Why Vilcabamba is Seriously Overrated

Famed for its residents reaching triple digit ages and nicknamed the “Valley of Longevity,” Vilcabamba should be called the “Valley of American Retirees”.

old people

“Hey gordo! Flaco! FLAQUITO!” a grotesquely gringo accent calls to his pensioner pal. “The pizza’s ready!” His voice echoes across the town square, drawing stares. He doesn’t seem to notice (or mind).

When his friend has drawn closer, he continues the conversation at maximum volume, chugging his cheap beer and signaling wildly.

Aghast at the spectacle, I shudder on my park bench. My fellow countrymen have a stereotype for being loud, and he’s certainly doing his part to perpetuate it.

Unfortunately, this scene is the rule, not the exception. Expats and new retirees sit at foreign-owned cafes, talking to other expats and tourists, in their native language – English. Great job integrating into the local culture guys!

This is the problem that comes from putting a small town in guidebooks and on TV. BOOM! Foreigners come in hordes, buying up land, opening up foreign-catering restaurants, and inflating prices in general.

I’m not sure how excited the local people are about the influx of American baby boomers. I find the lack of mixed groups of expats and Ecuadorians disconcerting. It seems to be an exclusive club of social security check collectors – no locals allowed.

Am I being too harsh?

I’ll likely be an expat one day. And of course I like being able to find a vegetarian hamburger in a small Latin American town, so I shouldn’t be too judgmental.

When I’m an expat, however, you can bet that I’ll: be speaking the local language; have local friends; and contribute to the community in some form or another. And I’m talking about something more than just buying apples from a local vendor.

Another myth about Vilcabamba is that the climate is beautiful. Of the five long, dreary days I’ve been here, today is the first day that there hasn’t been a torrential downpour… yet. In fact, Vilcabamba’s rainy season lasts eight months out of the year, leaving tracks muddy and bringing temperatures down to freezing. Hardly my idea of perfection.

by johndrogers on Flickr

by johndrogers on Flickr

Aside from the English-speaking pack, the mountains and hills surrounding Vilcabamba are beautiful. Walking in just about any direction will lead you to your own private view of the greenest scenery I’ve probably ever seen – but what else would you expect with all this rain?

To me, it’s no more special than any of the pueblos in Colombia I’ve been too. Even in the most touristy towns, like Salento and Villa de Leyva, you still need Spanish to get around. And it’s far from being overrun by expats like Vilcabamba.

But hey, if you enjoy hanging out with a bunch of baby boomers, you’ll love Vilcabamba. Who am I to judge?

What towns and cities have you visited that are completely overrun by expats?

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  • Vilcabamba Real Estate Company

    Wow Jasmine … amazing that you can put together such a comprehensively negative summary of Vilca … and after only 5 days! Congratulations.

    Having lived here for 3 years, I’m probably a little more qualified to judge the place objectively however.

    Let’s skim through your article shall we?

    Your depiction of SOME foreigners at the start of the article is, unfortunately, valid. It seems to be a uniquely American trait … this obliviousness to either their volume or their cultural insensitivity. And I’m guessing you “shuddered” rather than “shuttered?”

    You say … “Foreigners come in hoards, buying up land, opening up foreign-catering restaurants, and inflating prices in general”
    I say … I’m guessing you mean “hordes” rather than “hoards.” If you are going to write a travel blog, I’d suggest getting some basics “write” (just kidding, pardon the pun!). Yes, it is a pattern which happens to ANY place over time … I don’t see what is so noteworthy about Vilcabamba over any other place which gets “discovered.” All places of value get discovered eventually, and have their place on the development timeline accordingly. It’s just the way of the world, as you’ll gather with more travelling. If folks genuinely want to live in a place with zero contact with other expats I guess they can go to the native villages you speak of, but that’s obviously not what a lot of folks want. Different strokes for different folks Jasmine!

    And as the proprietor of the only licensed real-estate office in the region (www.vrec.org) I can tell you that for many of the locals here who owned and sold land, it has been akin to winning the geographic lottery. They take the money … move 5kms further out, spend 20% re-establishing themselves on another (much cheaper) piece of land, and then continue doing what they were before (except maybe they get to put their kids through college … or send them overseas for a good job … or whatever). The point is Jasmine, the influx of money you speak of goes primarily to the locals and is then circulated into the local economy. If you had bothered wandering around to speak to the taxi drivers, the store owners, the hardware stores, handymen, materials suppliers etc, you would discover that foreign capital is very much welcomed here. But you were probably too busy “shuttering” and then just decided to slam the foreign influx with yet another trite and negative generalization.

