Friday 20th January 2012

Expat Interviews: A Family Sabbatical in Ecuador

Many people dream about taking a break from the daily grind of everyday life and enjoying a sabbatical that will allow them to refocus on the things that are important in life, but every few people actually take the plunge and make their dreams a reality. Today we meet Matt Scherr, an American-born expat who has done just that. Here Matt tells us about his life in Ecuador and explains why the cost of living in the region makes it an ideal destination for people who are in search of a different lifestyle.

Where are you currently living?
Cuenca, Ecuador

Where in the world were you born?
California

Why did you move overseas and why did you choose your host country?
Family sabbatical--to spend more time as a family, explore another, culture, and reassess our life path. We chose Ecuador for reasons of economics, safety & security, spanish language, proximity to home, and natural beauty.

How long have you been living in your host country?
13 months

Who did you relocate with?
Wife and two kids (girl and boy, ages 5 and 7)

Was it hard to get a visa for your host country that was appropriate to your circumstances?
It was relatively easy as far as visa processes go, but it's since gotten harder since we acquired ours.

What is the medical care like in your host country? Do you need medical insurance and, if so, how much is it?
Care is excellent and far more affordable than the U.S. We decided against health insurance for that reason.

How do you make your living in your host country?
We don't, but after we return home we'll be launching a new website, RadicalFamilySabbatical.com, to encourage and facilitate others to take the plunge and embark on extended family travel.

Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
We've been learning and will be conversational upon leaving. There are many here who are not learning Spanish, but whether or not they are content with that, we feel at the very least it's a huge missed opportunity.

Are there any local customs, laws or traditions that it is important for potential expatriates to be aware of and adhere to?
We've never encountered a culture that isn't forgiving of foreigners' ignorance of local laws and customs, but as with language the more you can know beforehand the more opportunities you will have.

Do you ever get homesick?
Yes, but we have found that if you can overcome it, or at least outlast the feeling, you will stop contrasting your foreign home with your own home and let it stand on its own merits.

How long do you plan to remain in your host country?
We had planned on about 20 months, but money and some other things > are sending us home earlier.

Have you purchased a property in your host country or do you rent? What is the cost of housing like in your host country?
We rent, and the cost is about 1/5 that of our home community. We have a four bedroom, fully furnished two-story apartment with all utilities and Internet included and a part time employee who cooks, cleans, and watches the kids, all for $650/mo.

What is the cost of living like in your host country?
We are paying 3/5 what we would at home, and that's living bigger than we do at home (including a maid and private school for the kids).

What do you think about the locals?
Ecuadorians are wonderful people and are very different depending on the location. The sierra people are more reserved and tranquil. The coastal people are more lively and liberal.

What are the three things you like the most about your host country?
The climate, the pace of life, and the fruit.

What are the three things you like the least?
Inefficiency and bureaucracy, trash, local food

Do you have any tips for our readers about living in your host country?
If you want to integrate into the local culture, try to limit your time with other gringos until you have integrated.

If you would like to learn more about Matt's family and their adventures in Ecuador, visit his website, Radical Family Sabatical.

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