Ruth and I have been talking about moving to Ecuador on and off since we vacationed here in 2017. Initially, we were looking at fall 2024 as a good time financially for us to complete the move. However, the pandemic changed our financial forecast and allowed us the luxury of retiring a couple years early. There were many financial factors contributing to this, but the primary one was the housing market boom. We had purchased our home in New Mexico in 2019 and had the good fortune to have been able to secure a very low interest rate. In 2021, home values skyrocketed and the forecast for higher interest rates (which will eventually drive housing prices down again) made us look at selling our home early. In the end, we were able to secure enough equity from the sale of the home in 2022 to pay for our move to Ecuador and have enough balance to live on until we can use our social security benefits and our retirement accounts for the rest of our lives here. It also doesn’t hurt that we have lived debt free – other than the house – for more than a decade prior.
We made our decision to put the house on the market, retire and make the move around St Patrick’s Day 2022. We spent the next couple months planning, making lists and gathering the necessary documents for the move. We each gave our employers more than 2 months of notice and landed in Cuenca on July 22. Everything just fell into place. We sold the house in May, but were able to live in the house until we left in July. We sold most of our belongings. The last car was sold out of the hotel parking lot at the Albuquerque airport. We packed up a few unreplaceable items and arranged to ship them to Cuenca. We did everything we needed to transport our cats to another continent. And, then, we just did it.
Today, we completed the last step in the immigration process to become Temporary Permanent Residents of Ecuador. We got our cedulas (green cards) today. 43 days isn’t a record, by any means, but we weren’t expecting to have our cedulas until October or so. We now have 21 months before we can apply to remove the Temporary part and become Permanent Residents of Ecuador.
I am eternally grateful that we hired an immigration attorney to guide us through this process. They handled all of the previous appointments, paperwork and registrations. This one, though, Ruth and I needed to be present. Our guide had made an appointment, so was able to take us through the long waiting line where we hurried up and waited again. Our fingerprints were taken, our photographs were taken, we reviewed the documents, we signed more documents and waited some more. A shortcut was taken – apparently, my birthplace is not in their registry, so officially in Ecuador, I was born in Minot (pronounced Meenote here) North Dakota – close enough, eh? It just takes too much to update the registry and they apparently don’t care all that much. Another picture then Ruth and I were presented with our very own cedula cards good for 24 months. After our Permanent Residency is approved, we will have to come back to this Ministry and do this all over again – good for 10 years then.
Two weeks ago, we signed a bunch of papers and a Power of Attorney for our shipper to handle the arrival of our liftvan from the port at Guayaquil, Ecuador. Earlier this week, our shipper called us down again to sign the revised shipping inventory list so the liftvan can be released from customs. Customs opened about 40% of the boxes we packed and found one pair of sandals we failed to inventory. They actually video tape this process with the owner or representative present with the custom’s officials during the inspection. With this signature, our shipper can get the liftvan released and then he will transport it to Cuenca and deliver it to our apartment, even to the point of carrying the boxes from their truck to our apartment. Door to door shipping. We should have our stuff by midweek. We can then complete the apartment, setting up the art room and the music room. We can stop living out of suitcases. I am eternally grateful to our shipper as the numbers of documents and forms that needed to be filled out both in the US and in Ecuador would have required an immense learning curve. Something that would not have been worth the time for just one shipment.
All of this ends the heavy lifting part of our moving experience. It’s been about a 6 month process for us from the initial decision to go for it to now, with the last of the official processes behind us. We have been meeting people here and exploring new friendships, but we really haven’t had time to explore Cuenca much beyond meeting our immediate needs. We can now take some time to explore the cultural world of Cuenca and Ecuador. We can visit museums, Inca and Aztec Ruins. We can explore the arts and music here. We can take some time to sit and watch the world go by and finally remove ourselves from the rat race. It’s going to be fun.
We do have to get Ecuadorian driver’s licenses now. Having the Temporary Permanent Visa and a Cedula makes our US driver’s licenses inadequate, perhaps illegal for driving in Ecuador. While we aren’t buying a car, we may want to rent one and I will likely get a motorcycle at some point.