GringosAbroad Ecuador

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

Ecuador Expat Profile: Susan Schenck Living in Cuenca

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador

This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.

Ecuador Expat Profile: Susan Schenck Living in Cuenca

susan-schenck-cuenca-ecuadorThe Expat: Susan Schenck

Name: Susan Schenck

Where are your currently living?

I’ve lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for 3.5 years now.

What’s Your Story?

I have lived mostly in the USA, but also in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and a little bit in Malaysia.

Why did you move to Cuenca, Ecuador?

I wanted to retire and get out of the rat race. I knew I could never, ever have enough to retire in the US.

So I did research online and found Ecuador to be the best, and Cuenca was the best city here. I even wrote a book on this: Expats in Cuenca, Ecuador: The Magic & the Madness. I discuss the 8 C’s of Cuenca that make it a great place to live:

  1. culture
  2. climate
  3. cost of living
  4. cleanliness
  5. culture
  6. calmness (safe)
  7. community (5000 expats here)
  8. Cuencanos (the people here are very nice)

Most important to me are the cost of living – I can live here on a pension of $1400 as comfortably as though I made about $4000 in the USA.

Also the climate: it’s perfect. I never use a fan, air conditioner, or heater. Never! This place has better weather than San Diego in Southern California.

How’s your Spanish?

I studied Spanish four years in high school and five at the university level, so my grammar and vocabulary are pretty good. I also lived in Mexico two years, which gave me the fluency.

I think it’s pretty important to learn at least basic Spanish. Otherwise you miss out on so much. But I know a lot of expats who don’t and manage somehow to get by.

How Do You Make a Living?

I get a pension every month from teaching. I also supplement that by writing books and marketing them.

Before coming here I wrote The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet and also Beyond Broccoli Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work, two nutrition books.

Since then I’ve written three travel books: Expats in Cuenca, Ecuador: The Magic & the Madness; Healing a Midlife Crisis on El Camino de Santiago; and just this month, The Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador’s Hidden Treasure (read the full review).

In addition, I teach weekly raw gourmet food classes, do weight loss and health coaching, and also biannual workshops on self-publishing and book marketing.

You can contact me at if interested in any of these services.

How do you spend your time in Ecuador?

Besides my work of writing and teaching (which I consider “play,” not “work”), I enjoy dancing. We expats are mostly too old to go to the local late night dancing places, but some of us do make exceptions as with Rubber Biscuit (a very danceable band). Or we go to expat events which entail dancing from 7 to 10 PM.

I also love to hike and have done so in Baños de Ambato, the Quilotoa region, Vilcabamba, and many places that you can get to in a day from here.

susan-schenck-hiking-ecuador susan-schenck-expat-ecuador

Furthermore there is a very active expat group here, so I have plenty of parties and lunch dates.

I also love having time to do yoga, read, and walk throughout the city. This is a very walkable city – very lovely – and I usually walk one or two hours a day.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you have a question/comment for Susan? Share it in the comments below…

You might also enjoy:

Check out our guides:

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.

23 comments… add one
  • Marisa Crowson Nov 9, 2020, 7:32 pm

    My son was studying in Cuenca for a while, but will now be returning to the States. Is there a website he can advertise some household items and a motorcycle that he wants to sell?
    Any information would be appreciated.

  • Peter Melvoin Aug 18, 2019, 6:08 pm

    Were you one of the Merry Pranksters, way back when?

  • Grace Ducet Nov 26, 2017, 11:50 pm

    Hello Susan: I’ve been retired in Mexico for 11 years. I live in a small village of about 10,000 year-round residents; that population swells to about 18,000 when the snow-birds arrive so I’m going to check out Cuenca with a view towards spending six months there (October through April) to avoid the throngs of partial-year residents who descend upon the village during the northern winter months, and then return to Mexico for the remainder portion of the year. My question is: is Cuenca a reasonable destination to be a partial year resident (six months or so)? I’m visiting in January to check things out personally but wanted an opinion ahead of time, if possible. Are there “snow birds” who go to Cuenca during the norther winter months? Thanks in advance for any information you may be able to provide. Regards, Grace.

