Donna Blanchard McNicol
Moved to Cuenca from: living on the road as a full-time RVer
Living in Cuenca: December 2013
Married: Husband is from Maryland and is a retired firefighter/chief/paramedic
Hobbies: Fiction writing (mysteries and romance)
Source of Income: Social Security
Former Profession: IT Professional
Why did she decide to move to Cuenca?
My husband and I met in 2008 as widowers who were also full-time RVers and motorcycle riders. It was fate. We married in April 2009 after combining our resources and we continued to travel the USA full-time. After a few years, we got more serious about where we would eventually settle. We bought five acres in rural Tennessee and set it up for our RV. This became our home base in spring and fall.
We both wanted to eventually build a log cabin there as well as a pole barn for my husband to use in building/restoring cars. We realized that in order to save the money needed to not carry a mortgage, we needed to change our lifestyle.
After watching several episodes of House Hunters International, we decided to research a life in Ecuador, preferably Cuenca. We exchanged emails with several folks, joined expat forums and read a multitude of books. We set up our exploratory trip, a month in Cuenca. If we liked it, we knew we could enjoy a "grand adventure" while saving money.
How does she feel about living in Cuenca?
I love Cuenca but I do miss seeing our kids and grandkids as well as a few favorite food items. Fortunately, since we traveled extensively, all our kids were already used to only seeing us once or twice a year (and those in Colorado, even less). We take an annual trip to the US and get in as much grandkid time as we can. That's also when we enjoy our comfort foods places like Cracker Barrel and Five Guys.
Did she know any Spanish before she moved here?
Um, no? I knew baños and cerveza thanks to a couple of trips to Mexico. Through research, I learned about the daily greetings (buenos dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches) and still use those every day. We are taking classes through the Coffee Club Spanish group and have come a long way. We will never be fluent but have been able to carry on small conversations. That's a good feeling.
We have also found a lot of empathy for those in the US who are struggling with learning English. We have perfected the head nod accompanied by "Si, si, si", even when we really don't understand what is being said.
What's her favorite thing about living in Cuenca?
That's easy. The people. They are so warm and friendly. We have had strangers walk up to us at the bank and pharmacy, offering to help translate if needed. We have several Ecuadorian friends who we consider family and continue to meet more.
Second is the weather - not too hot and, for the most part, not too cold. Heck, I can always put on more layers but I can only take off so much. In addition, the consistency of always knowing when the sun rises and sets is an added bonus.
Third is the amount of things to do. You can be as busy (or not) as you want. There is always something to do, someplace to go, someone to see.
How's her health since she moved here?
Our first year nothing much changed. We had already removed all processed foods from our diet two years before our move. This second year I am finally experiencing some weight loss. I bought a fitness tracker and that encourages me to walk more. I'm also, for the first time in my life, cooking soups from scratch. We love the food here, the fresh fruits, delicious vegetables and tasty chicken (and eggs).
Did you have an "Ah-Ha" moment when Cuenca started to feel like home to you?
Funny thing, our first day in Cuenca on our exploratory trip, Cuenca felt like home. Yes, it's a city of half a million but it doesn't feel that way. It was amazing how quickly I felt any stress melt away.
Her advice to other Golden Girls still living in the U.S.?
Research before making a major lifestyle move. It can be done, but life here is different. You must be able to adapt, laugh at yourself (and the little idiosyncrasies of the locals) and be tolerant. You aren't moving to "Little USA", you are moving to a third world country, albeit one with more modernism than you might expect. Learn to appreciate the cultural differences, embrace them. You will be more rewarded than you ever anticipated.