Living in Cuenca: The Real Deal with Susan Schenck
Interested in living in Cuenca? Here, Susan Schenck shares the highlights and challenges, as well as her tips for an amazing experience abroad.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
I lived in San Diego, California 23 years before moving to Cuenca, Ecuador on June 17, 2010. I am/have been a teacher, acupuncturist, author of several books, including one on Cuenca, Ecuador and expat living here: Expats in Cuenca, Ecuador: The Magic & The Madness.
What made you decide to move abroad? How long did you live there for? Tell us about how you spent your time in your new destination — whether you worked, studied, traveled, or did something else.
I moved here to retire on my meager teacher pension. Here I can live on $1,400 with the lifestyle I had in San Diego making $60,000. Once here, I continued writing books and also teaching classes on how to prepare raw food and healthy low carb food.
What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced while living abroad? What were some of the greatest highlights?
The greatest highlights include meeting lots of very interesting expat Americans (about 8,000 of us in Cuenca alone!) and also practicing Spanish with the locals. I also love being able to travel around one of the world’s most beautiful countries, which has four terrains: the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Jungle, Pacific Ocean beaches, and the Galapagos Islands. (Yet, the country is only the size of Nevada.) But the biggest highlight, one I never ever tire of, is owning my time.
The biggest challenge is that there are so many things I can’t find here, like books in English, health supplements, and affordable shoes and clothes (most are expensive due to import duty) and clothes/shoes that fit me (most Ecuadorian women are shorter, so though I am a size small/medium in the US, the clothes here are too small).
What do you wish you knew before you moved?
I wish I had known that when I brought my crate over (duty free), I could have included food and supplements that are hard to find here.
Any favorite restaurants/events/sites that you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
I like the Inca Lounge here in Cuenca. It’s owned by Mike, an American, and has the best hamburgers I have ever eaten in my life (and I am almost 60)!
Are there any tips you’d give someone else considering a similar move?
Go to South America. Asia is too hot and humid, though affordable. It is too far away for frequent USA visits. The languages are too hard to learn for most. The culture is very, very foreign. Here, I often feel like I am still in the USA.
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they move to your destination?
Single, older women should learn that they won’t have the same ease in meeting men as they do in the USA. For example, the Match.com for Lain America costs roughly the same, but the matches you will find will be all over the continent! You may as well date someone from Florida, as the flights to other countries are not cheap. Also, divorce rates are lower than in the US, so there are not many local men to date.
On the other hand, a young, single, American woman will find plenty of men she can date, and if she is blonde, she’ll be overwhelmed with offers. Even women my age who dye their hair blonde attract men with more ease than I do as a brunette.
Top photo credit: M&MdelEcuador