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Our Life in Ecuador: Todd and Heidi Gorishek Living in Cuenca

This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.

Our Life in Ecuador: Todd & Heidi Gorishek

our life in ecuador heidi todd gorishek
The Expats: Todd & Heidi Gorishek

Connect with Todd and Heidi


Where are you currently living?

My wife Heidi, my adult son Easton, and I are currently living in Cuenca, Ecuador after being displaced by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit April 16th in Bahia de Caraquez.

living in bahia de caraquez ecuador
We had arrived in Ecuador and lived in Bahia de Caraquez January 11th, 2016.

We moved to Cuenca April 27th, 2016 after staying in Bahia de Caraquez to help our friends and the local community with the aftermath of the quake.

Photos of Ecuador Quake

ecuador earthquake damage

Damage to our building after the quake

Locals living in tents after ecuador quake

Locals living in tents after the Ecuador quake

ecuador earthquake 2016

ecuador damage earthquake

What’s Your Story?

I began a journey of intense personal exploration when I turned 40. I count this as my second “midlife” crisis. The first was when I turned 30 and left my corporate job to return to school and pursue a career in the medical field.

At 50 I began serious plans to move to Ecuador, leave my career as a pharmacist, and begin my career as a men’s life coach. I guess this could be considered my 3rd midlife crisis. That was three years ago.

I am married to a wonderful woman Heidi, and I am a father of two terrific young men, Chase and Easton.
My oldest son Chase is currently at the end of a 27 month Peace Corp service mission in Guyana, South America, and will be joining us in Ecuador when he is finished. This is the first time any of us have lived outside of the US.

When did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?

Through my journey of self-exploration I started to see the world and my place in it differently. I shed the dogma of working 30 years and retiring with the gold watch.

I longed to participate in different cultures, with different people, learning a different language; all the while knowing that at our deepest levels, beyond differences of language and customs, we share similar fears, hopes, and needs.

Since money is a reality for obtaining food and shelter, I needed to live somewhere I could afford. I wanted to experience South America, learn Spanish, and live on the warmer part of the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador filled the bill for me.

After talking about making this move for years, I chose to step into my fear and make it happen. It was a journey for my wife as well who had to step into her own fears.

For my younger son, he saw it as an opportunity to experience life in a new way early in his adult life.

Our planned time in Ecuador is open-ended. Our intention is not to leave before we are fluent in Spanish.

How’s your Spanish?

Myself, my wife, and my son moved to Ecuador without knowing the language. It was challenging the moment we set ground on our arrival at the airport.

Because of translator apps it isn’t impossible to communicate, but it is cumbersome and difficult. We enrolled in Spanish lessons within two weeks of arriving and began the process of learning Spanish.

Learning Spanish at 53 is more difficult than I thought. I had visions of being somewhat conversational within three months and that did not happen. It is taking a lot of work, and I am getting it, but it is much slower than I hoped.

What I hold true is that it is my responsibility to learn the language of the country I am living in. This is done as both a show of respect for the people here and my own ability to participate in the local culture.

How do you make your living?

I have enough savings to live on before retirement, and I intend to continue to work. My plan is to develop my coaching practice via the internet.

Ecuador is more expensive than I initially imagined. Any name brand product from dish soap, to peanut butter, to electronics, to clothing, to vehicles can be anywhere from twice to four times the cost in the US.

What can be cheaper is fresh produce and meats from the local farmer’s markets. Rents are also cheaper, but rising due to the influx of expats to the area. This applies to buying property as well.

Ecuador was my chosen destination to explore and experience life outside the US. It was what I expected as far as immersion in the language and availability of services. I didn’t give much thought to product options but was surprised at the limited options and choices of goods.

The overall cost of living seems higher than what I expected, but still much less than living in comparable accommodations in the US.


What do you love about Ecuador?

I love the coast of Ecuador. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm, and the sunsets are glorious. I enjoy the small towns and villages with locals who sit outside their homes along the streets, smiling or observing, but quick to say Buenas as I walk by.

The mountains of Ecuador are green and lush. The air is cool and the sun is hot.

Park Cuenca Ecuador

Cities like Cuenca are busy and can be noisy with the constant activity of people walking, on buses, in taxis, and driving their cars. The old city is filled with hundreds of architecturally fascinating buildings, churches, and cathedrals.

Read more about the comparison: Best Place to Live in Ecuador? Mountains vs Coast

The celebrations of local holidays and traditions fills the squares with the colors and sounds of a rich Ecuadorian heritage. Where I have lived, Bahia de Caraquez and Cuenca, I have always felt safe. There is crime, but it seems low, and I have never felt at risk in my surroundings.

Before deciding to move to Ecuador, join fb groups like Ecuador Expats and take time to review housing and services as offered on GringoPost. A lot of the “feel” of Ecuador can be ascertained from these sites.

When you do make the move to Ecuador, come open and without expectations of anything like a US, or first world, experience. It will make the transition much easier.

