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We’re Leaving Ecuador After 1.5 Years: Here’s Why (Dave and Robin Zinck)

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Vilcabamba Ecuador horse

Update: Since submitting this article, David and Robin have left Ecuador and are now back in Canada.

We’re Leaving Ecuador After 1.5 Years (Here’s Why)

leaving Ecuador

David and Robin Zinck

Connect with David and Robin Zinck

Video of Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Where are your currently living?

We are Robin and Dave Zinck, a semi-retired couple originally from Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada.

We live in the small, southern city of Loja, nestled in the Cuxibamba Valley. The elevation is about 7,000 feet, providing us with an almost perfect climate. We’ve lived here for 7 months.

Podocarpus Park Ecuador

Podocarpus Park, Southern Ecuador

What’s Your Story?

We started our Ecuador adventures on January 2nd, 2016, in the village of San Jacinto on the central coast, located between Bahia de Caraquez and Manta.

We moved south to the small fishing town of Puerto Lopez soon after and stayed there until our experience with the April earthquake.

chaffing coffee Puerto Lopez Ecuador

Chaffing coffee in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fisherman in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fisherman in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fresh catch in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fresh catch in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Our apartment was unlivable after the quake. We found temporary lodging with our neighbours – thanks, Veronica and Alex! After several sleepless nights, two large aftershocks, and seeing people sleeping in the streets, afraid their houses might collapse, we decided to move away.

We moved to Girón, another small town, located in the Andes just south of Cuenca in the Yunguilla Valley. We loved Girón – the friendly people and the fantastic scenery.

El Churro lower falls Giron Ecuador

El Chorro lower falls, Giron Ecuador

View of Giron Ecuador from above

View of Giron Ecuador from above

We visited El Chorro waterfalls, Laguna de Busa, hiked on the many backroads around town, and experienced a 3-week party during the Festival of the Bulls. After 6 months exploring the area, with frequent visits to Cuenca, we decided to check out Loja, liked what we saw, and moved again.

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

We got the idea of moving to Ecuador after reading an article in Readers Digest magazine. After many months of research, we sold our house and moved.

We needed a change. We were tired of the endless winters in Nova Scotia, wanted to semi-retire, and we were long overdue for an adventure.

After living in Ecuador for about a year and a half, we’ve decided to move back to Canada. We will be driving our old camper-van across the country to settle on Vancouver Island where the winters are tolerable. Our decision was mixed – I wanted to stay, Robin was not happy.

How’s your Spanish?

My Spanish is coming along OK – Robin not so much. I still have a very difficult time understanding – I think my most used phrase is “no entiendo” (I don’t understand), followed by “habla mas despacio, por favor” (talk slower please). Ecuadorians are mostly great people and are patient with us, but not being able to have a normal conversation is the biggest drawback for us. I do know enough to make myself understood in most situations – but only if I have the time to think about what I want to say.

We studied before we arrived, but obviously not enough. Unless you plan to be among only people who speak your language, and not associate with Spanish-speaking locals, my advice is to reach a conversational level before moving here. It will make your experience so much more enjoyable.

We think it is of the utmost importance to learn the language of the country in which you’re going to live. If you don’t, you’ll feel as we do – isolated – making good friends only with other English speaking people, few of whom are Ecuadorian. We meet so many interesting people on our walks through the countryside and would just love to ask them questions – to learn more about them and their way of life – to have normal conversations.

More reading: The Best Book to Learn Spanish (Reader’s Choice)

Los Frailes beach north, Ecuador

Los Frailes beach north, Ecuador

Los Frailes beach south, Ecuador

Los Frailes beach south, Ecuador

How do you make your living?

We receive a small pension and have savings. I work online, writing articles, and we both work on our blogs and Facebook pages (links to both at top of post) to keep us occupied.

How’s the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living here is much lower than in Nova Scotia. We live comfortably on less than $1000 per month – not including travel and adventure expenses, which are reasonably priced.

The cost of living is more or less what we expected. Imported items, such as North American ketchup and peanut butter, imported liquor, etc., are surprisingly costly. We simply buy local products and save.

The almost perfect climate of Andean towns such as Girón and Loja negates the need for heat or air conditioning. Electricity, propane, and water bills are very low. Rent is less than half of what we’d pay in small-town Nova Scotia for a comparable house or apartment.

What do you love about Ecuador?

We love the friendly people, the climate, the scenery, and the fresh fruit and veggies that are available year-round. Transportation is great and cheap, although mountain bus rides can be kind of scary by times.