  • Nancy Blackwelder Jun 25, 2017, 8:03 am

    I am visiting Cuenca with my 22 year old grandson. Is there anywhere he can find other gringos his age to do some of the things I can’t or don’t want to? Some suggestions for things we both can do? I will be at the Simon Bolivar School for a couple of hours a day. Thank you.

  • Daniel E. Chase Mar 19, 2017, 12:57 pm

    Hello Susan,

    It’s been some time since I’ve seen and talked with you. I’m strongly considering making the move to Cuenca in the somewhat near future. I’ll definitely want the opportunity to chat once there. I’d appreciate all the pointers that you can give me once I’m there.


    Daniel E. Chase

  • Richard Mar 13, 2017, 12:23 am

    Susan most of the replies are from back in 2014? I wonder if you still answer these questions? I have a desire to purchase one or more of your books. I am going to try and visit EC this year to decide if I will become an expatriate there. Thanks. I hope you read and write me back. Regards Richard P.

  • Sandy Pascale Dec 16, 2016, 10:44 am

    I am a 73 year old retired RN planning on moving to Cuenca next fall. I would love to connect with someone who can answer my basic questions about what to bring, how to find a temporary apartment until I can explore the area for a more permanent home, type of electrical supply(110 or 220) for my appliances, etc. I think I need someone who is willing to answer my silly questions and offer advice on the everyday things. I hope to visit for a week next spring/summer to get a lay of the land. Anyone willing to meet with me then and introduce me to the introcacies of my chosen retirement location….

    • John Cook Apr 14, 2017, 2:43 pm

      I discovered Ecuador via a website called Lain Livingston runs the site. Lain was doing an interview with a lady named Lilly Ann Fouts about Loja, Ecuador. Lilly had wrote a book called, “How to Live Like a Local in Loja”. I started doing research on Loja and Ecuador and discovered the electricity is 110v, so no change for us and the currency is the U.S. dollar. How easy is that? Loja sounds wonderful except there few expats there and my Spanish is limited, although if I moved there, I’m sure it would improve rapidly. I live in the California desert 90 miles east of downtown LA and mostly just want to get away June, July and August. The rest of the year it’s very nice here with lots to do. Lately I’ve been thinking Cuenca might be an easier transition into Ecuador because of the larger expat community and then I might try Loja next. What made you interested in Ecuador?

  • Terry Reardon Dec 12, 2016, 12:13 am

    Found your brief article fascinating. My retirement pension (basically social security) is around $500 US per month less than your stated $1400 per month luxury lifestyle !!

    Can one live say on $900 US per month, be comfortable and not be confined to home only? I am 73 years old and will want central location for ease of access to EVERYTHING.

    Hoping for a timely reply.

    Greetings from sunny Thailand !!!!!

  • Jim Hughes Sep 5, 2016, 8:18 pm

    Hello Susan,
    I know this will probably sound strange but after going through some traumatic events in the last couple of years I’m seriously considering relocating and starting my life anew. I’m very interested in visiting Cuenca and wonder if you would serve as a guide for me. I am more than willing to pay you for your services. Please let me know if this is something you would consider.

    Jim Hughes

  • marie Aug 9, 2016, 9:26 pm

    I would love to speak with you privately about moving to cuenca in near future, n about your self help writing books,!!! If u can reach out to me, though I see your schedule is full, I would greatly appreciate it! !!

  • Stephanie Jul 11, 2016, 9:44 pm

    Hi Susan,

    My name is Stephanie and I am from Minnesota.
    I am living in Quito for a few months volunteering and going to the Bolivar Simon Spanish school. I was thinking about moving to Cuenca for the next two months. Wondering if I could email you a few questions. Thanks, Stephanie

  • leon massry Mar 12, 2016, 12:37 pm

    So could you give me all the info on moving to Cuenca, like what type of papers do I need to move there I’m ok with the reading & writing the language just need to know what government agencies to contact & info about receiving checks(social security) to what pars of the city should I be looking to stay in

  • Bob Weisenberg Feb 13, 2015, 5:18 am

    Thanks for this intereview. We are going to be living in Cuenca for April, May and June, and we are particularly interested in hiking. So Susan’s remarks about all the hiking she does are particularly interesting to us.

    I was looking for a website or facebook page for Susan so I could write to her and ask her more about the hiking around Cuenca, but I had no luck. Could you tell me how I might contact her?