Hungry for more? Here are another 32 Ecuador Expat stories

Gina Baldassarre

Thursday 19th of December 2019

Hi, I would like to know the best neighborhood to rent in Cuenca. My husband and I are planning to move there when I get my retirement. Can somebody help me to find a nice place and not to expensive. Thanks so much

Martin Davies

Thursday 14th of February 2019

We are a retired couple, we are going on vacation to Ecuador this year, for three months December, January and February, our home base will be Cuenca. We would very much like to meet up with some Ex Pats for some input on what to do and what not to do not to do etc, thanks, Martin and Jane


Saturday 13th of October 2018

Hi Todd, I’m thinking of moving to Cuenca and would like to bring by son with me as well; he’s 21. He’s not sure about how to earn a living there, and neither am I - despite the fact that I have researched the topic without any kind of possibilities. Any suggestions? Thanks for sharing your story! Michele


Monday 20th of February 2017

"Rents are also cheaper, but rising due to the influx of expats to the area." - Wrong, not true at all at least in Cuenca where we make up about 1% of the population which isn't enough to 'make a market', one way or the other.

Bryan Haines

Monday 20th of February 2017

I agree that it seems unlikely that such a small segment could influence the market. But it is a common idea in Cuenca - especially among some expats and Cuencanos. Have you seen any research about this? I would love to see (and share) it if you know of any.


Thursday 7th of July 2016

Thanks for your even-handed post. I'm glad you got through the earthquake alright. I'm weighing destinations and it's been difficult to find good information. Many sites have an obvious sales agenda and gloss over issues such as residence visas, culture shock and any factor that might not be a selling point. I've seen conflicting reports about air quality in Cuenca. I have reactions to pollution. What's your impression of air and water quality there? Thanks for your frankness about the language challenge. I'm about your age and have some grasp of Spanish, but I'm far from fluent. It sounds as though Internet quality is poor, much worse than I expected if I read that right. Do any parts of the city have faster options? I work online so bad Internet is a deal-breaker. Good idea about the backup option. Glad you mentioned prices are higher than you expected. So many sites seem to play up everything being cheap, but when I look at guidebooks and housing ads, there might be a handful of bargains buried among rates and meals as expensive as tourist areas in California. My favorite moment was reading advice on an expat forum to ask landlords about security systems and window bars on rentals in Boquete, Panama. None of the other sites and books I'd checked mentioned that break-ins are common there. Glad you feel safe there. I saw a warning against carrying a laptop in Ecuador due to theft risk. That was on a digital nomad forum. Theft can happen anywhere, but I take my laptop all over California, including San Francisco and the East Bay and haven't felt like an automatic target. Do you have an impression about bag-theft? The U.S. State Department warnings make it sound as though getting off a plane in Ecuador is a major crime risk. I'm as skeptical of that version as I am of the sites trying to get investment and real estate money from retirees. If you have time, I'd appreciate your thoughts on these issues. I plan to fly down in September. Ecuador keeps attracting me more than Panama, mainly because of having more appealing activities. Thanks again for giving such a detailed and specific report of your experience. Gryph

Todd Gorishek

Sunday 28th of August 2016

Hey Gryph, Wow, I'm sorry I missed your post! Apologies man. Let me answer what I can. Air quality in Cuenca is fantastic. I'll put the caveat in that if you are standing on the sidewalk and a bus rolls by, which they frequently do, you can get hit with a blast of exhaust. Air quality is not what people have a problem with; it's the altitude. Cuenca sits at about 8300 feet. Driving here requires going up to about 14,000 feet then dropping into the valley. Water quality in Cuenca is the best in Ecuador. There are several filtration/sewage facilities here that keep the water clean and particulates low. I drink water straight from the tap, as do most, and haven't had any problems. I couldn't, and never would, do that living on the coast. Internet has been a frustration for me but I've learned a lot. You can get high speed reliable internet in Cuenca, and I would guess the other large cities too. Where I was living on the coast there was only one provider and it worked...most of the time. In Cuenca it is important to find out what providers serve an area you may want to live at. Fiber optic is available but not everywhere yet. Bag theft being an issue in Ecuador varies. In Cuenca, it's minimal. Cuenca is the safest city to live in Ecuador. In Guayaquil it could be a bigger problem. Where I lived on the coast there were occasionally issues. The scenario is two dudes on a motor bike drive by, one jumps off and grabs the bag, then hops on the motorcycle again and they both flee. Honestly, the biggest factor is staying aware of your surroundings and belongings. I feel much safer in every place I have been in Ecuador than I would in most any major city in the States. Crime happens here, but it's usually not violent; it's opportunistic. Walking alone at night with no traffic on the street can increase your odds of something going some cities here, in some parts of those cities. Just like the US. Ecuador is not everything described in some of the magazines encouraging people to live abroad, but I have found the Ecuadorians to be very decent and kind; I've found the services I need; and I find plenty of great things to see and do wherever I am here. I love the experience I am having in Ecuador Gryph. I capture each day in my blog, Todd Talk in Ecuador.