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We’re Leaving Ecuador After 1.5 Years: Here’s Why (Dave and Robin Zinck)

This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.

Vilcabamba Ecuador horse
Update: Since submitting this article, David and Robin have left Ecuador and are now back in Canada.

We’re Leaving Ecuador After 1.5 Years (Here’s Why)

leaving Ecuador

David and Robin Zinck

Video of Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Where are your currently living?

We are Robin and Dave Zinck, a semi-retired couple originally from Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada.

We live in the small, southern city of Loja, nestled in the Cuxibamba Valley. The elevation is about 7,000 feet, providing us with an almost perfect climate. We’ve lived here for 7 months.

Podocarpus Park Ecuador

Podocarpus Park, Southern Ecuador

What’s Your Story?

We started our Ecuador adventures on January 2nd, 2016, in the village of San Jacinto on the central coast, located between Bahia de Caraquez and Manta.

We moved south to the small fishing town of Puerto Lopez soon after and stayed there until our experience with the April earthquake.

chaffing coffee Puerto Lopez Ecuador

Chaffing coffee in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fisherman in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fisherman in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fresh catch in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Fresh catch in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

Our apartment was unlivable after the quake. We found temporary lodging with our neighbours – thanks, Veronica and Alex! After several sleepless nights, two large aftershocks, and seeing people sleeping in the streets, afraid their houses might collapse, we decided to move away.

We moved to Girón, another small town, located in the Andes just south of Cuenca in the Yunguilla Valley. We loved Girón – the friendly people and the fantastic scenery.

El Churro lower falls Giron Ecuador

El Chorro lower falls, Giron Ecuador

View of Giron Ecuador from above

View of Giron Ecuador from above

We visited El Chorro waterfalls, Laguna de Busa, hiked on the many backroads around town, and experienced a 3-week party during the Festival of the Bulls.

After 6 months of exploring the area, with frequent visits to Cuenca, we decided to check out Loja, liked what we saw, and moved again.

When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

We got the idea of moving to Ecuador after reading an article in Readers Digest magazine. After many months of research, we sold our house and moved.

We needed a change. We were tired of the endless winters in Nova Scotia, wanted to semi-retire, and we were long overdue for an adventure.

After living in Ecuador for about a year and a half, we’ve decided to move back to Canada. We will be driving our old camper-van across the country to settle on Vancouver Island where the winters are tolerable. Our decision was mixed – I wanted to stay, Robin was not happy.

How’s your Spanish?

My Spanish is coming along OK – Robin not so much. I still have a very difficult time understanding – I think my most used phrase is “no entiendo” (I don’t understand), followed by “habla mas despacio, por favor” (talk slower please).

Ecuadorians are mostly great people and are patient with us, but not being able to have a normal conversation is the biggest drawback for us. I do know enough to make myself understood in most situations – but only if I have the time to think about what I want to say.

We studied before we arrived, but obviously not enough. Unless you plan to be among only people who speak your language, and not associate with Spanish-speaking locals, my advice is to reach a conversational level before moving here.

It will make your experience so much more enjoyable.

We think it is of the utmost importance to learn the language of the country in which you’re going to live. If you don’t, you’ll feel as we do – isolated – making good friends only with other English speaking people, few of whom are Ecuadorian.

We meet so many interesting people on our walks through the countryside and would just love to ask them questions – to learn more about them and their way of life – to have normal conversations.

More reading: The Best Book to Learn Spanish (Reader’s Choice)

Los Frailes beach north, Ecuador

Los Frailes beach north, Ecuador

Learn more about the beaches in Ecuador.

Los Frailes beach south, Ecuador

Los Frailes beach south, Ecuador

How do you make your living?

We receive a small pension and have savings. I work online, writing articles, and we both work on our blogs and Facebook pages (links to both at top of post) to keep us occupied.

How’s the cost of living in Ecuador?

The cost of living here is much lower than in Nova Scotia. We live comfortably on less than $1000 per month – not including travel and adventure expenses, which are reasonably priced.

The cost of living is more or less what we expected. Imported items, such as North American ketchup and peanut butter, imported liquor, etc., are surprisingly costly. We simply buy local products and save.

