Meet Gregory Diehl, a Californian native who, after traveling the world, decided to settle in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. Full bio
Why I Chose to Live in Vilcabamba Ecuador
When I left my home in California at 18, I had no idea what opportunities awaited me out there in the big bad world all around. I just knew I was not content with where I came from and needed to experience something more.
That was 10 years ago, and my curiosity has taken me on a journey around the world to investigate as many lifestyles as possible.
In the process of learning about how other people live, I learned about what I am really capable of and what I really want for myself.
My goals as a traveler have evolved as I’ve grown in this lifestyle. I’ve mostly moved away from rapid exploration, and set my eyes on settling down somewhere which fits my ideals for at least part of the year on a recurring basis.
That search brought me to a town in the valley of southern Ecuador called Vilcabamba, just an hour past the cultural capital of Loja. I was looking for a curated microcosm of sanity in a mostly insane world.
I was attracted there because of the many positive reports from expatriates, people who had journeyed from all over the world, to seek solace in this peaceful valley.
Discovering Vilcabamba, Ecuador
Vilcabamba is known locally as “El Valle de Longevidad”, meaning “The Valley of Longevity”. The name is derived from rumors that inhabitants live statistically longer lifespans than average, with one of the highest concentrations of centenarians (people over the age of 100) in the world.
Areas such as these around the world are called “Blue Zones”, and their claims of old age are usually attributed to better air, water, and soil, a perennial spring-like climate, and a lifestyle that necessitates low stress and regular exercise.
The town itself is a mix of locals who have lived there for generations and foreigners from around the world who have chosen it as their adopted home.
Ecuador has among the most open borders of any country in the world, allowing citizens of every country except 12 to stay up to three months as a tourist. Citizens of most other South American nations can even enter with an ID card alone. They are even one of the handful of nations who recognize the validity of the politically independent World Passport.
The result is a refreshing blend of world cultures. Contrast this with a nation like Turkmenistan, which bars international visitors from any nation on Earth from entering without first acquiring a 10-day tourist visa in their home country.
Ecuador, the most biodiverse country per area in the world, attracts people who value immersion in-to different climates and ecosystems. It has become a retirement haven for Americans, similar to Costa Rica 20 or 30 years prior, but without being totally overrun yet.
The slow pace of life and lush natural surroundings made me feel like I was actually living as a functioning part of my environment, while still enjoying the benefits of the human world which had emerged around it.
As an expat, I was mostly left alone and free to make my own choices about how I would spend my time. I could hide away from the world in the trees, or just as easily spend all day get-ting to know interesting characters in the shops and cafes.
When I stumbled onto Vilcabamba, I was on a quest to find the place that I could call my home, for now and the indefinite future.
It was going to be a place where I could raise my future children away from the prying eyes and aggressive expectations of modern culture.
I was so impressed with the unique combination of elements I found, that I purchased an acre of property with the intention of returning to build a natural home when the time to settle down was right.
To this day, after a decade of constant travel to more than 50 countries, I haven’t yet found anywhere quite like it.
The Never-Ending Search
As much as I like some of the places I have been to, each has its own merits and downfalls. That is why it is unlikely that I will ever stay in one place full time. I would prefer to live a multicultural lifestyle which will give my future family access to the best of what the world can offer, according to our own subject preferences and needs.
I can make these choices because I have worked hard to discover who I am and how that fits in with the world.
Whatever your starting conditions, you owe it to yourself to find the places which will enable you to live out your life as who you really are.
A person with awareness of both himself and the world must figure out which cultural conditions are most in line with who they really are and what they actually care about.
The answer for me was always Latin America. Nowhere else in the world has given me the same slow pace of life, year-round ideal climate, immersion with nature, and welcoming local attitude.
The rock-bottom cost of living is just the cherry on top.
Vilcabamba embodies the things I love about how humans have arranged themselves to live on this planet in groups, and I can foresee always considering it one of my homes here on Earth.
About Gregory Diehl
Gregory Diehl left California at 18 to explore our world and find himself.
He has lived and worked in more than 50 countries, chronicling the enlightening lessons he learned in the Amazon bestseller: Travel As Transformation.
Read his work and listen to his podcast, Uncomfortable Conversations With Gregory, at: gregorydiehl.net
Most photos on this post are copyright gardenofparadise.net
Read more about travel and life in Ecuador
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Hi, I’m Bryan Haines. And I’m a co-founder of Storyteller.Travel. I’m a traveler and photographer.
I also blog about photography on Storyteller Tech.
Thursday 19th of May 2022
Tell me more about Vilcabamba
Friday 11th of February 2022
What happened to Rickard and Norie?
Friday 18th of October 2019
How did u start traveling at 18 financially and how did you have the funds to do what you did?
Monday 19th of March 2018
Vilcabamba was a highlight for us, we spent about 10-11 months there. It was tropical and pretty close to being paradise. We loved being near the Yangana Valley which is where most of the local coffee is roasted. I probably shouldn't say this publicly, but it's some of the best coffee in the world at local prices. There is also amazing cacao there. We will always miss that. But I think the thing I will miss the most is taking a break from work, heading into the sleepy town center about 10 a.m. and having a wonderful cup of coffee with grilled cheese sandwiches. Too simple but that worked for me.
Monday 6th of March 2017
For me fishing is my favorite activity. What area or province provides the best options for that...if any at all???
Tuesday 7th of January 2020
The amazon or the ocean are you’re best bet for fishing. Trout fishing in mountain streams probably is good if you can invest the time.