Express Your Unconventional-ness w/ Amelia And JP’s Merch!!!

Amelia and JP VLOG 194: We’re very excited to announce the launch of our merch store with our unique Unconventional designs!

We have a whole line of clothes for men, women, kids and babies, and we have other cool stuff like hats, mugs, bags and phone cases.

Our store has everything you’ll need to fully express your Unconventional-ness!

Get the details in our Shop…

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Our Response to the CuencaHighLife Erroneous Article About Us and Our Friends at Paradise Indian

We really didn’t want to record this video, but we feel like the CuencaHighLife article titled, “Paradise Indian Restaurant offers a happy landing for Cuenca diners as well as its owners,” has done reputational harm to us and our YouTube Channel so we couldn’t afford to let it go unanswered. If you see negative comments on social media or know someone who now questions our credibility because of the Cuenca HighLife article, we ask that you please share this video with them. Thank you.

We’re Leaving Cuenca ?+ 2 Other Exciting Announcements!!! (2020)

Amelia and JP Ecuador VLOG 183: After a lot of consideration, months of research and 2 trips to the coast, we’ve decided to leave Cuenca Ecuador and move to Olón just north of Montañita.

We had originally planned to move someplace warmer in Ecuador for the cold winter months, but our landlord moved back from the States and wants her house back, so we moved up our departure to February 2020.

Cuenca will still be our homebase in Ecuador and we plan to return every 2 months for our Unconventional Social Gathering. This month’s gathering will be on Wednesday January 22nd at 3PM at Yaw Café in El Centro. We hope to see you there! Here are all the details and please RSVP if you plan to come so we can give Yaw a headcount: January 2020 Unconventional Social Gathering.

We’re a little scared but we’re also excited for the next chapter in our expat journey. We’ll be showing more of the coast and other parts of Ecuador, and we hope you’ll join us on our new adventures.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Funny Highlights, Bloopers & Deleted Clips from 2019 (Ecuador, Amsterdam & India)

Amelia and JP VLOG 178: Thanks mostly to our YouTube Channel and life in South America, we’ve had one crazy year full of fun and adventure. We hope you enjoy our highlight reel featuring short clips, bloopers and deleted scenes from our 2019 VLOGs.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Our Unconventional Life in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 114)

My ankle is still healing so it was a good day for another courtyard chat with Amelia And JP. In this video, we share some background on our unconventional life in Cuenca Ecuador, what makes our life unconventional and the future of our YouTube channel.

If you enjoy following our life here in Cuenca Ecuador and beyond, or you can relate to some of the things that make our lives unconventional, there’s a good chance you’re at least a little bit unconventional, too. And we LOVE that about you! Unconventional lives are SO much more interesting!

If you’d like to join our Band of Unconventionals and get to know other like-minded people at different stages of their unconventional journey, here are 3 steps to take:

  1. Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our future adventures here in Cuenca Ecuador and beyond;
  2. Join our Unconventional Community on Facebook to ask questions and meet other like-minded people;
  3. Signup for our Weekly Unconventional Newsletter with exclusive content for our Band of Unconventionals.

Our Unconventional Life in Cuenca Ecuador

By societal standards and the expectations of our family, friends and jobs, our unconventional life is not normal. Here’s why:

We’re Expats in Ecuador

Three years ago, following two major spine surgeries, we made the decision to sell everything we own and move to a small country in South America. We had a really nice house in the suburbs of Denver Colorado that was filled with stuff so we had an estate sale and sold it all. Click to enlarge.

We were living the American Dream, or as I now call to it: The American Nightmare. We funded our extravagant, consumer lifestyle with debt that we’re still paying off. Our estate sale netted us about $4,000 after the sales fees for a bunch of useless junk that probably cost us over $100,000 to accumulate.

Selling all the evidence of our retail therapy was the best decision we could have ever made! We’re happy to be free of the weight of our possessions and living a much simpler life here in Cuenca Ecuador.

We’re Middle-Aged YouTubers

Amelia And JP YouTube Channel

Amelia gets mad at me for calling us middle-aged, but that’s exactly what we are and I’m proud of it! Most people in our age group work unfulfilling jobs, spend their weekdays commuting to a cubicle, and their weekends doing chores and errands. They’re so busy buying things and saving for retirement that they miss out on what makes life truly worth living.

And that used to be us! But we decided life was too short to gamble on the dream of retirement when there’s no guarantee we’ll be around for it.

Every single day we have on this earth is a gift to be cherished. It’s not something to be taken lightly or given away to a corporation that sucks the life out of you for a few pennies on the dollar that your life is worth.

