Living on the Edge: Life After One Year in Ecuador

“You shouldn’t go,” they said. But, we went anyway.

“This is crazy, they pleaded”. But, we had heard that before.

“We will miss you,” they cried. And they do. We miss them, too.

It has been one year since we packed up our cozy life in wintry, Iowa to trade it in for something new. We chose the country of ultimate contrasts. The place that indecisively straddles the equator, bobbing between mountains, volcanoes, highlands and islands. One foot stuck in the mud in the south, and one hand waving goodbye- somersaulting into the north. A definitive location where one can stand in two places at once: the northern and southern hemispheres. We chose Ecuador.

Four passports for the Frias family!

We started our journey after landing in the bustling, high altitude city of Quito.  A place where 1.6 million inhabitants happily breathe in the thin, mountain air.  Diluted oxygen that effectively produces a brain fog; only highlighting the extremes of the city. Here, life collides in a happy mess of desolate and wealthy, filthy and pristine, antiquity and modernity.

For us, it was just a pausing place, as we gathered our wits together. My husband, born and raised in Quito, had not resided in the city for some 25 years. The kids and I, and our dogs too, had never so much as tiptoed through. This was the insane the part, the tiny detail that worried our friends so much. We had come to Ecuador, the 6 of us…only 2 parts being supposedly responsible adults. Our kids were just nearly 2 and barely 3 years old. Our dogs: two sixty-pounder fur babies.

Monkey has turned 2 in Ecuador, and soon he will be 3, too!

Yeah, it was quite crazy. And spontaneous, too. We had only bought our tickets and informed our confidants a short four months before. The moments and months in between we had spent selling off every last imaginable item, then giving copious amounts away, and finally burning the last bits. We left Iowa with nothing more than 8 seriously stuffed duffel bags.

After a short time in the high altitude city, we high tailed it down the mountain in search of peace and serenity. We soaked up the sights of life as we wound down the highway between rainforests and farmlands, near deserts, and coastal cities. We found comfort in the humid, breezy air.  We eventually settled into life on the sandy shores of a humble fishing village. We adore our life in a cozy, beach cottage in San Clemente, Manabi.  A tiny, salty town of just 2,000 villagers on the central coast of Ecuador. A parish so small, it has not yet emerged  on the maps.

In those first weeks and months, I contemplated on many occasions, my own childhood in small town, USA. I reconciled with memories I had long since forgotten. Of the faces of sixty some kids, all of which I went to preschool with and my last year of high school, too. Of riding atop a local fire truck in the town’s Fourth of July parades. Field trips to the lake: learning to fish and swim, and canoe in the perpetually murky waters. Camping trips with my Dad adjacent to dismissed railroad tresses. Candy and popcorn  balls, and giant Snickers bars from the neighbors on Halloween. Climbing trees, scraping knees, coming home muddy from little league practice. These were the joys of my childhood, many of which still exist for kids living there today. Many of the reasons, we had chosen to start our family there. It haunted me to think we might be depriving them of the very things we had dreamed of.

Peanut has spent her preschool moments in Ecuador, she is almost 4.5.

In the beginning our children were startled by the centuries-deep sun-kissed faces and the coal colored eyes of Ecuadorians. They were awe-struck and frustrated by the gibberish that they spoke. But now, they don’t see colors and disparity. They see many beautiful shades of people who are all the same. They don’t hear languages; they hear voices singing different songs. They don’t see fear or hate or indifference, they only see kindness. To them, only kindness matters. Only kindness.

At first we were rendered hopeless, incapable of any culinary success beyond 10,000 fruits and 20 new varieties of cookies. I disliked most of the foods I tried, and the kids did, too. Spices, carbs, meats…all had different scents, textures, and tastes. Our go to staples for two toddlers: milk, ketchup, and cheese were an utter disaster. Milk comes in boxes, ketchup in bags, and cheese was left on the counter all day. It was tough and we caved on familiar fruits and chicken nuggets priced for millionaires. But, that was a year ago. And oh, how much a year can do. Now, we love the leche that arrives warm on the back of a motorcycle, the queso that comes from a neighbor down the street, and the tasty salsa de tomate made here in the Andes Mountains.

