Cynthia: Do you know what today is?
Edd: Is this a trick question? It’s Sunday, May the somethingth.
C: It’s the 17th. Do you know why today is special?
E: See, I know you. It was a trick question. OK, I remembered Mother’s Day and your birthday isn't until next month. So I think I’m safe saying, “No, baby, why is today special?”
C: Because 10 years ago we got off the plane here in Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s our 10th anniversary of being expats!
E: Shut up... Really?? That seems impossible.
C: I know. I can’t believe it either. Remember how excited we were?
E: I sure do. But you know what, I don’t remember us being scared. Do you? Honestly, we had every reason to be. We didn’t speak Spanish. We didn’t know anybody. Our shipping container was on its way and we had no place to live. What in the hell were we thinking?
C: That this was gonna work no matter what because it had to work---that’s what we were thinking. And you know what? It did!
E: Yep. I think overall these have been the best years of our long marriage. Gosh, our life has gone through so many reinventions here. Wide-eyed newbies. Party animals. Travel consultants. International Living correspondents and speakers. Best-selling authors. Course creators. Experts on retiring abroad. And, of course, grandparents. Who knew?!?
C: Our journey has been almost magical. I think that’s part of the beauty of moving to a different country. When you’re forced to create a new life from scratch, you’re more open to possibilities. At least that’s been true for us.
E: Good point. Theoretically, anyone can change anything about their life at any time, right? But it’s so easy to maintain the status quo and do what’s safe and familiar. We sure threw that option overboard coming here.
C: You know what, Cuenca has changed a lot too. And moving here is so much easier for new arrivals, don’t you think? Gosh, when we showed up there were only a few hundred expats. Now it’s more than 5000!
E: I do. We knew nothing and had zero help. Not complaining---it was actually kind of fun having to figure everything out. Except even the simplest task seemed to take forever. Remember what one of our first local friends told us? “If you get one thing done, it’s a good day.”
C: That was a hard but valuable lesson for our North American, multitasking brains. Now there’s a daily online community bulletin board, an English weekly newspaper and monthly magazine, bilingual facilitators, special interest groups…
E: Ha! Our “special interest group” was a weekly gathering at a bar downtown to make friends, gossip, and exchange intel on important stuff like where to buy chili powder.
C: Things have come a long way since then. The grocery store has imported cheeses, craft beer, Jif peanut butter…
C: And tons of organic produce including microgreens. In the “old days” it was like shopping in the 60s---nothing but the basics.
E: We didn’t mind. The whole experience was like a treasure hunt with all the clues in Spanish.
C: Oof, particularly in the spice section. We’d stare and stare at those labels hoping they would somehow miraculously translate themselves into English.
E: I remember our original Internet speed was a pathetic 5 Mbps on a shared line with 7 strangers. Like telephone party lines when we were kids. You literally couldn’t be online at night without constant buffering. Now we pay the same amount for a high-speed dedicated fiber optic line.
C: Which means we can stream movies and TV for free! But way before all these lifestyle upgrades, the “foreign” of living in a foreign country kind of faded away, didn’t it? I mean, of course, there are constant reminders we’re in Ecuador, but at some point this beautiful city simply became our “home.”
E: It’s hard to explain to non-expats but it’s true. You’re surrounded by people who look different than you and speak a different language, but once you’re settled somehow over time it seems to matter less. And the focus becomes about you just living your life.
C: I think that’s carried over to our travels too. Gosh, how many countries have we been in since we moved here? Let’s see, in South America---Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay…
E: Plus Panama, El Salvador, and Mexico, right? Yeah, now that you mention it we do feel the same way in other places. There’s no longer a sense of being a “fish out of water.” Maybe once you’ve succeeded living somewhere different you’re naturally more comfortable in new environments. That’s been a pleasant surprise.
C: I’m so thankful you wrote all this down in your blog, which became the basis for our 3 books. There are so many special memories that we would have forgotten. It’s fun to sit here and reminisce.
E: I’m also glad we decided to create Retirement Reimagined! to help people wanting to live abroad. We made our share of mistakes, but we did a lot more right. And we put every morsel of knowledge we’ve gathered over the years into the Program.
Well, my love, I say this news calls for a bottle of bubbly.
C: We just finished breakfast.
E: I know. That means we have all day to celebrate! Happy Anniversary, sweetheart!
C: We’ve had a fantastic adventure, and definitely need to toast the decade. How about Mimosas? Happy Anniversary, hubby.