Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100 Books Written about Ecuador! Wowy! 7 Questions to Help Narrow Down Your Book Search

There are hundreds of books written about Ecuador, and a third of those books are written about one city, Cuenca.  With all of this information written about a single city how does a person go about finding the right book for them among fifty books! The not knowing if you are buying the book that fits your needs and circumstances can be frustrating and downright overwhelming! 

When we first published the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide back in March of 2012 it was one of two books written exclusively about Cuenca, and all the rest were about the Galapagos Islands and photo books of Ecuador and South America books with excerpts or chapters about Cuenca.  And today that has all changed—there are literally hundreds of books written about Ecuador, and about 30 of those books are written just about Cuenca. In fact, the market is inundated with so many books covering Cuenca that some people end up buying two to five different books.  And that’s okay if it is in your budget to do so and actually many of the Kindle versions are so low priced that you could buy them all!

We haven’t read any of the other books written about Cuenca because, well, we live here and are “do-it-yourself types”.  Before moving to Cuenca we published 12 other books about various subjects, from marriage to health and so for us, writing a few more books to assist folks with their visit or move to Ecuador was very customary for us to do so. We’re writers and researchers and love our work!

We are sure that most of the books written about Ecuador, offer some fine insights and good information about moving to and living in Ecuador. That's why this article is not going to talk about specific books to read or not to read; there is no bias intended here, we simply want to help you narrow down your search from the hundreds of books on the market to about five or ten books?  Let’s get started.

1. Are You Visiting or Moving to Cuenca?
Are you just visiting for a one to three month discovery trip or will you be moving here?  If you are only visiting Cuenca on a 1 to 3 month tourist stay, that will surely narrow down your Cuenca book search from 30 books to about 10 books. 

Visitors do not need to know the 'logistical and preparation' kind of information until you actually know that you will be moving here, although it is perfectly fine to read any books that you feel will be useful to your visit. We’re not trying to discourage you from reading any particular book(s).

2. First time Visitors to Cuenca? First time visitors want to do the fun things like sightseeing tours and museums, and maybe they want to know about the culture and other activities that Cuenca has to offer. At this point just about any of the books written about Cuenca Ecuador are going to be of some entertainment value as well as informational. Once you have visited Cuenca and know you want to move here then you can move on to the more logistical and practical books.

3. You know for sure you are moving to Cuenca? The folks who know they are moving to Cuenca want to know about the immigration process, health care system, health insurance, medications, banking, volunteering, neighborhoods, and the expat life in general, etc, and there are many wonderful informational books covering these topics. Answering this question should narrow down your book search to about 5 books.

4.  Frugal traveler or extravagant traveler? Knowing ahead of time what your visit is going to be about will narrow down the book search by a lot. Are you on a budget with a plan to only spend a certain amount, whatever that might be for your situation, or does money not matter?  As you begin your search for the book(s) you think will fit your situation, you will soon find there are books written for budgeting in mind (DIY Guides) and others written for the extravagant traveler.

5. Do you want first hand material or do you not care?
What happens when the market gets flooded with so many books about the same city? Well, you will begin to receive the same information over and over again, only worded in a different style of writing. One lady on Amazon commented on a book about Cuenca that the book contained information she had already read in another book.  When 30 people are writing books about Cuenca (and it is probably more than that) it is bound to happen. This is why, knowing the dates of publication for published works comes in real handy for knowing when the materials first originated. 

The DIY Cuenca Landing Guide was one of two or three books published about Cuenca, behind Connie Pombo’s 101 Questions. Our first edition was published in March of 2012.  And we proudly love to share that we keep the DIY Landing Guides updated and have just published the seventh edition of the Cuenca Landing Guide in January 2015!

So here’s the reality of it, if there are other books written about the same topics you will most likely receive a lot of the same material you’ve already read in other books. This is why it is good to know the dates of the first publication because subsequent books by other authors could basically be echoing similar concepts, although not necessarily as firsthand experience and/or the latest updated version. 

6. Does the author(s) update their book? Is the information you’re getting timely and updated? Books that are even a few years old, unless the author has updated and published a new edition, will have old information in them. However, that doesn’t necessarily invalidate it unless the book is about important logistical information such as health care costs, or the paperwork for immigration, which changes in the blink of an eye, or hotel prices and addresses, etc, etc.

