Ever had the desire to live in a foreign county? Maybe not forever, but at least during the cold winter months? Twowhotrek have had that idea for some time. Now we get a chance to live that dream.
In March 2007, Twowhotrek visited South Africa. We really enjoyed the city of Capetown, the beauty of the surrounding area, and the vineyards not too far to the east. After a cold Michigan winter, the warmth of South Africa’s late summer felt great. One day the thought came as we were bouncing on a tourist bus – why not spend a month in Capetown some US winter? After all, of the eleven national languages in South Africa, English is the one most commonly used. They even drive halfway normally, just on the other side of the road. Sadly, mundane things like having to work for a living have prevented that dream from coming true so far (but we haven’t given up yet!).
Fast forward to 2012.
In May, Joe’s college alumni association offered a package through Alumni Holidays International (AHI), giving the chance to experience living a month in Ecuador. We debated about the trip, with the big obstacle being whether Sherri’s employer would give her a month off. She had saved enough vacation credits, but traditionally the employer does not like staff to be gone that long. We delayed signing up until Sherri could ask for permission to go. Lo and behold, she received approval for the time off!
We quickly contacted the alumni travel group. After just two weeks from the trip announcement, spots for the original date were all filled! But we found that we could travel through AHI on a different tour, and Joe’s alumni association would still get the credit.
The date that worked best for us was to leave on December 27, 2012 and return on January 26. Even that group was almost filled, and we were on a waiting list for a vacancy. A spot opened a couple weeks later and we jumped at the chance.
So what are we getting ourselves into? An opportunity to spend a month in Cuenca, Ecuador! During our time there, we will stay in our own apartment near the center of town. Mornings are for studying Spanish at the Simon Bolivar School. Afternoons will find us wandering Cuenca, practicing our newly learned language skills and experiencing daily life. In the evenings, there are special dinners and groups meets. One weekend, we will see the Cajas National Park; another we will be at the Ingapirca ruins. We have a four day “spring break” in the middle of the trip – a vacation within a vacation! How we will use that time is still up in the air.
Why go to Cuenca? It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with colorful weekly celebrations. But more importantly, it’s become a retirement haven for North American ex-pats, selected by some magazines as one of the best places to retire. The currency is the US dollar, but it goes about twice as far as in the US. HGTV’s House Hunters International had an episode in Cuenca showing 3000 square foot apartments going for less money than 900 square footers in mid-Michigan. Home prices are very reasonable. Gorgeous scenery is another plus.
How will Twowhotrek fare in this newest experience? That topic is for future blog posts. We are definitely eager to live the dream of living abroad to escape winter. It will also be the first time we’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve outside the United States. But for now, we are just hoping those Mayans were wrong when they developed their calendar!