Hopefully, sharing our journey on YouTube will inspire you and others to treat your life like the precious gift that it is.

Amelia’s Belly Dancing

Amelia is also a 50 year old belly dancer! She has performed in front of several large groups, including hundreds of people at Chinnu and Abin’s wedding in India! I’m so proud of her abilities and self-confidence to do this unconventional form of self-expression!

Amelia Belly Dancing

We’re Gentle Minimalists

Gentle Minimalism is one of our guiding principles. We live a very simple life with very few possessions. If we had to, we could fit everything that matters to us in two suitcases, or two backpacks if necessary.

In our previous life, we used retail therapy to make ourselves feel better while living our unfulfilling life. Now we live a fulfilling life and no longer feel the need to fill the void with Amazon deliveries.

Our unconventional life does NOT make us feel deprived. It’s full of people, activities and adventures that are extremely meaningful to us. And we don’t go without things we need, either. We don’t live out of a backpack or a van. If we need something for the kitchen or our YouTube channel, or we need new clothes or sunglasses, we buy them. We just don’t buy things we don’t need that will get used once and thrown on a pile of junk in the basement or garage.

We’re Not Religious or Political

Amelia and I are both open-minded freethinkers. We don’t rely on other people to tell us what to think or believe. We read, learn and study the evidence. If a new piece of information is legitimate, we change our minds and our lives.

Religions and political parties discourage free thought because that reduces their control over you. If you think for yourself, you might question the manipulative line of bull**** they’ve been feeding you. And they can’t have that. They despise people living an unconventional life like ours.

We Didn’t Want to Get Married

Even though neither of us wanted to get married, we’ve now been married twice in two countries (the US and India) and will soon have our marriage registered in Ecuador! ¡Que loco! Click to Enlarge.

We got married back in the States to make it easier to get a visa for our move to Ecuador. Then Chinnu and Abin insisted we get our marriage blessed by their priest in India when we went for their wedding. And now we need to register our marriage in Ecuador so it’s on file with the government in case something happens to one of us. It’ll also make our permanent residency visa and citizenship process easier.

We’re Vegan!

Being vegan is VERY unconventional for Americans, but it’s not as unconventional in other parts of the world. We went vegan on March 8th, 2016 and our only regret is not doing it sooner.

We feel better physically and mentally. We’ve lost over 50 combined pounds between the two of us. We’ve drastically reduced our environmental footprint. And we’ve saved the lives of over 2,500 animals.

You can be plant-based but not vegan. However, we chose to do both. Our whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet is responsible for our improved health and youthful look, while our vegan ideology is responsible for us sticking with it. If you want to get healthy and STAY healthy, you really need to be both vegan AND eat a WFPB diet.

Our YouTube Creation Story

It’s not nearly as common for people in our age group to be YouTubers. The VAST majority of YouTubers are under 40 years old. So, why did we decide to buck the trend and start a YouTube channel?

A Journal of Our Unconventional Life

It’s still hard to believe that we sold everything we owned and moved to South America! And that’s the main reason we started a YouTube channel. We wanted to have a journal of our unconventional life that we can share with our family and friends, and watch again when we’re older. Because of our YouTube Channel, we’ll be able to look back on our crazy adventures in video instead of just memories.

An Inspiration to Other Unconventionals

It’s not as common for people in our age group to have a YouTube Channel, mainly because our generation values privacy a lot more than the younger generations. It’s certainly a concern for us, but we decided it was worth the sacrifice to inspire other people to live an unconventional life, as well as to raise awareness about the benefits of veganism on our planet, our health and the lives of animals.

Now that we’ve zeroed in on the focus of our channel, we’re in a better position to help more people to live their unconventional life, whatever that may be.

Earn Passive Income

Passive income is the third reason we started our YouTube Channel, but we would have done it regardless of the earning potential.

However, it’s not free to do this. We spend over $100/month just on the software and services I use to create the videos. My camera equipment wasn’t cheap, either. Plus, I have a wishlist for more gear (a drone would be awesome!).

And all the adventures we take so we have new things to film are costly, too. It would be really nice to start earning some income from all our hard work to help offset the cost of creating our videos.

A lot of YouTubers make a good living from their YouTube Channels, and we hope to be among them at some point.

Our Website and Channel Updates

Over the past month since we returned from India, I’ve been burning the midnight oil on our website and YouTube Channel. I was very frustrated that our channel wasn’t growing very quickly, especially with all the positive feedback we’ve been getting about the quality of our videos.