We love the many year-round adventures available, along with the countless cultural events. We can’t get enough of some of the local foods such as “chivo al hueco” (goat-in-the-hole), repe (green banana soup) and hornado (whole pig roasted over pure charcoal). Did I mention the scenery?

Isla de la Plata blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobies on Isla de la Plata

Why did you decide to leave Ecuador?

Yes, there are differences. I suppose we should mention the negative side of living in Ecuador – and some of the reasons we are leaving…

Language. This is numero uno. It would take us a long time to get to a conversational level in Spanish – to be able to make good Ecuadorian friends, to joke and laugh at parties. We try, we really do, but it’s simply impossible at this point.

We miss our freedom. Living behind bars and concrete walls strung with electrified wires is not our lifestyle. We’re used to living in a farm house with lots of outdoor space, leaving the doors unlocked through the day. While we have never had any problems, we are so obviously foreigners, assumed to be rich, and could be targets for thieves. Security is unavoidable here.

We really miss camping, campfires, and fishing. There are surprisingly few easily accessible lakes, and campgrounds are rare. There are several trout lakes high up in the mountains, but we haven’t found any nearby trout brooks, rivers, or lakes for fishing. Backcountry hiking and camping are possible in some places such as national parks.

We miss our families and friends too. We did plan on yearly visits if we stayed – you need to budget for this before moving. You will miss them!

Ecuador Resources We’ve Used

We used several resources for our research before making our decision to move. We checked it out through reading blogs – Gringos Abroad our favourite – and joined several Facebook groups where we read many posts about life in Ecuador. We also bought a few books, and read online newspaper articles, etc.

Final Thoughts

We’ve had many great experiences in Ecuador – horseback riding in the mountains near Vilcabamba, the flowering of the Guayacan trees in Mangahurco, a boat trip to Isla de la Plata close to Puerto Lopez, the 1st Festival of the Arts in Loja, Carnaval, partying in Montanita, and much more.

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco

We’ve met a lot of great Ecuadorians – as well as other gringos. Our point of view has changed – we now know how immigrants feel, especially ones struggling with a different language. We’ll look at people who have moved to Canada from other countries differently now.

We have only one regret with our decision to live in Ecuador – we didn’t get to explore the entire country…


Your Turn

Have a question for Dave and Robin – about living in Ecuador or why they are leaving Ecuador? Join them in the comments!
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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 Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

31 comments… add one
  • Deb Oct 10, 2017, 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. What I appreciate most in this post is your acknowledgment of what it now feels like being an immigrant in a new country and not knowing the language. I am US born with Ecuadorian parents. I now live in Ecuador but I didn’t kid myself – I knew I was full gringa. I just wanted to say thanks for the migrant recognition and your helpful travel posts. All the best with the new move.

  • Brent Poirier Aug 30, 2017, 8:12 pm

    Hi folks, thanks for sharing your experience. I have two questions – first, where were the scary mountain bus rides? Are you talking about side trips into the high Andes, or are you talking about standard trips such as from Loja to Cuenca?

    Second, did you feel the need for the electrified wires / living behind bars due to a sense of insecurity when you lived in the city of Loja?

    • Dave and Robin Aug 31, 2017, 11:24 am

      Hey Brent. The bus rides were the scariest in the mountains – both the coastal and Andes mountains. Not all rides were bad, most were quite enjoyable with fantastic scenery. It depends a lot on the driver – some are in a great rush. We were on a city bus in Loja outside a mercado when our bus driver got impatient with the bus ahead of him, blew the horn several times, then rammed into it – actually quite funny. Drivers are mostly impatient and some take risks and pass where they shouldn’t… In answer to your 2nd question – yes, we did feel the need for security in Loja.

  • Anna Dalnoki Jul 31, 2017, 3:01 pm

    Hello My name is Anna I am retired and 60 years old live alone with 2 small dogs. Moving alone scares me somewhat but I only speak Hungarian and English. I recently was inquireing about a home developer building homes at reasonable prices. I stuggle with the notion of buying or renting. I think renting then perhaps buying later would be best. Do you know of any single persons traveling and up rooting to Equador. I have looked at Belize a lot over the last 10 years but find that more crime is present there lately. I live in Ottawa Ont and have been all over Nova Scotis loved it stayed in Tanamagush Probably missed spelled it. Any way, I am fed up with the cold winters in Canada and do not want to have a mortgage and have to pay rent at the same time, so I am still trying to figure out options. I have ago of income and a far bit saved too. I could live well abroad I just don’t want to have to have a mortgage any more in Canada the cost of living is so much higher here. So if you know of any single expects that have made the move or explored Equador or other destinations please let me know. Anna

    • Len Aug 17, 2017, 1:00 am

      Hi Anna

      I’m a 61yo Brit also living in Ottawa – well just south of it and I too am thinking of emigrating to Ecuador. Care to share notes and info?

