Ecuador – A Leap of Faith

Part Two – Why Vilcabamba, Ecuador?

This area was known as the “Playground of the Inca.” Historically it was used as a retreat for Incan royalty. The Mandango (the Sleeping Inca) mountain overlooks the valley and is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters. 

Vilcabamba enjoys glorious weather all year, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s and moderate rainfall. Situated at 5000 ft in the Andean Mountains of southern Ecuador, Vilcabamba, and the surrounding area is agricultural. A breathtaking patchwork of different shades of green decorates the valleys and mountains. I am in awe of the work that goes into caring for these beautiful mountain fields on some of the steepest vertical slopes I have ever seen. Tended primarily by hand by men anywhere from 20 – 75 years of age wearing long sleeves, rubber boots, and hoodies or sombreros, depending on their age. They work slowly but steadily with well-placed strokes and knowing. Everyone works in the fields. Men, women, and children, in one way or another, are present, from sowing the seeds to bringing in the harvest, preparing it, and selling it at the market. The markets are wonderfully colourful and lively happenings. The fruit and vegetables are fresh and very inexpensive.

Much of the mountains in this area are virtually uninhabited, and the crystal-clear streams that roll down from the cloud forest bring fresh, clear, natural mineralized water. We drink the water from the tap in our house. Good water is essential to good health. We are fortunate because our water comes from the national park’s mountains. The combination of a healthy diet of fresh organic fruit and vegetables, small amounts of meat, plenty of aerobic exercise (walking and climbing and hoeing and carrying), a contamination-free environment (for the most part), and a peaceful, simple lifestyle contributes to healthy aging. The Incas called it the “Sacred Valley,” but now it is known as the “Valley of Longevity.” I have lost 10 lbs since I arrived six weeks ago. The change is doing me good.

Vilcabamba village is small—only about 4,000 Inhabitants—but the international community is surprisingly diverse, with an ever-increasing population of U.S., Canadian and British settlers, French, Germans, and a sprinkling of other nationalities. Ex-pats in the area tend to be well-traveled, varied, and free-thinking. You’ll find massage therapists, reiki experts, and other alternative health practitioners here. Scientists, successful business people, and organic farmers are all enjoying life in this little valley. Conversations with other ex-pats are diverse and far from boring—be sure to keep an open mind. Many retirees and young families seek a healthy, safe, and natural place to live, grow up and evolve in. There are hippies of all ages, locals of every ilk, young people passing through town looking for truth, exploring alternative lifestyles and cultures, and reflecting on what kind of life they want to create for themselves. 

Most importantly, Vilca still belongs to the locals, their customs and traditions. People here, as different as they are, have learned to live together in a win-win arrangement. It isn’t perfect, but a fabulous and rich meeting ground. The key is in community spirit, family, and heart. Like anywhere in the world, there are liars, sneaks and cheats, corruption, robbers and manipulators, happy and unhappy people, complainers and bad-mouthers, but the way I see it, what you give is what you get. Finally, and most importantly, we must never forget that we are guests in their country.

Why Vilcabamba in a nutshell:

1. Vilcabamba is a safe, healthy, and happy place with a vital community spirit.
2. The weather is fantastic, Mother Nature is awe-inspiring and nourishing.
3. The cost of living is very low, so low you wouldn’t believe it.
4. You have excellent internet access.
5. Vilcabamba is an international community of free thinkers and sovereign beings.
6. Permaculture, alternative ways of living, and micro-schools are a way of life here for the ex-pats. People grow their food and reconnect with the land. Suzannah gives workshops of all kinds and recently gave one to a group of children. “What a great opportunity to share the joy of permaculture with these bright young souls, teaching them how we can empower our ability to nourish ourselves in healthy ways with farm-to-table food and have a lot of fun doing it!” And Zia Parker is on a mission to rehydrate and reforest the land while “opening hearts and minds to holistic and regenerative solutions for healing ourselves and the earth. We are one!” 
7. Indigenous traditions are alive and well and accessible if you are interested.
8. You are free to live the life you want to create.
9. And my favourite: the Ecuadorian people. They are kind, generous, respectful, joyful and from the heart.

Ok, there is so much more to it but enough for now. Next time in Part 3  The Visas, The Container, and The Departure

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