Many things that were customary for Ecuador residency back in 2012, 2013, and even 2014 has now changed which means it does not apply, or it means you need to have more/other/different documents for the residency process. For instance, the new law has informed us that now everyone needs to have an FBI background check, plus the local police report for the residency Visa.  Next year, who knows?

Any books that deal with important information pertaining to retiring/moving to Ecuador should really be updated with new editions at least every three to six months! If they have not done this then that book will be out-of-date and there is nothing worse than spending money on worthless content.

Furthermore, if the book is an eBook, which just means digital copy, then there is no reason authors should not be updating their manuscripts with up-to-date info. We are very strict about keeping our Quito, Cuenca, and Coastal guides updated because there is information in them such as business establishments with contact information and addresses, lodgings with prices, etc, that NEED updated periodically, etc.  It’s a lot of work but it is something that has to be done in order to provide relevant books that people will enjoy and use for the purpose it is intended.

7. Who Are the Writers? Do They Live in the Country they are Writing about?

It was only but a few months after we wrote the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide that books were popping up all over the place about Cuenca. One such place was a guide book like ours and they priced it $1 dollar less than ours. The problem is they do not live in Cuenca!  Now seriously folks, how good can a (guide) book really be when someone doesn’t actually live in Ecuador? They flew in, walked around a little bit, talked to a few locals and a few expats and then wrote a book!

And as a final point, we offer our three recommendations for buying books about any city/country you are considering for retirement abroad.

1. You want to read books from authors who actually live in the country they are writing about, unless the book is solely written for entertainment purposes and has no useful information in it. 

2. Make sure you look at their website or blog material. Do you like what you read? Are you subscribed to their newsletter or posts, and do you enjoy it?  Is it useful and informative? If so, then you will probably love their book and it will be informative too.  Be careful though, if their website has a lot of hype you can be sure the book will too and there’s usually an agenda in the pipeline.

3. The best material will never have an agenda attached to it.  Hyping up and glamorizing cities that one does not even live, is an agenda already. No place is paradise.  So it makes sense that the books that reflect the good and the not-so-good will be the most informative read overall for anyone who is considering a move to Cuenca Ecuador, or any city in the world, for that matter.

And finally, being a good writer means more than just understanding grammar and telling a good story; you have to love the subject, by, either having a deep understanding of the subject and/or, by doing the appropriate research on what you are writing about.  Therefore , the best books are written for the reader in mind, not what they think the reader wants to hear.  

Nonfiction works absolutely NEED to provide helpful information that can be utilized by the reader in some way that pertains to the subject at hand. In this case, we’re talking about travel books for Cuenca Ecuador. We have been told that our three DIY Landing Guides provide VERY useful information for the traveler, not only that, but saving them big bucks when they first arrive to Ecuador and saving money is always a good thing, don't you think?!  Happy Travels!!

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

About the '10 Best Places to Retire in the World'

Here's an article we found recently that sort of resonated with us because it goes outside the usual paradise (retire abroad) commercials. Let us know what you think?

Note: the link in the article is no longer active on the original article, however we all pretty much know the countries that are on the list of "10 best places to retire in the world", give or take a country every couple of years. Also, Discover Cuenca Ecuador writers did NOT write this article, we are merely reposting it from another blog. "Please see the source".


 They obviously haven’t been to any of these places recently. After extensive travel over the past two years, much of which to these locations to check out the affordability, I am finding that my home in Florida is cheaper and better.  I guess this depends on the quality of life and lifestyle you can afford.  For me, a young retiree on a fixed income trying to make it stretch, I can not see the value in many of the places on the list.  The target budget in these articles always seems to be about $1000 per month or just about the average Social Security retirement amount.  I make a little more than that but still do not see how these places could work.

Fist, and most important, let me address safety.  Over the past few years Central and South America have become increasingly more dangerous.  I’m not sure if it is because the drug trade or poverty but violent crimes have been on the rise.  I just returned from a month long trip to Roatan Honduras and many places in Ecuador on 1/24/2014 so this info is pretty recent. 

