provide greater purpose to our stay and provide further opportunity to engage with the local people and culture.

How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living is higher than we expected in some areas, less in others. Overall it the monthly budget is larger than anticipated (because that’s how first-time budgets work, no?).

We believe that is due to some rising prices here, the “gringo tax”, city living (we had initially planned and budgeted for more rural life), and logistical considerations that you can only discover by diving in.

What do you love about Ecuador?

The first and best thing to love and appreciate here is that it is different from home.

That is not to say that home is bad, but we have discovered that we take so much for granted at home, that leaving it for a different experience is the best way to appreciate it.

The people in Ecuador are wonderful; the produce is cheap, abundant, and delicious; in Cuenca the cultural opportunities are remarkable for a nominal “third-world” country; and the climate is very pleasant.

The traditional food in Ecuador is, shall we say, humble, but the ingredients for cooking on your own are remarkable.

We find common sense makes the place exceptionally safe, despite reports from others (whom we generally find lacking in common sense) or from the locals (who, we feel, have an overdeveloped sense of fear, given the real threats that exist).

We rent a remarkable house furnished for just $400/month, cheap, but also relatively far from the city center.


We would not recommend buying for at least your first year here, so you know you like it, know where you’ll be happy for the long term, have developed relationships (the best way to avoid the gringo tax), and understand the way things work in Ecuador.

We frequented “gringo nights” for awhile upon arrival to get loads of useful information and experiences from “gringos on the ground”. (It is tempting to let these events become venting sessions for your shared frustrations. Try to keep that to a minimum to keep yourself from focusing on that.)

You might also enjoy:

Check out our guides:

Meet the Author

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

11 comments… add one
  • adam Sep 13, 2012, 9:26 pm

    I hope this gets to you Mat I have been waiting years to know how your doing you know who I am you made this email address for me Adam ring a bell? thank you for spending all that time with me you helped make me the man that I am today will all my heart thank you

  • dan Aug 22, 2011, 10:31 pm


    Greetings from Dartmouth, NS your home province. I am in my mid forties with a family and Ecuador has made it to a short list of countries that I would like to spent the winters in a few years when my kids are grown. I have a home based business which would enable me to spend some time away during the winters.

    I am trying to decide on whether to visit Ecuador or Lake Chapala on my next trip. I am looking for a place of natural beauty to relax, recharge and get fit doing physical activities. I like the mountains and lakes and my wife likes the ocean. I have a short list of the following areas I would like to see in Ecuador:

    Yunguilla Valley

    I do not like big cities and think that Salinas would be fine for short trips but would get boring to spend the entire winters there. What do you think of my choices and is there any other places that you would recommend during a visit. Also would 10 – 14 days be long enough to see these places?


    • Bryan Haines Sep 6, 2011, 7:01 pm

      Hi Dan – good to hear from another Nova Scotian. Two weeks should be fine to see those three areas. I haven’t been to Cotacachi, but Salinas and Yunguilla are both very liveable areas.

      All the best on your plans/trip.

    • Ian Mar 17, 2012, 5:18 pm

      Hi, my name is Ian…I live on Vancouver Island, Canada….I have been reading about Ecuador for years now in my International Living Magazine and online…At some point I would love to retire to Ecuador. At this point though it is not an option for me…I have been through a divorce and have two young daughters that I have joint custody of…They can not leave the country and I would not leave so I am in Canada for awhile. However, I have been thinking about starting a business that may eventually allow me to travel to Ecuador on occassion…What I am looking at doing is importing goods from Ecuador to sell in Canada. Primarily the type of stuff that you would see at the Otavalo market, leathers, textiles, crafts, etc….AT this point I am unable to travel to Ecuador so I am looking to start a relationship with someome in Ecuador that can be a buyer/shipper for me…Someone who can travel to the market and make my purchases for me and then ship them to me….My idea is to start small and build a trusting relationship with someone….After all I will be sending them money to buy inventory without ever knowing I will receive anything. Anyhow, this is probably an unusual request but do you know anyone who may be interested in working with me? I am currently a mortgage broker but really am getting tired of the grind…Would rather try something different and fun that also has the ability to be profitable. Anyhow, would welcome your comments/feeback.

      • ulises Apr 11, 2013, 10:20 pm

        Hi Ian
        Can I write you to a email?

      • Richard Oct 5, 2015, 4:50 am

        Hi Ian-
        If you could, write to me at the email referenced. I would like to chat with you.

      • Gaby Aug 29, 2016, 12:11 am

        Hi send me an email so we can chat further if you are still looking to do business in Ecuador

      • darryl hunt Sep 8, 2016, 6:44 pm

        Are you still trying to do this

  • Dalene May 14, 2011, 7:46 pm

    I am wondering if Matt or Brian can say how much you should estimate in total to get started in Ecuador. Ball park figure is fine. I too am from the Vail Valley, CO. The cost of living is very high here. I have a job that I do from home that I will be able to continue if we move to Ecuador, but it is hard to estimate what the total cost of getting started down there would be. I know that you and your wife had saved enough money to take 2 yrs off, but there are still start-up cost, travel to the country cost, ect. Any advice or ideas? Thank you for sharing your story.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.