These days, we have gone back in time in many ways. We make mac-n-cheese, popcorn, and fish nuggets on the stove. All home-made, all natural, all local. The kids know who sells the cheese and where the corn grows. They even watch the very fish they eat come out of the sea. We bathe in buckets, hang our laundry on the line, wash dishes by hand, and take naps in hammocks. We go “out” for tripe (grilled cow intestines), fish soup, or batidos(3 ingredient milk  shakes). We enjoy flavors like avocado, mame and guineo. These foods and many others are sold on food carts with no health regulations, by locals who kiss our dogs and pinch the cheeks of our kiddos.

A glimpse of our 1st Christmas abroad. 2016.

We miss our friends and family dearly, those from “back home”. But, now we are also grateful to know beautiful souls from Canada, France, Spain, Scotland, Argentina, Germany, and Mexico. They have shown us what it means to have friendships beyond borders. We have learned that time and space mean nothing. That friendship lives in the heart.

Every American holiday has come and gone, sliding past us like a cat in the night. We have mentioned them, but not obsessed over them. We have been very busy celebrating all that is beautiful and new. Our kids have immersed in fishing holidays like the Sardine Festival and The Festival of the Copper Virgin. They have witnessed endless nights of prayer, drag queens in the streets, salsa dancing and burning midnight effigies. They have watched drunk cowboys on dancing horse in broad daylight. Kids playing in the streets long after the moon has risen. Soon, they will see what Carnaval means.

The Mutts.

We have no regrets. Our children are not deprived of anything. They are gaining every possible benefit from living abroad. They understand love, culture, geography, equality. The appreciate music, art, and food. They remember their homeland, are proud of their heritage. They have embraced a new place, accepted versatility, even honored their blood line. They are Americans. They are Ecuadorians. Yet, they are so much more. They have become global citizens uninhibited by birth place or latitude lines. They have become children unimpressed by class, religion, color, or sex. In this we have gained the opportunity to erase mind and heart barriers that would surely inhibit their growth. We are proud to raise children with an improved sense of self and an improved sense of others.

Our happy family, one year later!


Life After 1 Year in Ecuador
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98 Replies to “Living on the Edge: Life After One Year in Ecuador”

  1. You write so beautifully. I really enjoy reading about not only your adventures in Ecuador, but also your perspective on life and raising a young family. Thanks for broadening my horizons!

  2. Wow, this was such an enjoyable read. You are very brave to take your family on this wonderful adventure. Glad it is working out for you in so many ways. Enjoyed reading about your experiences including the adjustment to the foods, the people and your surroundings. Nice post. Look forward to reading more.

  3. This was so so lovely to read! You are giving your children the BEST experience. I don’t have children myself (yet) but have always thought that when I do I’d like to raise them somewhere more down-to-earth and, in a way, more simple than the UK or any other Western powerhouse. Which is exactly what you’ve done. I envy you and I admire you!

    1. Oh thank you so much! We think the kids are having a great time, and we honestly live this whole experience through their eyes. Living abroad could never have been so beautiful without our children. I encourage everyone to try this at least once with their kids. A year abroad is certainly life and perspective changing, especially for the little ones!

  4. OMG what an amazing experience for not only your kids but as a family. I honestly never thought about visiting Ecuador although, with the way you describe it, it sounds like it would be a perfect place to visit (or in your case live)! So is this permanent? Or do you think you will ever live back in the states again?

    1. Ecuador is an incredibly culturally and geographically diverse area.I highly recommend visiting (or living) here.It also happens to quite affordable as long as you pick anywhere but the Galapagos. We are in the process of making Ecuador our permanent residence which will make the kids and I dual citizens between here and the USA. 😀 We do not intend to ever live in the States again.

  5. What a great story! We moved away from the US a year ago, too and I can relate to some of the food challenges. Managing that with two kids sounds rough! Ecuador was a top destination considered for our move, and I still think we may end up in South America. Best wished for your next year!

    1. We have had some rough moments for sure, but in the end everything has balance out. Those tough time have been worth it! We just adore Ecuador, where is it that you have been this past year? And what other places in South America are considering?

  6. This sounds like a great experience for your kids. They need to learn about different cultures, people and languages and it sounds like they learnt and accepted it. As you said they are Americans and Ecuadorians, so which country will they go to the Olympics for?

    1. Oh yes, they are learning so much! We don’t really watch much TV, so the Olympics have not been a very prominent activity in our lives. But, I suppose if the opportunity presented itself we would probably root for both countries!