      Regards

      Len

    • Mike Aug 31, 2017, 2:03 am

      Consider San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where I now live after 2.5 years in Cuenca, Ecuador.

      The weather is better. The Mexicans are more trustworthy in general. Access to Canada and the US costs less. The cost of living is about the same. Access to more purchasables is better (e.g., cheese, baked goods, beer, wine, etc). Prices for electronics & cars is comparable to prices in Canada. Internet cost is less than in Ecuador. Cellular cost is less than in Ecuador. Costs of buying a place is comparable to Ecuador. Rent is about the same as Ecuador.

    • Martina Oct 10, 2017, 4:48 pm

      Hi, I have moved to Ecuador by myself, ( at 49, now 52) , I have builded here, (I’m actually selling my smaller house) — The way I did it, and not worried about security is,,, I’m living in a urbanizacion that close to Manta called (Mirador San Jose) – I have no gate around my houses and not worried , at all, about being robbed !! (secuity at the gate,) Most of us here, speak english and/or french,, The cost of construction is maybe higher than elsewhere but quality is there,, none of the houses where damaged due to the earthquake,, and we felt it alright !!! Thank you

  • Gene Jul 31, 2017, 12:04 pm

    Hi, Dave and Robin.

    Thank you very much for sharing your story with everyone. I have been to Canada and think it is a beautiful country with some of the most wonderful people, yourselves included, I am sure. There is something controvercial, I wanted to briefly share with you and all those going back to North America or Europe. Through my research and that of countless other curious people, and those, who have developed health issues, I have come to realize that most if not all “first world” (forgive the expression, it may be incorrect, but I am using it here as a purely geographic reference) countries are being purposefully poisoned with food, water, soil and even air becoming hazardous to one’s health. The short term memory is one of the first symptoms, respiratory issues (even the never ending flus, colds, coughing, sinus, and allergies), autoimmune disorders, finally things like cancer seem to be 3 times as bad as in South America, despite additional comforts and a better organized society. Do some research, analyze your own health issues (see if you have notced anything), research “chemtrails” and then you may change your mind about your latest move. I wish you and everyone all the best and hope things work out for you in the best way possible.

    • Anna Dalnoki Jul 31, 2017, 3:17 pm

      Hi I was following Dave and Robin and then read your post I am not sure what you are referring to in regards to illnesses. Just curious are you concerned of of health issues arising in South American countries. I have some health issues but they are do to serious car accident and having fibromyalgia on top of that. Health care abroad is important to me. I am really working on getting my health back and getting off these pain killers before moving somewhere where there is no snow and I am getting there too. Looking to do the snowbird move first before moving perminently elsewhere. At 60 with health issues does scare me but I don’t do well in Canada’s winter months. I was just very curious about your concerns. Thanks Anna

    • Mike Aug 31, 2017, 2:10 am

      I had more colds in my 2.5 years ofiving in Cuenca, Ecuador than I have had in the previous 20 years before I moved from Canada. So, if you are saying health is better in Ecuador, I would have to disagree. I also had an Ecuadorian friend who died from cancer. Another who has diabetes. Several relatives of another Ecuadorian friend died from cancer.

      • Gene Aug 31, 2017, 12:02 pm

        I am so sorry to hear about your friend and others dying from cancer and your colds, however, no one says that there are no illnesses in Ecuador. Most if not all of the first world is being poisoned through pesticides, fumigation, meds, and even aerial spraying. Consider that your body has already been poisoned for 20 years in Canada, so when you moved to a high elevation in Ecuador, where there were new bacteria, with which your body was not familiar, it could not handle them well. Heavy metals in the air, they spray the US and Canada with, suppress the immune system, then any fungus and bacteria which gets into breathing pathways, will flourish, because the body does not fight it. Also, hether you are in Canada or Ecuador, you have to watch what you eat and drink. Ecuador is saturated with Coca-Cola and other hazardous US products, and Ecuadorians by and large do not watch their diet, eating all kinds of US-made garbage we try to avoid while living in the States. That garbage WILL give one cancer, in combination with other things, no matter where you live. Consider that statistically Ecuador still has 3 times fewer cancer patients per capita, than the US has, despite Ecuadorians’ eating habits and less pesticide control. The air is better in Ecuador than in the US, because there is a lot less aerial spraying, their soil is more pure, a lot of the natively produced foods are healthier, but whether one is an Ecuadorian or an expat, one needs to watch what they eat, take steps to cleanse the body, if necessary (anyone from the first world should do heavy metals cleansing. You can look it up), choose the climate that works for you (high altitude, cool temperatures and high humidity is not necessarily a good combination for someone with a poisoned respitory system) and find a place with better air. Any big city will have more illnesses and health hazzards, whether in the US, Canada or South America. Try Vilcabamba, if you are looking for a healthy climate or maybe move further East towards the Amazon jungle and to a lower elevation, possibly to a smaller town with less pollution. Change your diet, find local remedies for your cold, take proactive steps to improve your health, take advantage of the things Ecuador offers. There is no magic solution. One needs to work to take advantage of the positives there.

