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Hi, I'mKelly Merchán

Communicator, advocate & mountain lover

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Choosing to stay in Ecuador

Hard to believe sometimes, but I’ve been living in Ecuador for over 18 months now, and I’ve been a legal resident for a year (gasp)! Moving to Ecuador was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I took a big risk with a one-way ticket and an unknown future, and I’m happy to report that I’m still standing strong! I’d like to share with you not only why I decided to move to Ecuador, but more importantly why I choose to stay every day. I often get the questions – don’t you miss your family? Yes. Don’t you miss where you’re from? Yes. Does that mean that I’m ready to go back? Hell no.

If you’re an expat reading this, you’ll notice that I’m not the typical demographic. There are over 5,000 North Americans retired in Ecuador, and many other young folk temporarily living abroad to teach English. I don’t fall into either category. My life here is unique. Its special and different and spontaneous. Characteristics that I am absolutely not used to coming from a very self- planned life in Maryland, but rolling with the punches is something I am learning to do better everyday. Let’s take a step back. Why did I decide to move to Ecuador in the first place?

  1. Professional international experience. I first came to Ecuador seeking a professional experience to complement my Masters degree at American University. I worked at a domestic violence shelter in Cuenca for 6 weeks. Little did I know that it would turn my life upside down and shortly bring myself back.
  2. Culture. I was fascinated with Latin America in the classroom, and was looking to see, feel, taste it on my own.
  3. Travel. I’ve been in a continual state of wanderlust since I went to Ireland at the age of 14. I had no clue what I was in for when it comes to travel opportunities in Ecuador, but man was I in for a nice surprise.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone. I knew I was getting comfortable in Maryland/DC between personal and professional life, and if I didn’t take the solo trip when I did, it probably never would have happened.

Fast forward to my return to the states. I had fallen in love with a beautiful man in Cuenca, was finishing my masters degree, and preparing for my dad’s wedding that fall. When I left Ecuador I knew that chapter was not over, but I did not have any plans of moving back so quickly. After months facetiming with my boo every night, and realizing what my future could look like in the DC area I knew now was the time. Now was the time to take a leap, and see where this path in life would take me.

So, I did it. Made the move. Applied and was granted the Professional Visa, a lifelong visa that would make me a legal resident of Ecuador. We moved in together. I became part of a new family. I found a job, friends, new networks, developed a new program for nonprofits, started a modeling career. We traveled Ecuador by motorcycle as much as we could. I learned (and continue to learn) more about myself that I didn’t even know was there. I’d be lying if I said it was perfect every day, but that’s part of life. I choose to stay in Ecuador for many reasons, and I’d like to share them with you in the case that you are thinking about living abroad in Ecuador or else where.

Major Principles:

  1. Love. I’ve found the love of my life. I wouldn’t leave his side for the world. We have each other, we have our life together, and it is beautiful.
  2. Enjoyment. If I’m going to be real, life in Ecuador is freaking awesome. I’m enjoying myself and the way my life is. The stress levels of day-to-day life here have no comparison coming from the DC rat race and that is A-OK with me!
  3. Live — outside the comfort zone + grow from it.
  4. Experience another culture.
  5. Community. I’ve found my tribe.

I look forward to many more lessons learned in my years ahead in Cuenca. Has living abroad taught you something major? Share it in the comments!

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