MANTA: THE HOT EXPAT DESTINATION IN LATIN AMERICA
Sometime in the last quarter of 2014 I had decided to leave my comfort zone, the United States, and become an “expat.” Prior to that I had expected to live out my years in Florida, where I had been for twenty years, or to check out the Southwestern states for a new landing spot. And then I read an article in International Living Magazine that talked about other options for aging “boomers” like myself.
I saw the article because of a pop-up ad that had come up in my feed. I was intrigued by the teaser, and so I clicked on it to check it out. By the time I finished reading that article I had decided not to stay in the United States much longer. I had been bitten by the expat bug, and I was charging ahead with my research the next morning.
I was not exactly sure how to get started, since this idea was all new to me, but I figured that I might as well start right back on the pages and articles of International Living to see what more they had to say. I went to their site and spent most of that and the next day reading everything I could find about places around the world where I might find a new home.
The next day I started reading articles from other publications that talked about the best places to live around the globe. I started seeing a lot of duplication; it seemed there was a ranking of the best places to live on quite a few different lists, but most of them had settled on 15-20 different countries that offered the best opportunities for a person like myself. I kept reading more until my head was spinning!
After researching my potential destination for about a month, I had settled on a location that I thought I could not only enjoy, but one that I could afford to live comfortably in. I had narrowed my choice down to the Algarve area of southern Portugal. The quaint charm and seaside villages were intoxicating, and the natural beauty along the coast was spectacular!
I went back to the Boston area to spend time with my family for the holidays, and I decided it would be a suitable time to announce my “relocation” plans. As I told them all about moving to Portugal, mouths dropped everywhere around the table; my news had shocked everyone! The long and short of it was that the idea of me being in Portugal was more than they were ready for!
I thought it over and decided to re-think my plans; maybe something on this side of the Atlantic would be easier for everyone, including me! I went back to work, burning up my keyboard once again to see if I could find an alternative somewhere in the Americas that could work better for both my family and for me, too.
I had decided to start in Mexico, so I started looking at locations there that were high on everyone’s list. As I went through the various expat areas, I scratched them off one by one for several reasons. I began looking at other countries in Central America, with much the same result. I had been working my way south and suddenly realized that I had run out of potential targets there.
I went back to work and started reading some articles about Colombia, but one day I saw a new article about Ecuador that was just published in International Living. It was about a small town up in the mountains called Cotacachi. Although I had no interest in living in the mountains, the article offered a great deal of information about Ecuador, and some of the things that one would need to know if living there was of interest to you.
There was something about this little country that clicked for me over the next couple of weeks. I started to once again zero in on my new homeland. It looked like Ecuador was going to be the place!
Part of my decision was based on the magazine’s “Top 10 Retirement Destinations,” an annual ranking of what they had decided were the best places to live if you were an expat. Ecuador was at the top and had been high on their list for a couple of years. Not wanting to decide based solely on their editorial opinions, I went searching for other source’s comparisons and opinions.
If you do a search for “Top 10 Retirement Destinations,” you will find a bunch! The New York Times, US News, World Report, and so many others all offer much the same things. But the one thing that emerged was that Ecuador was right up near the top of every one of them. I made the decision; Ecuador was the place I would call home. I began breaking down the cities and towns along the Coast, because I’m a guy who wants to be near the ocean. I don’t have to be on it, but I want it to be close!
After over six years of living here I can tell you one thing for certain: one size does not fit all in this beautiful coastal area. I have lived in three separate locations, and every one of them is different. In my opinion, there is no way to narrow the choices to someone else’s idea of what the “Top 10” is! Pick a country that matches up with what you are looking for, and then spend some time exploring to find your niche in the chosen land.
Ecuador is a country that is so diverse it is almost impossible to describe it all in one article! They call it the “Land of the Four Worlds,” because it offers you the choice of the Mountains, the Amazon, the Coast, and the amazing Galapagos Islands. If you really want “Top 10’s,” you can go to dozens of locations across Ecuador and get a Top 10 list just for that city, or that Coastal Province, or for wherever you are.
“Top 10” lists are really just someone’s (or an editorial group’s) opinion. They are commonly slanted to reflect the author’s viewpoint, or the company’s reason for promoting a particular locale. Even though there is a great deal of work that goes into the results, it’s no coincidence that most of the big companies that promote a “Top 10” all seem to come to the same conclusions as to where the best places are around the world.
Here are the rankings for 2022, according to three large, highly respected companies. The World Economic Forum lists their Top 10 as follows (from 1-10): Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Portugal, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Malta, Spain, and Uruguay. International Living shows the identical listing, except that Ecuador is number 5, instead of 6, swapping places with Colombia. Another well-respected publication, the Global News and World Report chooses to break their rankings down by a specific city, and here in Ecuador, Salinas comes in at number 8.
Of all the beautiful places to live or visit in Ecuador, Salinas would not make my Top 10. I have been there several times and would not say that it’s the best beach town in Ecuador. My point? Top 10 lists are not foolproof! They should be a starting point for you to begin your research, not a final decision maker. I’m not saying that what I did was perfect, but it worked for me, and I’m now living in a coastal city on the Pacific Ocean, and I love my life here!
In my time here I have met and talked with so many other expats who took the plunge and left everything behind to come here. Some were disappointed and returned to the United States or Canada because they didn’t prepare themselves for being in a foreign country with a different language. They came here thinking that they could live here and not put in the time to learn the language and the customs of a foreign country, that it would be like living in the USA - South, but it’s not!
I have also met and become friends with so many other expats, who, like me, love living here on the Pacific Coast. They have settled in nicely here and enjoy the benefits of a great city and province, here in the Manta area and on the Manabí Coast.
Being an expat can be a truly rewarding life experience if you put your time in to do the research before you come here, and to learn to speak some Spanish, too. I personally have decided that I won’t return to the United States, as so many others here have, too. The City of Manta, and the country of Ecuador, have everything I need to be happy and to live out the rest of my time on this blue marble we call Earth.
Join us here in Manabí Province! We have over 350 kilometers (about twice the distance from Washington, D.C. to New York City) of oceanfront from north to south, and we have so many different climates and microclimates that you will almost definitely find your niche right here! Top 10? No; better than that, there are a hundred different places to explore. See you soon!