        • Mike Aug 31, 2017, 1:02 pm

          While I may agree with the possibility that some of what you say is true, you have not declared any indisputable proof. This makes your statements somewhat meaningless and not necessarily believable.

  • Alice Mendell Jul 30, 2017, 9:36 pm

    Hi Bryan
    I’m relocating to Cuena and need someone local to help me find an apartment. Do you recommend anyone? Please let me know. Thank you.

    • Andrew Estes Aug 5, 2017, 9:51 am

      Try Marcelo Parra. He is fluent in
      English, not an agent, just a very nice guy, and
      Gringo tourist guide, all around helpful guy, very very reasonable rates. Contact him and use my name liberally. He is at: decofrut@hotmail.com or 098-483-8899. A very good and kind and resourceful man

  • Diana Stutts Jul 30, 2017, 2:22 pm

    Did you ever visit Salinas, a beach town in Southern Ecuador about 2 hrs from Guayaquil? I am hoping to go there in October. just curious.

    • Dave and Robin Jul 31, 2017, 9:13 am

      We’ve never been to Salinas, Diana.

    • Mary Sep 1, 2017, 9:44 am

      Hi Diana, I lived in Salinas for my first 2 years in Ecuador. It’s a small place, many expats both American and Canadian live there, and very friendly. It has a nice beach, the best being at the other end of the town called Chippippe..calmer water, larger beach…cleaner. The first beach you encounter is for boating and all water recreation. It’s crazy there over Christmas and Carnaval…150,000 xtra people. But you won’t find fireworks any better than in Salinas for New Years Eve…5 hours long. The food is typical Ecuadorian and the fish come right out of the ocean…try the cerviche…it’s wonderful. Lovin Oven is my favorite restaurant and Berte is the nicest woman you will ever meet. It’s 3 years since I moved to Cuenca but Salinas is still a nice place to visit…too small for me to stay permanently. The Northern Coast is very nice too…so many little fishing villages..OLON is another favorite of mine. And, of course, MONTANITA, less than 2 hours north of Salinas is a must see. It’s a surfing village and the food, drinks and excitement is not to be missed. Hope this helps.

  • Shirley Jul 30, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Hola, I live in Nanaimo and am interested in what other things you have to say about Ecuador as I am planning on going there, first just to visit. Where on Vancouver Island do you live and is it possible to meet up. Thank You Shirley

    • Dave and Robin Jul 31, 2017, 9:06 am

      Hi Shirley,
      We are still in Nova Scotia, will be leaving for B.C. mid-August. We should be out there around the second week of September.
      Shoot us a Facebook message or an email around that time and when we’re in your area we can meet up.

  • Janet Jul 29, 2017, 2:56 pm

    It sounds like they never put down any roots. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you live basically like a tourist, hopping around seeking a collection of adventures and a kaleidoscope of changing scenery, there’s no reason to be surprised when you “go back home” because you never established the commitment to building a new home in Ecuador. Language barriers are part of it, but whether or not somebody stays or goes also has much to do with mindset. And again this is NOT meant as a criticism; its simply an observation.

  • Margaret Jul 29, 2017, 2:53 pm

    Do all expats experience “living behind bars and concrete walls strung with electrified wires”? I know this is a South African way of living, but I wasn’t aware that all expats lived this way in Ecuador.

    • Emily Bloomquist Aug 5, 2017, 7:53 pm

      Hi Margaret, No, not all expats live that way. Some live in high rise condos, some in the middle of neighborhoods, some in single family homes with no walls around them, etc.

      In my four years living in Ecuador, many Ecuadorians have expressed surprise that so many expats in single family homes expose themselves by skipping security bars on first floor windows. They explain that we should protect our homes the same way wealthy Ecuadorians do. It is because we will be viewed as wealthy whether we think we are or not. Hope this helps.