In Roatan I considered taking a ferry to the mainland and busing to the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  While researching the route, I was advised by all of the many people not to attempt this.  They explained that the route was not safe.  This was an eye-opener to me since I have driven and taken buses throughout many countries in Central America.  I took their advice and flew to Miami to catch a flight to Quito Ecuador.  After later research, I found that San Pedro Sula Honduras is THE #1 most dangerous city in the world!  Ecuador was not safe either.  On my first day in the country, my tablet was pick pocketed getting off the train at rush hour.
Noticing signs like these in the historic district in Quito were not comforting either.  I understand that Quito is a big city and with any big city there is crime but it seems to be everywhere.  Visits to Guayaquil and Esmeralda were cut from the itinerary due to advice and safety concerns.  Every Western person I talked to had negative personal experiences to share.  I met another retiree who, like me was exploring the list.  He had been to many of the places too and shared his knowledge of the theft, robberies, rapes and murders he was informed about by other ex-pats in all of the Latin American countries.  

Even the luxury retirement areas are not sheltered from the problems.  I visited the island of Boca De Briceno just south of Canoa Ecuador.  This place is connected to the mainland by a long bridge and has many high-rise condos for the affluent.  While there, I noticed a local restaurant with many Western patrons.  I talked to the 8 people at one table and found it astonishing that each had been robbed.  One man had his Harley stolen from underneath him while he was at a light.  Another, was duct taped to his bed while he was sleeping and robbed at knifepoint.  He was not an easy target either.  His house was a compound with 10 foot walls, dogs and security cameras.  The robbers poisoned the dogs, cut the power and scaled the walls to rob him.  Another lady had lived in Ecuador her whole life and shared a story where her family were victims of an armed invasion on a rural farm North of Quito.  The police seem to be either part of the problem or not willing to be part of the solution.  No one dares file a report for fear of future retaliation.  These problems are not isolated to Ecuador.  The entire Latin American region is experiencing the same.

Next, I will share my experience on prices.  I live in Central Florida so I often compare goods and services to what I would expect to pay there.  I am not affluent nor do I travel that way so all of my examples are on the low-budget side.  Meals seem to cost about the same in many of these countries.  Grocery stores may have better prices on fruit but meat costs more and rice and beans are cheap everywhere.  Lodging can be found for as low as $200 per month in many Latin countries but a room rental with all utilities included in Florida can be found for $400 per month.  

There is no comparison to the quality of US homes vs. the rest of the world when it comes to building standards and utility service so I think the numbers are a bit misleading.  To find anything close to what most people are accustomed to I think the budget would have to be much more than $200.  Building costs are not cheaper either.  I met a person who was building a new home in Ecuador and he had spent $75k already and was only about 1/2 finished with construction.  The same or better home could be bought or built in Florida with $150k budget.  I do not have personal experience with utility costs around the world but understand that electric is very expensive.  Many of these countries do not have air conditioning for this reason.  If you do find a place with ac, I understand that running it will cost you quite a bit.

Last, these are third-world countries.  They do not have the infrastructure of the first-world but are all trying to keep up with prices.  I think the Internet is mostly to blame.  Everyone can see what a burger costs anywhere around the world and no one wants to sell it for less.  For the moment, Asia seems to provide the best deal.  I visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia for 7 weeks from August – September of 2013 and enjoyed the trip.  The prices and people seemed good then but a reporter was just shot in Thailand the other day during their protests.  During that trip, there were border conflicts between Cambodia and Vietnam too.  

Third-world countries will always have volatility.  Their government corruption and wage inequality will always create friction between locals and ex-pats.  I was told once by a couple who owned property in Costa Rica that the best way to become a millionaire there was to bring two million.  They had experienced the government laws that were created to tax them and erode their home value.  Even the best countries today might be the hot-spots and war-zones of tomorrow.

In summary, I would advise anyone looking at this list to visit but never buy in these countries.  I too was looking for a cheaper alternative for retirement and have been chasing this list.  The more I see and experience third-world countries around the world, the more I appreciate the value of the US.  I will still travel the world in search of these bargain countries and keep you posted.  However, I have no plans to sell my home in Florida.

Source: imup2.com  First Published Feb 3, 2014

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Franco Makes Cavatelli Pasta and Other Italian Cuisine in our Cuenca Ecuador Cocina

Today Franco is making Cavatelli and an Italian eggplant dish. They were both delicious!
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!