  7. This is really great – the last paragraph actually gave me goosebumps. Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone and going for it. Your children will (and are) learning so much more in this experience than they would if you hadn’t done it! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it

    1. I really love it when I get reactions from a reader like yours! It makes it worthwhile to share our stories 🙂 Thank you so much for contributing your comment, and for reading our blog!

  8. I don’t think that there is any place ”ýou shouldn’t go”. Is awesome that after they told you so you still did it, and of course it turns out an incredible experience. Ecuador is definitely on my bucket list, so I would also go there someday.

  9. This is a beautiful piece of writing and what an extraordinary time you’ve all had in Ecuador so far. I love the descriptions that you gave especially in the paragraph, “They see many beautiful shades of people who are all the same.” Seriously, I love how you write 🙂

  10. Very well written post! I would love to go to Ecuador. Reading this also reminded me of packing and giving things away from our Tampa apartment to move to Amsterdam. Spent 6 years in Europe and have been living back in the States. Really miss it over there.

  11. first of all. Great job exposing your children to a new world, though in reality I think children are far more flexible than adults.
    As for your comment on food originally, It reminded me of how I view the one food I love, chocolate, in was good but just tasted funny for 2 weeks then I loved it again
    As for Ecuador, its definitely on my bucket list. I want to ride atop a train on Devils Nose I think its called and then wander the whole country

    1. Oh yes, we would love to take a ride on the train one day as well. There are a few noteworthy trains in Ecuador, but I am not sure how well we would fare with our dogs. We still have to work that detail out as we go. The chocolate here is a bit weird too, but there is also a world famous bar from Ecuador called Picari I believe. Too expensive to freely indulge in, but eventually I am sure we will try it!

    1. Yes. I am sure this first year will be a marker for many things to come. It was always be the first, and what we have gained will compare to none. Yet we are so excited to find how much more the future will hold!

  12. Who cares what people think! What an experience for you and your family! It’s great you had the courage to do this – good on you all!

    1. Luckily, we have both had that mentality for a long while. The perspective of others doesn’t hold much bearing when it comes to making dreams come true! To each his own has always been our best philosophy 🙂

  13. What a wonderful post! It brings me encouragement as we (me, my husband, and 2 40# spaniels) are about to pack up life in FL to venture to Europe! I welcome the journey but most of our family have said the same as what you experienced.

    1. Oh, I will be looking forward to following your adventures as well! It is always helpful to connect with others on the same path. I will love to see how it goes in Europe with the dogs 🙂 Best wishes on your travels!

  14. This was so beautiful and encouraging to read 🙂 I am preparing a move abroad and its so comforting to read of your experiences 🙂 I look forward to following the rest of your journey!

  15. I love the absolute sense of adventure of your family 😀 So inspiring and kudos to you guys for raising little world travellers who will most certainly be open minded to diversity! Also happy to have come across your blog, I will definitely browse around for more content from your expat experience!

    1. Thank you so much for all of your kind words! We are certainly having a great time and we are sooo excited for the future as well! I am glad to hear that you have enjoyed our blog so much 🙂

  16. I am so glad you came up in my feed – I love this story!!!!!! So inspirational. You so often read about people travelling with their kids – but dogs too – now that’s something I have not heard about. Best of luck for your family travels 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by for a read 🙂 And we always love to get comment from our readers! Yes, we are the crazy ones…that jumped into this adventure with kids AND dogs! Somebody had to be the first to do it, right? 😀

  17. I enjoyed reading every words on your blog. This is really inspiring and touching. I appreciate your experiences. I agree with what you have done. Your kids will surely thank you for bringing them in a different country. I believe that staying in a different country for a long time does give you significant memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

    1. Really, thank you so much for your kind words! We are hopeful that one day our kids will understand and appreciate this adventure for the many, many things it has been worth.We trust that will find as much meaning in the memories as we have!

  18. This must have been a great experience, especially for children. Their senses must have been massively overloading. I think this is one of the best things you can do for your children. Like you said, they will grow up to have less misconceptions and assumptions about the world! I would like to do something similar when I get married and have children!

  19. Beautiful experience indeed! We strongly believe that parents should bring their kids to travel with them when time, opportunity, and money permits. They learn more about the real world—a world beyond computers, magazines, TVs, and books.