  • david hartley-jones Jul 29, 2017, 2:47 pm

    Hi !
    would you care to share contact info of the horse guide(s) you worked with in the mountains ?

  • Britt Bredstad Jul 29, 2017, 11:15 am

    Dave and Robin,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I just returned from a three week tour to Ecuador
    and had a great experience communicating with the people, riding horses up in the Andes, fishing outside Puerto Lopez, staying in Homesteads both in the Andes and the rain forest, exploring various areas by myself and learning about the art and history. My Spanish is improving by forcing myself to just visit with people, who only speak Spanish. I found the people warm and welcoming. Being of Spanish/Sicilian origin I am looking for a place to retire south of the US border. So far I have checked out Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador and Argentina. I have lived part time in Baja Mexico for 15 years. Now living in Tucson, Arizona for a year, I left Silicon Valley in California because of the cost factors, weather and over crowding.
    My questions to all Americans choosing to move to Ecuador rather than Central America or any other country in South America are. Why Ecuador rather than any other country? Did you travel extensively all over South America before deciding on Ecuador? Did you ever consider hiring a teacher in Ecuador to help you improve your language skills. Over the Christmas Holidays I will spend a month in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo with a Spanish teacher. Not being a wealthy 72 year old retired hi-tech and bush pilot I found a great deal on a condo in the middle of a golf course close to the beach. My teacher comes highly recommended by the school system and previous customers now fluent in Spanish. I will provide room and board plus a small salary. We are both women and adventurers, so we should make a great team in Spanish only. My last question to all of you moving south of the border and now leaving because of a language barrier. Did you really try hard enough to learn the language? Having more of a scientific mind, learning a new language for me is like climbing Mt Everest. Quitting is easy, it doesn’t take any talent. I can do that anytime.
    I wish you all the best of luck in your new adventures. Britt from the old adobe

  • Neil Jul 29, 2017, 10:49 am

    Dave and Robin,

    I agree that learning the language is the first and most important challenge and can sometimes be a daunting task. And also, security is a primary concern in all of South America. However, perhaps you did not give yourselves enough time to learn the language. I am an American anthropologists that has been living in Brasil for ten years. I studied hard and gave myself 5 years to learn the language but was able to become fluent in just 3 years (especially when you are actually living in the country – you are forced to learn). Now, I am considering moving to Ecuador but not the mountain areas. After living in California and experiencing several earthquakes, I would not live anywhere where this is prevalent. My interest is the beach towns. I am fluent in Brasilian Portuguese but only speak a little Spanish. The good side is Spanish and Portuguese are very similar languages. So, I think my learning curve will be even shorter. Good luck on your return but as for cold weather – never again.

  • mike Donohue Jul 29, 2017, 10:29 am

    Most will be drawn back like the tide, when children and grandchildren experience the problems of life, if white and middle class.

  • Joseph Somers Jul 29, 2017, 9:27 am

    Having been to Ecuador the last two years and planning another trip again in the spring I find a peace of spirit and a sense of hope in the future for this small paradise.
    I was originally from Prince Edward Island where I built a nice House I had designed with long laid plans of one day returning?……. BUT ……When I got back to P.E.I and built the house, something was missing. I am back in Ontario with thoughts of , Yes Ecuador on my mind.
    Ecuador is NOT perfect BUT believe me, neither is Canada as people are finding out.
    In fact there was an election in B.C. recently and the Corruption is mind boggling plus the cost of living in B.C. rivals Toronto in cost..
    You know Brian it is said “It is not where one might be in life”…. It is in many cases, “WHO one is with that elates the soul” and you and your family have learned Language barriars can be overcome by patience and understanding.

    Gracias Mis Amigos y Dios los bendiga y los proteja siempre ( From memory hope i am right Amigo)

  • Louis Jul 29, 2017, 6:34 am

    We are also from NS, & tried living in San Juan del sol in Nicaragua, we lived there for 5 months, & agree, that if you don’t speak conversational Spanish, you are at a disadvantage. How often was there sunshine in Ecuador.
    Cheers
    Louis

  • Bill Jul 25, 2017, 6:58 pm

    Dave and Robin, will you return to Ecuador, if not to live, maybe a visit. Also have you been to Colombia?

    • Dave and Robin Jul 26, 2017, 9:00 am

      Hi Bill
      We probably won’t be back to live in Ecuador, but visiting would be great – especially during winter. We’d like to see our friends again, and there are a few things we missed seeing and doing while we were there.
      We’ve never been to Colombia.

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