That prompted me to do some investigative work, which led to the realization that I had proverbially bound and gagged us, tied cinder blocks around our ankles and tossed us in the river.

In Google terms, I killed our SEO on search engines and on YouTube by using the wrong keywords and, in some cases, no keywords. In Google search results, the first line below the page title was “please subscribe to our channel” instead of a helpful description about the content of the blog post. I’m surprised we showed up at ALL in Google search!

Our YouTube Channel was a disorganized mess and the thumbnails weren’t inspiring anyone to click them. The video descriptions had a bunch of boilerplate information and links that were unrelated to the topic of the video. The tags weren’t relevant and they weren’t ordered correctly so YouTube had no idea what our videos were about. That meant our videos weren’t coming up for the search term “Cuenca Ecuador” or anything related to it!

In order to fix these major issues, I had to optimize and partially rewrite every single blog post. That was 108 blog posts! I also had to create new thumbnail images for every video, and redo all of the video titles, descriptions, translations and meta tags.

After all that was done, I realized our website needed some structure. Our homepage was just a blog page with a list of all our blog posts so I created a site structure organized by our main topics and subtopics. Now it’s easy to find what you’re looking for!

Both YouTube and Google are already rewarding us for these changes by showing our videos and blog posts much higher in search results. We’re getting more traffic on our website and more subscribers on our YouTube Channel.

It’s frustrating that creating high quality content isn’t enough. Without doing all the backend busy work, no one will ever find them. I can be a little dense sometimes, but lesson learned. All our videos and blog posts will be optimized out of the gate from now on.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Adios, Vegans Abroad: Yes, We’re Still Vegan (Episode 90)

After MONTHS of consideration and an informal poll from many of our friends and fans, we have decided to change our YouTube Channel name from “Vegans Abroad” to plain old “Amelia and JP”.

Yes, we’re still vegan. That hasn’t changed. But we realized that our channel is about far more than veganism. In fact, we only spend about 10 to 20% of our time talking about vegan issues, and we don’t mention it at all in many of our videos.

Our channel is a Lifestyle VLOG that’s mainly about us living our normal lives as gringo expat vegans in Cuenca, Ecuador. We share a lot of “day in the life” videos and videos about gentle minimalism, expat living, moving abroad, medical issues, health and nutrition, our dogs, dog rescues, events in Cuenca, travel abroad, cooking, etc. It’s a smorgasbord of topics!

Because of this and our minimal discussion of veganism, we haven’t attracted many vegans to our channel. The vast majority of our subscribers are non-vegans who are contemplating a move to Ecuador or someplace outside of the US. Our second largest subscriber group are Ecuadorians who currently live in the States. They like to see videos of their beautiful homeland.

If either of these groups are searching on Google or YouTube for topics that we cover, many will scroll right by when they see our channel name, thinking we’re going to bombard them with vegan information or slaughterhouse videos, which we don’t do.

If people see our videos in search results several times, but never click to watch them, YouTube eventually stops showing our videos to them, which spells death to our channel.

As you can see in the sample search result below from YouTube, “Vegans Abroad” is plainly visible just below the video title. Yet, we only mentioned veganism once in this video when we said we didn’t know how much meat costs.

YouTube Amelia And JP Search Result

The same thing would happen if we were “Christians Abroad” instead of “Vegans Abroad”. YouTube would likely not show our videos in search results for Muslims or Jewish people. That’s just the way interest-based search algorithms work. YouTube wants to show people videos that they want to watch.

We think this rebranding will help us grow our channel and remove our subscriber cap. While we do hope our subscribers will follow our example and adopt a vegan lifestyle, we also don’t want to alienate people who aren’t quite there yet. Everyone is on their own journey at their own pace, and we want our channel to be easier to find and more appealing regardless of life stage.

Other than the name change, everything else will be business as usual. If you have any feedback for us or comments, we’d love to hear them! Leave us a comment on YouTube or below.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Emergency Trip to US Consulate in Guayaquil + Our Big Surprise (Episode 82)

We had to make an emergency trip to the US Consulate in Guayaquil Ecuador to get my passport renewed for a reason many people don’t know about. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

WE’RE GOING TO INDIA!!!

Amelia is finally letting me tell you because we can’t keep it a secret any longer. Our friends Chinnu and Abin from Namaste India are getting married! Their story is a full blown India Rom Com (Romantic Comedy) that we’ll share on a later date.