The almost perfect climate of Andean towns such as Girón and Loja negates the need for heat or air conditioning. Electricity, propane, and water bills are very low. Rent is less than half of what we’d pay in small-town Nova Scotia for a comparable house or apartment.

What do you love about Ecuador?

We love the friendly people, the climate, the scenery, and the fresh fruit and veggies that are available year-round.

Transportation is great and cheap, although mountain bus rides can be kind of scary by times.

We love the many year-round adventures available, along with the countless cultural events. We can’t get enough of some of the local foods such as “chivo al hueco” (goat-in-the-hole), repe (green banana soup) and hornado (whole pig roasted over pure charcoal). Did I mention the scenery?

Isla de la Plata blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobies on Isla de la Plata

Why did you decide to leave Ecuador?

Yes, there are differences. I suppose we should mention the negative side of living in Ecuador – and some of the reasons we are leaving…

Language. This is numero uno. It would take us a long time to get to a conversational level in Spanish – to be able to make good Ecuadorian friends, to joke and laugh at parties. We try, we really do, but it’s simply impossible at this point.

We miss our freedom. Living behind bars and concrete walls strung with electrified wires is not our lifestyle. We’re used to living in a farmhouse with lots of outdoor space, leaving the doors unlocked through the day. While we have never had any problems, we are so obviously foreigners, assumed to be rich, and could be targeted for thieves. Security is unavoidable here.

We really miss camping, campfires, and fishing. There are surprisingly few easily accessible lakes, and campgrounds are rare. There are several trout lakes high up in the mountains, but we haven’t found any nearby trout brooks, rivers, or lakes for fishing. Backcountry hiking and camping are possible in some places such as national parks.

We miss our families and friends too. We did plan on yearly visits if we stayed – you need to budget for this before moving. You will miss them!

Ecuador Resources We’ve Used

We used several resources for our research before making our decision to move. We checked it out through reading blogs – Gringos Abroad our favorite – and joined several Facebook groups where we read many posts about life in Ecuador. We also bought a few books, and read online newspaper articles, etc.

Final Thoughts

We’ve had many great experiences in Ecuador – horseback riding in the mountains near Vilcabamba, the flowering of the Guayacan trees in Mangahurco, a boat trip to Isla de la Plata close to Puerto Lopez, the 1st Festival of the Arts in Loja, Carnaval, partying in Montanita, and much more.

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco Ecuador

Guayacan trees in Mangahurco

We’ve met a lot of great Ecuadorians – as well as other gringos. Our point of view has changed – we now know how immigrants feel, especially ones struggling with a different language. We’ll look at people who have moved to Canada from other countries differently now.

We have only one regret with our decision to live in Ecuador – we didn’t get to explore the entire country…

Your Turn

Have a question for Dave and Robin – about living in Ecuador or why they are leaving Ecuador? Join them in the comments!

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Wednesday 10th of February 2021

I get the language barrier. Why didn’t you hire a tutor? Apparently personal security was a real concern? Would you say more so for retirees?


Friday 5th of February 2021

my husband has an autoimmune smdisease... psoriatic arthritis.. he often finds it unbearable and is in great joint pain. He has chosen not to do meds because of potential side effects. He very seriously wants to sell everything we own and move to Equador because of weather and less stress. He does not speak the language or any language other than English. He is 65 and will lose his medicare benefits. I would like to visit however have no desire to move to another country. Please share your honest thoughts. Thanks


Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

I have been reading about people wanting to live in some other country. I have been to many countries from Northern China to South Australia and New Zealand. Spent seven years working with a company in Osaka, Japan, lived in the Philippines for about 10 years. I am now 81 years old and still working owning 2 businesses. I even for many years escorted people into countries that were safe to go to. I have been in many places myself that are not safe but will not take people into. I have learned to speak other languages basically and learned the cultures and customs. My advise is before you go making some permanent move without learning the things I mentioned you are very foolish especially when each one that goes is from the same place. If you have health issues then do not go. Spend at least 2-3 years learning what you need to know so you do not stick out like an alien. Myself I could go anyplace and do fine but very few people are like me. Finding yourself in a minefield trying to figure out which direction to go is a death sentence. Being an average person considering a move find a tour guide to take you there preferably someone that speaks the language. Learn also how to defend yourself from thieves and criminals that want to steal all you have. I have had machine guns pointed at me and knives that wanted to cut me in pieces. I even had the real possibility of going to a prison camp in China, plus many other situations. I have been shot at many times. You have to watch for pickpockets and how they operate such as sitting next to you on a bus or in a crowded place and stealing your belongings and handing them off to someone else. I could write a book about all the things I learned. Do not ever think moving to some foreign country is like moving to another town where you live. If you have questions just email me. I do not like to hear about bad things that happen to unsuspecting people.

