​Golden Girls in Cuenca

Chelsea Gary

Moved to Cuenca from:  Franklin, TN
Living in Cuenca since:  July 2010
Status: Married with 3 kids...2 in Cuenca. 1 Grand-daughter
Hobbies: Reading, Krav Maga, boxing
Source(s) of income: ​Selling Young Living Essential Oils and Younique Makeup, teaching Krav Maga and Self-defense, and Diet & Lifestyle Coaching
Websiteswww.CeceLashes.comwww.YoungLivingEcuador.com, www.Shaome.com


 Why did she move to Cuenca? We researched other countries for about 8 years, prayed about it, and settled on Cuenca once we visited it. It just felt like "home." We came close to moving to Panama, but the hot weather and high-rise lifestyle in Panama City was not ideal for us with two young children.

 Did she have any fears about moving to a foreign country? Fears? No. We knew there would be challenges. We arrived with the mindset that we would adapt as necessary, and that we weren't going back to the U.S. That creates a different reality than thinking, "We'll try this and if we don't like it we will go back 'home.'"

 How does she feel about living here? We like most everything about living here and we are grateful for the opportunity. The cultural differences have been the most challenging. Often a situation here "looks" like it does in the States, but in reality, it is the opposite. As far as earning a living...what works in the States, more often than not, does not work here. Persistence and "out of the box" thinking are required.

 How was her Spanish before she moved here? Mas o menos. :) We worked really hard on our Spanish in the States for several years but didn't really arrive with much. We still aren't fluent, much to our chagrin!

 What's her favorite thing about living in Cuenca? Enjoying freedoms that are being taken away in the States. 

 How's her health since moving to Cuenca? I have had some new health challenges since living here. In my own (unscientific) research, I believe that American expats (and this probably applies to people from other Western countries) who are used to living at a much lower altitude, need about 1/3rd more water than what they needed in the States. Americans tend to not consume enough water in the U.S., so they should take the amount of water they SHOULD HAVE been consuming there and add 1/3rd for living in Cuenca. I think it's not just the altitude here, but also the latitude that factors in. Most expats report not feeling thirsty but experiencing many illnesses related to dehydration (migraines, high blood pressure and other heart-related problems, bladder infections, edema, and more). When expats here have increased their water intake, they have found many of their problems to go away.

 Did you have an "Ah-Ha" moment when Cuenca started to feel like home? 

After about a year and a half here I felt like, "I can do this!" And I WANTED to be here! An international move is a BIG DEAL. Don't put too much pressure on yourself (and your loved ones) to adjust too soon. Most people go through ups and downs before it really starts to feel like "home." It's also ok to like living here but not call it "home." People assume that "kids adapt" and don't give them the space and patience they need to adjust to an international move. Kids will have a wide variety of behaviors as they adjust to their new home. Please be aware that this is a hard thing for them too. 

 What's her advice to other Golden Girls still living back in the States? There are many new experiences for foreigners living in a new country. Things you don't expect and aren't prepared for. Divorce is a big one. There is a very high rate of divorce within the expat community. An international move is hard and it's a big deal. It WILL impact your family in ways you won't read about on the Internet.