Chinnu Abin

We’ve been going to Namaste India since our first week in Cuenca, and we forged a friendship with Chinnu and now Abin, too. We’re VERY honored to be invited and excited to attend their wedding in southern India!

We will also be staying in Amsterdam for a week on the way to India. This will be Amelia’s first time to Europe and my first time to mainland Europe. But before we can go, we have some obstacles to overcome…

See More: Our Trip to India 2019

Yellow Fever Vaccine (Vacuna de Fiebre Amarilla)

The Yellow Fever Vaccine is a requirement to go to India for anyone who has visited or lives in a country that has Yellow Fever, and Ecuador fits that bill. If we show up in India without the vaccine, they’ll quarantine us for 6 days and that’s NOT how we want to spend half our time in india!

Amelia was in charge of the India Visa process, and she thought we needed the vaccine before we could apply for the visa, which isn’t correct. You can apply for the visa without the vaccine, which would have alerted us sooner to the problem with my passport, which I’ll discuss below.

In the states, you generally get vaccines at your doctor’s office, but it’s different here in Ecuador. We emailed our primary care doctor and he directed us to the health ministry office on Doce de Abril near Parque de la Madre.

Centro de Salud Cuenca

We walked down there one afternoon (it’s only about a 10 minute walk from our house) to learn that they only give vaccines in the morning. This was during Carnival so they weren’t giving vaccines again until after the holiday almost a week later.

So the next week, we went back to get our shots but the line was already about 20 people long when we arrived shortly after 8AM and they don’t open until 8:30 AM. We both had other appointments that morning, so we left and came back at 11:30AM only to learn they had already run out of the Yellow Fever vaccine for the day. Apparently, they get a fresh batch every day ?‍♂️

It was Friday, so once again we had to wait until the following week to go back. We got there right at 8AM the following Tuesday and we were already 5th in line, but we managed to get our shots and the Yellow Fever booklet we needed to go to India. And it only took 4 trips! (That’s common here in Ecuador.)

Our shots were totally free. Vaccines are covered by the national healthcare program even if you’re not on the IESS plan.

India Visa & Your REAL Passport Expiration Date

With our Yellow Fever booklet in hand, we went home to fill out the online visa application for India. That’s when I realized we had a problem.

Here’s the second eligibility requirement: Passport should have at least six months validity from the date of arrival in India.

You tell me… Does that mean the passport needs to be at least 6 months old? Or does it mean it needs to have at least 6 months remaining before it expires? Amelia thought the first; I thought the second.

So after filling out the online form, it told me I’m not eligible for a visa because my passport expires within 6 months of our trip.

That means your passport does NOT expire on the expiration date printed on your passport. It actually expires 6 months BEFORE that date.

Ecuador and many other countries have the same rule. You cannot enter their countries with less than 6 months of “validity” left on your passport so keep that in mind. We’re setting calendar reminders for 8 months prior to expiration so this doesn’t happen again.

If I had left Ecuador, they wouldn’t have allowed me to reenter. I would have needed to stay in the US for 2 to 3 weeks waiting for my new passport before returning to Ecuador. Thankfully we avoided that situation.

Emergency Trip to the US Consulate in Guayaquil Ecuador

You can use DHL to ship your passport, application and money to the US Consulate in Guayaquil, but this adds several days and a lot of risk to the passport renewal process. I would NEVER ship my passport and leave myself stranded!

Las Busetas de Operazuay Tur

So we opted to take a buseta with Operazuay Tur from Cuenca to Guayaquil to file the passport renewal paperwork in person. You can only go to the consulate on Tuesday or Wednesday from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM, so plan accordingly.

Operazuay Tur

Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil

Rather than take a buseta that leaves Cuenca at 6AM, we went the night before and used some of Amelia’s points to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Guayaquil. We’ve stayed there before and it was REALLY nice. This Courtyard is as nice as any Marriott back in the states.

Marriott Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil

Courtyard Guayaquil Lobby

Mall San Marino

The Courtyard in Guayaquil is only a couple blocks from Mall San Marino, which has a NOE Sushi Bar with vegan options.

San Marino Mall

One of the things that continues to surprise us is how similar other countries are to the US. This is one of the nicest malls I’ve ever been in, with many of the same brands you would see in the states. Plus, they have several brands from Europe that we don’t often see in the states.

We’re taught in the states to think that South America and developing countries around the world are still living in the dark ages, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for the language being spoken and printed on most (not all) signs, you could plop this mall down in any American city and no one would believe it came from South America.

