Tapping Into Online and Offline Incomes in Ecuador
After spending 20 years in the Annapolis, Maryland area, leadership coach Alicia Rodriguez decided it was time for a change. “Technology gives us the opportunity to work from anywhere,” she says. “And I wanted more freedom in my life.”
Intent on a move that would give her more adventure and greater control over both her time and her finances, Alicia started exploring options for moving abroad. Initially, she looked at Colombia and several destinations in Central America. Then she heard about a friend of a friend who’d moved to Ecuador, and she began seriously considering the South American country. “He’s a psychologist and we do similar work,” she says.
Ecuador was perfect for Alicia because it would enable her to achieve her two major professional goals for her post-Stateside life. With its modern internet infrastructure, it allowed her to continue her coaching career online. Moreover, thanks to the affordable land and property prices, she would have the resources to launch her dream brick-and-mortar business: a wellness retreat.
Fast forward three years and she and her new husband run a retreat facility in the coastal town of Salongo. Called Quinta Oasis, the secluded center overlooks the Pacific and includes three guesthouses.
“This is a natural setting with stupendous views of the water and the mountains. Fifteen minutes from the beach. It’s tranquil,” she says. “The retreats are geared toward professional women going through a life or career transition. I started running small group retreats with five to six women. I also do personal one-on-one retreats, which address more existential types of questions.”
In addition to hosting her own retreats, Alicia also rents out the property. “Other retreat leaders with groups of 10 can take over,” she says. “We also rent out the casitas for vacation rentals when not doing retreats. We have a pool, three terraces, an outdoor kitchen, a community social area, and a yoga studio on the first floor.”
Running this business aside, Alicia has successfully managed to recalibrate her leadership coaching career into an online role. Her work with CEOs and other executives, which previously took place in person at corporate offices, is now done over the internet. Since moving to Ecuador, she’s also taken on a gig writing in her area of expertise. She can now pick and choose how and when she works, something made possible by the affordability of life in the country.
“For people who just want to work remotely, you can live on $1,000 a month,” says Alicia. “You can get a very nice place for $400 to $500 a month. Food is cheap if you shop and eat like an Ecuadorian. I buy at the open-air markets where a pound of fresh shrimp is $3.50 and sea bass is $3.”
As Alicia and her husband bought the land and built the property for the retreat, they don’t have a housing payment. “In Ecuador we use the U.S. dollar. It goes far. Every dollar is $5. I live on an average of $1,000 per month for food, transportation, four dogs, and travel. That doesn’t include upkeep of the property,” she says.
She also points out that medical costs are a fraction of the price in the U.S. “You can see a specialist for $10 to $30 a visit. It costs $180 for an MRI for the knee and shoulder.”
While Alicia has found her dream life overseas in Ecuador, she recommends that anyone considering following in her footsteps visit the country and give it a trail run before committing. “Rent for a year and make sure you want to live there,” she says.
Three-plus years into her overseas adventure, Alicia has found the freedom she craved when she left the U.S.—not the freedom from work, but freedom to do the work she enjoyed in the time and place of her choosing. And she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I think retiring doesn’t exist anymore. I call it pro-retirement, where people have second careers, volunteering,” says Alicia. “I don’t see myself retiring in the traditional sense.”
Written by Jen Phillips April