Joe Groomes

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

I found you remark that you now know how other immigrants feel when in a new, strange country. You fail to mention that you are a self-supporting immigrant not a public assistance requiring type. I am sure if you attempting to go on any type of public funded assistance, you would find a totally different atmosphere. I believe you even had to show proof of the ability to support yourselves to even enter the country.

Mary Jones

Friday 13th of November 2020

Everyone needs to do their own research. I think my husband and I needed to do more. We have been here two years and plan to return to the U.S. FIRST of all, step back in time 50 years sometimes in a good way sometimes not so much. SECOND, the language. THIRD, Ecuadorians are nice, but are not thrilled at being your friend as much as they are indeed thrilled that you are a rich gringo. FOURTH, our primary reason for leaving is that there is NO and I mean ZERO SUN for 6 months. So the person below in the comments asking about how much sun, is great and the answer is that from June until December there is no sun to be found. You can't even find it in the sky as the clouds are so thick. I am referring to coastal towns now, not sure about sun throughout all Ecuador. We stayed in Salinas for several months and the trash and dogs are crazy. The Guayaquil folks that come into town on the weekends make it more insane and the trash in the streets and beaches just grows. FIFTH, crazy amounts of trash everywhere. Folks unwrap something and throw the wrapper on the ground period. We spent time in Montanita and Olon, BOTH yes, BOTH are party towns for the Guayaquil folks every weekend and holiday. This is fantastic for the locals in the towns and hell on the rest of us that don't want to fiesta every night until 6am. SIXTH, these coastal towns are not cheap. We live in the heart of town, not in the gringo section because that part of town costs $1500 monthly rents, plus $80 wifi, plus electric and water which are cheap. SEVENTH, we just cannot find enough to do here. We walk and walk on the streets, on the beach, we swim, we surf and yet there is just nothing to do or even get involved with here. The final reason we are leaving is that we can live a warm, sunny, peaceful life for the same price as here, then why not return to an environment where we won't feel like targets. It is a fantastic place to visit, but those that claim it is the end all be all are not being honest. I am not referring to this couple, they seem genuine, but to youtube folks that stretch the truth about South America where I have seen photos of my own coastal town that I barely recognize as they are photoshopped. So again do your homework because visas and cedulas are costly!

Dee Parke

Sunday 26th of July 2020

Hi Dave and Robin, I am thinking of moving to Nova Scotia and as an American i living in Washington state I am curious if you have any cautions or advantages of such a move. Thank you Dee

Murray Jones

Saturday 14th of November 2020

DO NOT move to nova scotia , it is the most expensive place to live in canada, vancouver island would be the place to go....

Stephanie Smith

Monday 21st of September 2020

It is September 2020 and my husband and I are also leaving Ecuador after one year. The people and temperatures are nice, the prices cheaper than the U.S. or Canada. However, we are sacrificing the quality of life things we would like to know in our old age. Even though we are poor pensioners by U.S. standards-living on $12,000 year we obviously stand out and are targets, so ditto to that. We cannot engage in meaningful conversations, ditto on that point as well. One other thing is that Ecuador is the loudest place we have ever lived. We have lived in one city and two towns this last year. The fiestas are every month and go until 6am-you will NOT be able to sleep through it. The tourist season is Jan to April and you will never sleep during those months. Get used to it or get out. Finally, for those wanting the adventure, do your homework. Those on Facebook and Youtube are using Photoshop to fancy up the pictures. The reality is that Ecuador is a 3rd world country - those that smile and say it is all great and wonderful are merely trying to convenience themselves (and maybe you) that they made a good choice and don't you wish to be us-smiling and happy in Ecuador-simply envy. In the end, we did our research and tried to make the best choice for us, but sometimes things don't turn out as planned. We will return to the U.S and maybe get a mobile home or RV somewhere cheap and peaceful.