It’s Easy to Support Yourself When Rent is $100 a Month


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By Wendy DeChambeau, International Living

“My quality of life here is excellent,” says Marlene Kimball of her new home in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. “I love the peacefulness and the tranquility. I’m able to eat clean foods, breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a culture that is not materialistic.”

None of these benefits came as a surprise to Marlene, who has been living in the small mountain village of San Martin since 2014. Her first experience with Ecuador came in 1986, when she taught at a church in the capital, Quito, for two weeks. “I just fell in love with the place and felt a real connection to the country,” she says. Her feelings for Ecuador never waned, and in April 2014 she was finally able to make a permanent move.

Today she rents in San Martin, just a couple of miles south of the popular expat hub of Cotacachi. Her home is surrounded by ancient volcanic peaks and lush green fields grazed by cattle and horses.

“I enjoy living in the country. The property I live on has lots of flower gardens, a huge vegetable garden, and pastures. I pay $100 for rent, plus electric and internet. Internet costs me $35.64 a month. I can stream movies and use Skype with no problems.”

Marlene lives on a budget of just $1,000 a month. Her monthly grocery budget runs between $100 and $150, plus an additional $30 to $40 to feed her three dogs and one cat. This budget also allows her to take occasional tours to nearby communities that often specialize in producing artisanal products.

“I’ve been to Zuleta twice and I love it there,” she says. “It’s a hacienda in a valley that’s very spiritual, and they have a program where they rehab condors and release them back into the wild.”

Another reason that Marlene can afford to live on a small budget is the climate and the lack of heating or cooling costs. In Ecuador’s Andean corridor, the temperature changes little throughout the year and maintains average highs of around 70 F. “Where I lived in North Carolina, it was very cold in the winters and hot in the summers. I think the weather here is perfect,” she says.

She knew no Spanish when she first moved to Ecuador, but now she gets by just fine. “I find that if you try to speak the language, people here will respect you, and they’re willing to go the extra mile to help you. I also find that many friendships have become closer because I can laugh at my mistakes and my friends laugh with me.”

Though she lives outside Cotacachi, Marlene still comes into town once a week. “It’s a remarkable place,” she says. “You can be as social as you want. There are activities here and groups that meet for things like knitting and crocheting. There’s a movie group where they play cultural movies. If a person needs to socialize a lot, it’s available.”

Low costs and friendly locals aren’t the only benefits to life here. “When I lived in North Carolina, I couldn’t afford to support myself on my own and I had to have help. Here in Ecuador I can fully support myself and that’s a wonderful thing. And I’ve never feared for my safety. I feel safer here than I ever felt even in a sleepy college town in North Carolina.”

“This is a country of peace, harmony, and great beauty…climate zones to satisfy all, along with opportunities for many outdoor adventures. People that come solo can find a sense of community if they desire. I feel extremely blessed to live here…a fulfillment of my dream from decades ago.”

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