Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Living the dream: Why I never returned from Ecuador

Why I Never Returned from My 2-Year Trip to Ecuador
By Sarah Dettman
As I meet more and more people who are interested in moving here, I think back to that day in 1984 when Ecuador first came onto my radar...

I ran out to the mailbox and saw the letter I had been waiting weeks for—my invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer somewhere in the world. I tore open the envelope and read... My two-year assignment was to be a rural public health nurse in Ecuador.
"Where exactly is Ecuador?" I thought to myself, followed by, "Two years...I guess I can handle any place for that long." Little did I know this was to be the beginning of not only a two-year experience... but a "rest of my life" adventure.
This being long before the days of Google, I pulled out an encyclopedia and read about the country that was to be my home, Ecuador. On the equator... four regions... lodged between Colombia and Peru. The rest I had to learn for myself—during two years as a rural public health nurse in the southern Loja province, 20 years as a nurse for the Peace Corps Volunteers and 24 years of marriage to a wonderful Ecuadorian man with whom I have raised three children. Even after almost three decades of living here, I still have so much more to learn about this amazing country and never cease to be amazed by its people, its beauty and its complex and diverse culture.

These days I am so impressed with how knowledgeable people are and how much research they have done before getting off the plane. Of course, in this world of Internet, one can find so much more information, perspectives and opinions than I could find in my outdated Britannica encyclopedia back in 1984. But as much as you research, it is only by visiting a country, talking to expats on the ground and experiencing it for yourself that you will know if such a move is for right for you.
Though I have always loved showing off Ecuador to my family and friends, I never thought I would turn this into a part-time business. In 2011, I teamed with my friend Jonathan Hall—also a long term expat—to design a project to provide information, cultural orientation, personal assistance and tours to those considering retirement in Ecuador. Thus Ecuador Expat Journeys began.
What better business to have—sharing our love and knowledge of this country and our experiences (the good and the bad) as long-term expats, while helping people interpret and move comfortably within the culture?
I love living between two cultures and languages. Life is just more exciting and never becomes routine when you are an expat in a foreign land. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to raise my children.
Few—if any—countries in the world can compete with Ecuador for natural beauty, the warmth of its people and diversity of cultures... not to mention the low cost of living and the spring-like weather year round.
Though I had no choice—Peace Corps told me where I was to go—I feel blessed to have landed in Ecuador so many years ago.