We’re often asked, “Do single women live in Ecuador?” Yes, they do, and we’re excited to share Kristen’s story because she is a single retired woman living in Cuenca, Ecuador.
We met Kristen through Amelia’s belly dancing studio when we lived in Cuenca. She is one of those people who lights up a room when she enters it. She never meets a stranger and makes everyone feel welcome.
If you’re a single woman considering a move to Ecuador, you’re certain to appreciate Kristen’s perspective. Here’s her story…
You’re Moving Where?
In 2014, my dear friends, David & Juan, moved to Cuenca, Ecuador and opened a business called “Cuenca Car Share”.
Why, Cuenca?”, I asked David.
He said, “You need to come down and see for yourself.”
So I did.
In 2015, my sister Kelly and I flew to Quito, Ecuador and then on to Cuenca for our first visit. We stayed ten days and in that time I lost my heart to Cuenca and the surrounding Andes Mountains.
I told my friends, “I think I could retire here!”
Six months later, David and Juan called and asked me if I was serious? It was completely out of the blue.
They said they would be willing to pay my round trip flight, I would have eight weeks to be alone in Cuenca and really see if that’s where I wanted to live.
I just had to house and pet sit, and run their business. How could I refuse?
I was certain I would be bored out of my mind, but I was delightfully busy!
I went on walks every day along the Yanuncay River with the dog. I went to Bingo on Wednesday afternoons. I met a lot of expats through Cuenca Car Share and some of them I developed personal friendships with that have lasted to this day. I played volleyball in Parque Paraiso; which I still do every Sunday.
I started reading Gringo Post every day to see what’s happening around town. I wandered around El Centro and checked stuff out.
Two months went by in a blink and it was time to go home. I returned to LAX and was waiting about ten minutes at the curb with my luggage; the plane and city fumes began to fill my lungs and by the time my ride showed-up I got in the car and said to my neighbor, “I’m moving to Ecuador!”
She said, “You’re moving where?”
I said, “Cuenca, Ecuador!”
“When?” she asked.
“I’m going to take a year and get rid of everything, retire, start collecting my social security and then go in March 2017,” I told her.
And I did exactly that.
Eight Weeks Told Me All I Needed to Know
Unlike so many people who move to Ecuador, I did very little research.
I mean, I did a little research for the purpose of allaying the fears of my relatives and friends who all thought I was crazy!
Cuenca, Ecuador was in the top ten places in the world to retire. The currency is the US American Dollar. The language is Spanish. And at the time I moved here I thought I spoke pretty fair Spanish! Ha!
In Cuenca, the weather is mild. I would honestly say that the weather here is like all the seasons, every day! It doesn’t snow here, so for me coming from Southern California that’s perfect!
Usually it is sunny in the morning and then in the afternoon around 3 or 4PM comes what I like to call, “The Witching Hour,” when it often rains.
Of course, it could rain at any time, even when the sun is shining! Which is why I learned to always to carry an umbrella in my bag. It doesn’t necessarily get cold when it rains, so the umbrella is a real lifesaver and I’m never without it.
The biggest thing I had to learn (besides actually how to speak Spanish) was how to slow down.
I opened fifty-three restaurants around the world during my career and I was the Food and Beverage Director for CBS Studios for twelve years.
I only had one speed: Fast!
In the eight weeks of living in Cuenca on my own, I was busy all the time, but never rushing everywhere until I passed out at night from exhaustion.
The pace of life here is so much more laid back. Granted, being retired makes it a whole lot easier, but I still had to work long and hard to change from constantly “doing” to “being”. It made a huge difference in my ability to not get fidgety and impatient in lines at a bank, for example.
I tend to walk a lot more than anywhere in the States, especially Los Angeles where you drive everywhere and the only walking you do is going back to your car. Since I opted to not have a car here, I either walk or take a taxi.
I keep pretty good records of my spending and would say on average unless I have something big, like a trip to Guayaquil when I hire a van or a private driver, my average monthly transportation expenses are usually under one hundred dollars.
There’s a plethora of activities for anyone interested in participating. You can always find a class to take and I’ve taken quite a few. Things I’d always been interested in learning but never had the time.
Just recently I took a stained-glass class and loved the process and was delighted with my piece, which now hangs in my living room!
I found a place called “Cuenca Soup Kitchen” run by some wonderful people: Des, Bill and Smith. With my background in food I thought it would be a great fit for me to volunteer.
It was one of the best things I’ve done since I’ve been here. They feed 175 families every week! I’ve helped fill food bags and sort donated clothing and I can tell you there’s nothing better than doing something for those unable to do for themselves. I’ve met so many friends there because they’re like minded people interested in giving back to the community we live in.
