Even when you are young, you can still move abroad for a big adventure. Here's how one Millennial became an expat.
It's officially been a year since I stopped dreaming about moving and actually did it. To put it simply, it's been one wild ride since day one.
The idea of leaving home first came to mind in 2012, back when I was about 13 years old. Hailing from the tropical nation of the Bahamas, my main motivation for wanting to move was the desire to experience something different from the "island life."
Leaving the Bahamas
The Bahamas looks pretty amazing in all the advertisements. Even I am impressed sometimes, but that's not the reality. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing place to live, but living on an island became more of a chore than a vacation to me.
I wanted something different: somewhere I could move around and explore, not have to spend a lot of money, and stay far away from the heat. Sure enough, I found that place in Cuenca, Ecuador.
I came across Ecuador through a family member I'm close to who used to live on the same island I did. In early 2013, they announced that they were planning to move to Cuenca. The time they chose to move just so happened to be during my summer vacation, so I got the opportunity to tag along with them for a few weeks.
Falling in Love
It only took a matter of days for me to fall in love with Ecuador, and more specifically, Cuenca. I had never visited South America prior to this trip, so everything was new to me; the landscapes, culture, language—everything! That's why I found it so amazing. It was like being in a whole other world.
Going on that trip made it a definite goal for me to leave the islands and live somewhere else. I had three more years of school left at the time of my trip, so I had to clear that hurdle first. I graduated in 2015 at the age of 16 (which is common in the Bahamas) and spent the time from then until I was 18 and working from home.
During that period, I realized that I really had no desire to stay in the Bahamas. Since my job was online and school was no longer a factor, it was clear that I didn't needed to stay. Alas, the day I turned 18, I moved.
Don't Let the Doubt Stop You
When I look back at all the events from when I first got the idea of moving up to now, I'm actually still surprised that it's happened.
These last 12 months have been nothing short of amazing. Before I actually moved, it seemed like one of those dreams you have constantly, but you keep doubting it. I'm happy I didn't let those doubts stop me from trying.
For me, Cuenca was the perfect first choice as a young expatriate. While I'm still struggling with learning Spanish, everything else has come together rather nicely. As Ecuador's third-largest city, it has all the amenities you could expect from a major city. It doesn't look or feel like a sprawling metropolis—which I think is great.
The other two major cities, Quito and Guayaquil, don't have the same charm as Cuenca (especially Cuenca). Quito exhibits some of same beauty since both cities are in Ecuador's mountain region, but Cuenca is still the "cozier" city. There are more people living here in Cuenca than in the entire Bahamas, but it's hard for me to even notice that. It's like a hybrid mix between a major city and a quaint town. I think that's a pretty neat combination.
Easy to Get Around
Cuenca is relatively secure compared to other places in Ecuador. I've been out at all hours of the day (and night) and there was never once a time where I felt I was in any danger.
Of course, this is something that my parents worried about a lot before I moved, naturally. On top of that, getting around the city is almost too simple.
The bus system goes all over and even a bit outside the city limits. At 25 cents per-ride, you can basically create your own tour. Taxis usually cost between $1.50-$4 depending on the distance, so getting somewhere fast is cheap, too.
The number of restaurants here is impressive, and even better is that you can get a full meal for as little as $2. My rent is only $300 per month, which is something that is not even fathomable back in the Bahamas (actually, none of the prices I just mentioned are fathomable back there).
Surrounded by Beauty
On top of the security and low prices, another reason I'm still swooning over Cuenca is that it's surrounded by mountains. I've always strongly appreciated beautiful landscapes, so to live next to one is something I haven't come to terms with yet. Just as beautiful as the landscape is the personality of the locals.
There are some amiable people here in Ecuador. Despite being a foreigner, I've been treated kindly on a number of occasions. When I'm struggling to communicate because of the language barrier, the locals are very patient and even kindly correct me or help me out if I can't say the right word or phrase. I'm still amazed by that.
I expected the "honeymoon phase" to wear off by this point, but I guess it hasn't yet. Every time I talk to someone about Cuenca, I end up gushing about it as if I've been here all my life. It's only been a year, but living here has really opened my eyes to several things. It's made me a better, wiser person, and I'm grateful for having the opportunity to enjoy this experience. As I look to the next few months, I'm hoping they'll be just as good, if not better.
Thinking of coming to Cuenca? We'd love to talk to you.
by: Akia Rahming