Our Unconventional Life in Cuenca Ecuador

Here is a glimpse into 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 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!

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

In 2016, following two major spine surgeries, we made the decision to sell everything we owned 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 that we didn’t need so we had an estate sale and sold it all.

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 Ecuador.

We’re Middle-Aged YouTubers

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.

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 you 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 Belly DancingAmelia 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!

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.

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 or organizations 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.

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)! ¡Que loco!

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.

We’re Vegan!

Being vegan is VERY unconventional for US 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 thousands of 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.

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.

Privacy is certainly a concern for us, but we decided it was worth the sacrifice to inspire other people to live an unconventional life.

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 $2,000/month just on the software and services we use to create the videos. All of the adventures we take so we have new things to share with you are costly, too.

It’s nice to earn passive income from all our hard work to help offset the expenses and save for retirement.

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.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Emergency Trip to US Consulate in Guayaquil + Our Big Surprise

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 TurOperazuay Tur

So we opted to take a buseta with Operazuaytur 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.

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.

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.

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 PeopleSan Marino Mall

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 MenuNOE 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. 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 AppetizerNOE 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.

Watch Our Video About the Emergency Trip to US Consulate in Guayaquil

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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