Wednesday, October 7, 2015

From Ecuador to Spain, Stay Anywhere in the World For Free


From Ecuador to Spain, Stay Anywhere in the World For Free
By Bob Patrick
I started exploring the world full time in January of 2010 and since then have spent time in the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, and Spain.
I spent eight months in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of a small island in the Caribbean (the other side is French). While there I got to experience the Heineken Regatta, a world-renowned sailing event that brings people from all over the world to this tiny island. I lived in a beautiful, new, two-bedroom condo right on Simpson Bay...known for its crystal clear waters and gleaming white-sand beaches. It's one of the main tourist areas on the island, but while visitors racked up expensive hotel bills, I stayed free of charge.
My next stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The malecon (esplanade) on the crescent-shaped Banderas Bay is a fabulous place for strolling, enjoying a cold drink in one of the many beach bars, or just sitting and watching the world go by, while looking out over the azure waters of the bay, with deep-blue skies above. Not a bad place to spend two months in a four-bedroom, golf course home close to the marina. My rent for the two months...zero.
Then there was the nine months I spent on the island of Cozumel, also in Mexico. Just 12 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, it's home to some of the best reefs in the world. Teeming with fish of unimaginably bright colors, it's no surprise it's one of the most popular dive spots in the world. My (free) accommodation here was a hacienda with pool included.
For the last two-and-a-half years I've been spending a lot of time in Ecuador, staying in some beautiful homes...and haven't spent a cent on them.
One of my favorite spots was in a four-story condo building in the picturesque village of Cotacachi, 7,800 feet up in the Andes Mountains. I stayed on the top floor of a building that had an open terrace and a barbecue grill. In the evenings, I'd grill steaks or chicken while taking in the amazing views of Mt. Imbabura to the east and Mt. Cotacachi to the west. Occasionally I would see snow on the top of Mt. Cotacachi, but in town the weather was a pleasant 65 F to 70 F.

As well as saving money on my accommodation expenses, I was also saving by living here. Before arriving, I didn't know just how inexpensive it was. On my first trip to the farmer's market, I picked up a bunch of 14 bananas for the grand total of $0.75, a big head of cauliflower for $0.50 and about 30 mid-size potatoes for $0.75. And a typical Ecuadorian lunch set me back no more than $3.50. That gets you a glass of fresh juice, a bowl of tasty soup, usually with some potatoes and other veggies in it, and a main of a small salad, rice or potatoes, and either beef or chicken followed by a small dessert.
Right now, I'm enjoying time on Spain's Mediterranean coast. Every morning, I start the day with a cup of coffee on the terrace overlooking Malaga Bay. Everything I need is close by: the grocery stores, vegetable market, shopping, and, of course, the world-class beaches of the Costa del Sol. And like all the other places around the world I've stayed in, I'm not paying a cent for my accommodation.