    Bob Weisenberg

  • Kenneth A March Apr 15, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Susan – Where are the two photos taken at a the bottom of this post with you wearing the pink top & visor on a cobblestone road in the mountains?

  • Diane Feb 9, 2014, 2:38 pm

    I am very active – I love to run, bike, swim, and weight train. Will I find others with the same interests? Most of the retiree sites I’ve looked at talk about things like gardening, marketing, and dancing – all nice, but not exactly what I hope to do when I retire. Are the roads decent enough for road bike (with skinny tires)? Do you feel safe going out walking or running alone? Are there gyms? Pools? (Open water is great, too!)


  • Laura Feb 4, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Please tell me about the availability of yoga classes in Cuenca!

  • Stacey Jan 17, 2014, 1:08 pm

    I will be coming to Ecuador during the months of May and June of this year. One of the purposes of my visit is to check out Cuenca as a possible place to live for a while. Can we communicate via email?


  • Stewart Jan 3, 2014, 5:24 pm

    Good day Manuel. Have you visited your local Ecuadorian Embassy? That would be my first suggestion.

  • Mary Jan 2, 2014, 7:58 pm

    My husband is very interested in moving to Ecuador but I have health concerns. I had a hard time breathing in Cuenca and Quito and even a bit in Cotacachi during my first visit there a year ago, due to the car/bus exhaust. I know I will eventually adjust to the higher altitude but don’t know what to do about that air pollution. So I am researching different areas south of Cuenca like Santa Isabel. Please respond with any suggestions you may have for a location with better air quality that is not far removed from civilization and other expats. Thank you!

    • Stewart Jan 10, 2014, 3:06 am

      Hello Mary,
      About the air quality, it seems car and bus exhaust regulations in Quito at least are a lot more lax
      than in the USA. Not sure about Cuenca or Canada, but if you are sensitive to this it’s probably
      best to always wear a mask (surgical or painter’s both readily available) when walking the streets
      or even taking a bus or taxi (their windows are always down as they don’t usually use the ac).

      At least for where I live (Cumbaya, Tumbaco and working in Quito) there are many buses. Most vans run on diesel and quite a few cars too. No wonder since the cost of diesel fuel is $1 + change per gallon in Ecuador where regular gasoline runs around $2 per gallon.

      I read recently an article by John Vidal (environment editor at The Guardian UK news) where they considered diesel vehicles “green cars” because they emit less CO2 than gas cars. Yes, but the nitrogen oxide emissions are higher. Just seeing the black smoke from a bus tailpipe gives me a bad impression. Again, maybe in other countries (i.e. in Europe) diesel vehicles run cleaner, but here all the extra hoses and filters in the emissions system seem to have been left out.

      One positive thing the government is doing in Quito is building a metro train system running on electricity, but that’s several years from completion.

      Good luck and best regards.

  • Stewart Jan 1, 2014, 1:05 pm

    Hello Susan,
    Happy New Year! Several weeks ago I visited Cuenca over the weekend (friday to sunday) and was
    a little disappointed with Not seeing very many gringos. This past weekend my family, friends and I spent time relaxing at Hosteria PuertoLago in Lago San Pablo and we visited Otavalo saturday during their busy open market fair in Plaza de los Ponchos. There were many Gringos buying or checking out wares. I bought 2 pairs of comfortable pants for $5 each.

    I say gringos including German, French, Americans, Canadians and maybe even Chileans and Argentineans that looked like gringos but then spoke spanish in a way that told me they’re not.

    Otavalo is a very clean little town established around the same time as Quito 1500’s. I imagine Cuenca is also. The streets and sidewalks in downtown are renovated for the most part. I only visited 2 plazas, but I found no problem walking through them at night to a little restaurant called Buena Vista adjacent the Plaza de los Ponchos where other gringos ate.

    Anyways, glad to know of another expat in Cuenca. Next time I visit I’ll have to email just to see where expats hang out for a taste of the familiar.

    Best regards,

  • Manuel Molina Dec 31, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Good Day, I been surfing the web for information on Retire to Ecuador and I can’t find anyone that could tell me what kind of document do I need, so I can start the paperwork process and what could I take to Ecuador( Car, Household good etc). if you can please give me a little advise I will appreciate your help. Once more Thank you in advance.

Leave a Comment

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