    We commend you for your courage to migrate your family to another country. Not many people have the courage go do so.

  20. This was a lovely read. I enjoyed the story and you are a fantastic writer. This sounds like such a unique and amazing experience for your kids.

  21. You are making memories that will last a lifetime with your family and oh what amazing experiences and stories you all will have.

  22. Doing something like this needs a lot of courage. I am so pleased to read this and about your brave heart. Not listening to what the world says and following what you want is a great achievement in itself. It seems like you had a really wonderful experience. I am so glad for it.

    1. Thank you so much your kind words. We are definitely on a path that is truly our own, and we are so proud to report that is has paid off tremendously! We continue to be fulfilled and can only anticipate what the future holds.

  23. So good of you guys to expose your children to this life and allow them to grow into well-rounded individuals! I know what you mean about the American holidays coming and going but we don’t obsess over them. Mostly it helps not to be in an environment where you are constantly bombarded by ads to BUY something in order to celebrate. It’s better to just celebrate the days and the experiences!

    1. We can definitely agree with that. It’s nice not to have the constant commercialism surrounding us. And it has been wonderful to see what holidays are in a way that they used to be in the States, too. A time for family, relaxation, and allowing ourselves to unplug!

  24. I love the honesty of your post and sharing your family life experience with us. Your memories will last forever, and it’s interesting how you presented how you guys adapted to the food there. I’m an expat now and i miss my food back phone, it was kinda of nice to read this. Keep up your amazing work !

    1. Thank you for appreciating what we have to say! There will always been some foods we miss from back home..but I think if we went back now we would actually miss more foods from here!

  25. How wonderful that you took the brave decision of bringing your young ones to live and experience a new country! They might not have the same memories as you did growing up in Iowa but they’ll certainly have their own made in Ecuador!

  26. Awww what a beautiful reflection of a year come and gone. I know how strange it is to live in a new place and have to readjust to the new surroundings, I actually have been hopping from country to country immersing myself in the new culture for only a year before leaving and you’re right, the things you hate at the beginning, you learn to love by the end of it. And your children will thank you in the long run for giving them a way to know who they are identity wise.

    1. Yes,I think that is true. That having a chance to understand what identity means and doesn’t mean from a young age, will shape a healthier view of both themselves and others! Now, we go into adventures looking forward to all the new things we will get to try and even learn to love.

  27. This blog is amazing!! But I have to know! 🙂 What do you do for an income? Do you work in EC? Did you buy health insurance? I do not mean to be nosy, but I am thinking about heading to EC with my kids and Ecuadorian born husband, but being a logical thinking non-risk taker, I wanted to know about the less fun aspects of moving to a new country! 🙂

  28. Hi! I love your story! We moved from Pennsylvania to Wyoming nearly two years ago, it felt like another world! I can totally relate ( well.. somewhat) I just started a blog myself and would love for you to check it out and give any tips! Thanks!

    1. Thank you for stopping by! I have been to Wyoming and what a beautiful place it is 😀 How wonderful for you have the opportunity to live there. I will check out your blog soon!

  29. This is the first post I have read of your blog. Such an amazing story!!! I have lived my entire life in Iowa and raised 6 children in Iowa…. I can honestly say the opportunity you are giving your children is priceless! Iowa is a nice state but I think people that have lived their entire life in Iowa are so sheltered away from the rest of the world that you miss out on all the experiences that other states and countries have to offer. I will be reading a lot more of your blog it is so uplifting to me 🙂

    1. Yay! How wonderful to have another Iowan following along. It is a wonderful place to be from! But, I must emphatically agree that those who never leave have no idea what they are missing. Not just to see the world, but also so they can return and appreciate what a special corner of the universe it really is. So happy to welcome you to our blog, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! Connecting with our readers is so rewarding 🙂

      1. I think you are correct in saying that when you leave Iowa you then truly realize how it is special. My oldest child left and he now can not wait to come home to visit– no place like home 🙂 Due to my situation I may never be in a position to go see the rest of the world but it is sure fun to get to see pictures and read about it on your blog 🙂

  30. Beautiful and very inspiring to see a family living their dreams not confining themselves to the limits of society. I myself travelled the world for about three years and my life changed completely doing that. Thx for sharing

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