Beyond that, the clever Directors started “Abuela’s.” It’s a group of men and women who are willing to get a cake and gift for a child who otherwise would not have a birthday cake. I signed up immediately and can only tell you that every cake I make is a love letter. There’s very little that beats the random photograph we receive of our designated child smiling holding their cake and gift bag!
Also, I joined another offshoot called “Heart-Strings” where we knit or crochet hats, scarves, blankets and the like for when the temperatures drop here in Cuenca. Again, it warms you in a way you can’t imagine.
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After Five Years Here
In the five years I’ve lived in Cuenca, I’ve managed to take full advantage of how much this country has to offer.
I’ve never felt scared or afraid for my well being. This could be because I don’t walk along the rivers alone at night or because I lived in Venice Beach, CA. where gunshots were a common sound at night. I’m groomed to be aware of my surroundings at all times; wherever I am.
My sister Kelly and I went on an eight-day trip to the Galapagos Islands, which was unimaginably wonderful! We also took a bus to Peru! We took a gorgeous train ride train to Cusco, Machu-Picchu and Sacred Valley.
When we woke up on New Year’s Day, we realized the river had dried up and we had to walk 100 yards in deep mud to get to our boat! The following day it was 200 yards. Beyond that, it was magical!
The Amazon is like nowhere else in the world. From pink dolphins, red-eyed Caiman, blue, green and yellow Military McCaw’s, many types of monkeys, anacondas, piranha, spiders that look like sticks, spiders that look like spiders, and so much more, the Amazon is a world unto itself. We spent four days there and learned how little we knew about living without the outside world and technology.
We’ve gone to Ingapirca, Loja, Cajas, Cotopaxi, Izhcayluma, Vilcabamba, Biblian and plenty more.
We’ve been to and adore the coast: Guayaquil, Montañita, Olón and Puerto Lopez.
The capital city of Quito is rich in history and has lots of things to do and see.
One of my personal favorite adventures was to Mashpi Lodge, which is one of the 10 Most Amazing hotels in the World! I highly recommend a trip there if you can swing it! The price is high, but they often offer discounts and you can call and negotiate with them.
Rocco and I went for one night that seemed a lot longer. We were picked up in Quito and driven the three hours to the cloud forest. The last hour of the ride was so bumpy that when we stopped, I said a prayer of thanks before exiting the van!
After I stepped out of the van, the past hour vanished in the beauty of the grounds. We went inside and were treated to carefully prepared refreshments. This hotel lives up to its reputation for being amazing! All meals are included and we had a wonderful buffet lunch and three desserts to share!
We were taken to our room on the second floor and our guide told us about the room and said, “Let me turn on the TV for you.”
She pushed a button and the blinds that covered the windows began to rise. The ceiling to floor windows revealed the heart of the cloud forest and we both whispered, “Wow!”
We freshened up and joined our naturalists to choose our afternoon activity. It was pouring rain, but we still elected to visit the hummingbird sanctuary. They took us in a van and by the time we arrived the rain had decreased to almost a fine mist.
There were 10 huge hummingbird feeders and plenty of hummingbirds bouncing between the feeders. None of them seemed concerned with us.
The guides brought out bananas and peeled them and stuffed the fruit into large cracks in logs stationed about six feet off the ground. Very soon all types of birds appeared for lunch. It was amazing!
We decided to stop at the bar before dinner and I was treated to the best, most painstakingly prepared, Bloody Mary I’ve ever had! It took the bartender 15 minutes to craft this drink!
Then, on to dinner in the elegant dining room. Rocco is a professional photographer and he marveled at the lighting in this room. It was extraordinary! We made our dinner selections and once again, our meal didn’t disappoint.
Before heading to our room, we decided to see if we could book a trip for the next morning on the Dragonfly, which is an aerial gondola taking you above the canopy of the cloud forest.
After a delightful night’s sleep and a wonderful buffet breakfast we took our ride on The Dragonfly. The gondola seats six with three rows of benches.
Our guide sat in the last row and gave us more history on how this hotel came to be built, which is an amazing story! He told us what we were looking at as we traveled over the cloud forest answering all our questions.
Then, after about 45 minutes he said, “Okay, I’m going to let the cloud forest tell you the rest of the story.” He never said another word for the remainder of the trip which was about another 45 minutes. Crazy amazing!
Every year that I live here, I fall more in love with this country and its people. It may not be for everyone, but for me: It’s the smartest decision I’ve ever made to come here and I’m so thankful for this beautiful life!
Born and raised in Los Angeles. Opened 58 restaurants around the world for various corporations: WR Grace, Tony Roma's and lots of independents. Food & Beverage Director for CBS Studios in Hollywood for 12 years. Left my job to care for my mother who had Alzheimer's. After she passed, I moved to Cuenca in March, 2017.