There was one more difference: it was PACKED with people on a Monday night! The malls are dying in the US mostly thanks to Amazon and online shopping. However, Amazon hasn’t overtaken Ecuador because reliable, affordable shipping options don’t exist here, yet. That means people still do most of their shopping in the real world.

Mall San Marino People

NOE Sushi Bar San Marino Guayaquil Ecuador

We’ve eaten at the NOE Sushi Bar in Cuenca and the Quito Airport several times, and it’s delicious! They have two pages of vegetarian sushi options, and all of them can be veganized except the tamago (which is egg).

NOE Sushi Menu

NOE Sushi Menu 2

Be sure to tell them you’re vegan: Somos veganos (or soy vegano if you’re alone). And remind them that means no queso, no crema, no juevo, no carne, no pesca. They always bring us a little abreboca (small appetizer) that’s vegan. Some avocado sushi on this occasion.

NOE Sushi Appetizer

We also ordered the Yasai Maki and the Bonsai Vegetariana, sin crema. Some of it was fried so it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but it certainly was DELICIOUS! We’ll have to eat extra clean for several days to make up for it!

NOE Sushi Platter

Renewing My Passport at the US Consulate in Guayaquil Ecuador

Hopefully we don’t get in trouble for showing the US Consulate in Guayaquil Ecuador because they wouldn’t let us film anything. As soon as they saw my camera, they told me to put it away. There were LOTS of people waiting in line, but they lifted the rope for us and let us go straight to the front since we’re American citizens.

All the guards were VERY polite, smiling and happy. We’re so used to the sour attitudes of security guards in the states, it was a pleasant surprise to be treated with respect and kindness.

US Embassy Guayaquil

We had to leave everything at the security entrance except our passport docs. They asked us to turn off our phones and watches, too. Luckily, they let us pass without shutting off my Fitbit because I had no idea how to turn it off. They gave us a number to collect our things on the way out.

After going through the security scanners, we exited the security station and entered the beautifully landscaped consulate grounds. More smiling guards were there to point us in the right direction. Again, lots more people were waiting in the open air to go inside the next building. And again, they pointed to the door and sent us in before everyone else.

Once inside, there was another security scanner with a line of people and they escorted us in front of them. There were 13 windows serving another LONG line of people, but only one window for American citizens. We had our own waiting area with chairs to sit in. There were 3 people in front of us, but it only took about 10 minutes before it was our turn.

I handed my passport, application and passport photo to the agent and he reviewed everything very quickly. He crossed out the TravelingMailbox address I had entered and told us to use our Cuenca address, instead.

Then he said we needed a color copy of my passport details page, which nearly gave me a heart attack. I was afraid we would need to leave the embassy to get a copy made, but if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to get back before 11:30 AM when they close. Then he said there’s a copy machine outside in the courtyard area, so my freakout was short lived.

He also told us to go pay the cashier, who was at window 14 around the corner from the other 13 windows, and bring the receipt back to him with the copy of my passport. The cost was $110 for a passport renewal.

We went outside to a small green kiosk with a man sitting inside who does nothing but make copies. It was $1 for a copy. Then we went back inside, again being escorted through the security line, then escorted in front of the line to pay for our renewal. They gave us two receipts: one for the agent and one that I’ll need in order to pick up my passport in two weeks.

We went back to the original agent and waited behind two people for about 5 minutes. Then he called us up, took my passport, the color copy, the corrected application, and the receipt, and told us to wait a few minutes for the approval process.

About 5 minutes later, he called us back up and gave my old passport back to me, along with a green slip of paper saying my application has been approved and it would be ready in 15 calendar days.

He told us it should only take 8 to 10 business days, though, and he asked if I wanted to DHL it back to Cuenca, but said that would add another 5 to 6 days to the process so I opted to go back to Guayaquil to pick it up. With our trip so close, I will only feel comfortable if they hand it directly to me. UPDATE: It was ready in 7 calendar days, one week from when I dropped it off.

We left that area, walked back through the grounds and into the security entrance building, gathered our things and exited the consulate. A cab was waiting across the street so we hopped in and he drove us back to the Courtyard hotel.

Amelia arranged a late checkout for us so we did some work in the room and then went for lunch at NOE again before heading back to the buseta terminal near the Guayaquil airport.

Operazuay Tur Guayaquil

Overall, our trip to the US Consulate in Guayaquil Ecuador was one of the most pleasant experiences we’ve ever had with our government, and it was in another country! Everyone was super nice and helpful, but most of the guards didn’t speak English so we had to practice our Spanish under stress.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!