    Next You Say … “Another myth about Vilcabamba is that the climate is beautiful. Of the five long, dreary days I’ve been here, today is the first day that there hasn’t been a torrential downpour… yet. In fact, Vilcabamba’s rainy season lasts eight months out of the year, leaving tracks muddy and bringing temperatures down to freezing. Hardly my idea of perfection.”
    I Say: The temperatures in Vilcabamba have been measured and averaged for years, and the record of perpetual spring-like conditions is accurate … the stats don’t lie Jasmine! And I can assure you, not being a fan of rain and cold myself, that I wouldn’t have selected this place to put down roots (after 15 years of perpetual travelling around the world!) if your assessment were even remotely accurate. Personally I find it INCREDIBLE, that you could put your words to paper in this manner after experiencing just 5 days in Vilcabamba … but that’s just me I guess! Oh, and by the way, the rainy season lasts for about 6 months, and it is generally sunny during the day with late afternoon rains which often clear by dinnertime. It typically rains again throughout the night before we have yet another beautiful day’s sun breaking up morning mists the following day. And also for the record, Vilcabamba never even comes close to the sort of cold you are talking about … perhaps this might be valid if you had hiked up one of the nearby mountains, but not in the valley itself at 1500 metres.

    The main point I want to make … which admittedly it would be difficult for you to glean in your huge five day allotment of time here, is that most of the foreigners who move here are the antithesis of what you describe. They move here, buy their land OUTSIDE Vilcabamba-central, build their sanctuary, and interact with the centre only when they wish to (cultural event, art exhibition, convention, speaker etc … of which there is a considerable amount here). Therefore those cultural interactions you seem keen to champion … happen all the time, with their neighbours and other friends near where they live.

    Just for your knowledge, per capita of foreigners here, Vilcabamba has an EXTRAORDINARY number of very smart, very worldly, well-qualified folks, many of whom are contributing in substantive ways to various eco, community and sustainability projects. These folks made a conscious decision to leave the first world and its wretched excess behind, and probably spend 80 to 90% of their time OUTSIDE the centre of Vilca. I can assure you they have as little wish as you to be associated with the type of boorish gringo you speak of.

    In closing, I just want to point out the error of reaching the sort of conclusions you seem to have, by drawing from such a limited data set, and without proper contextualization or analysis of that data. If you had bothered doing this, I wouldn’t have felt the need to respond, but as it stands, I thought the town of Vilcabamba itself, as well as the many awesome folks who live here, deserved a lot better than the negatively biased slamming you decided to dish out.

    I will leave you with an article I wrote some time back for RetireWorldwide:
    http://www.retireworldwide.com/destinations/ecuador/vilcabamba-ecuador-how-the-residents-of-one-small-but-extraordinary-ecuadorian-town-are-co-creating-a-blueprint-for-better-lives/

    Happy travels Jasmine!

  • Vilcabamba Real Estate Company

    Wow Jasmine … amazing that you can put together such a comprehensively negative summary of Vilca … and after only 5 days! Congratulations.

    Having lived here for 3 years, I’m probably a little more qualified to judge the place objectively however.

    Let’s skim through your article shall we?

    Your depiction of SOME foreigners at the start of the article is, unfortunately, valid. It seems to be a uniquely American trait … this obliviousness to either their volume or their cultural insensitivity. And I’m guessing you “shuddered” rather than “shuttered?”

    You say … “Foreigners come in hoards, buying up land, opening up foreign-catering restaurants, and inflating prices in general”
    I say … I’m guessing you mean “hordes” rather than “hoards.” If you are going to write a travel blog, I’d suggest getting some basics “write” (just kidding, pardon the pun!). Yes, it is a pattern which happens to ANY place over time … I don’t see what is so noteworthy about Vilcabamba over any other place which gets “discovered.” All places of value get discovered eventually, and have their place on the development timeline accordingly. It’s just the way of the world, as you’ll gather with more travelling. If folks genuinely want to live in a place with zero contact with other expats I guess they can go to the native villages you speak of, but that’s obviously not what a lot of folks want. Different strokes for different folks Jasmine!

    And as the proprietor of the only licensed real-estate office in the region I can tell you that for many of the locals here who owned and sold land, it has been akin to winning the geographic lottery. They take the money … move 5kms further out, spend 20% re-establishing themselves on another (much cheaper) piece of land, and then continue doing what they were before (except maybe they get to put their kids through college … or send them overseas for a good job … or whatever). The point is Jasmine, the influx of money you speak of goes primarily to the locals and is then circulated into the local economy. If you had bothered wandering around to speak to the taxi drivers, the store owners, the hardware stores, handymen, materials suppliers etc, you would discover that foreign capital is very much welcomed here. But you were probably too busy “shuttering” and then just decided to slam the foreign influx with yet another trite and negative generalization.

    Next You Say … “Another myth about Vilcabamba is that the climate is beautiful. Of the five long, dreary days I’ve been here, today is the first day that there hasn’t been a torrential downpour… yet. In fact, Vilcabamba’s rainy season lasts eight months out of the year, leaving tracks muddy and bringing temperatures down to freezing. Hardly my idea of perfection.”
    I Say: The temperatures in Vilcabamba have been measured and averaged for years, and the record of perpetual spring-like conditions is accurate … the stats don’t lie Jasmine! And I can assure you, not being a fan of rain and cold myself, that I wouldn’t have selected this place to put down roots (after 15 years of perpetual travelling around the world!) if your assessment were even remotely accurate. Personally I find it INCREDIBLE, that you could put your words to paper in this manner after experiencing just 5 days in Vilcabamba … but that’s just me I guess! Oh, and by the way, the rainy season lasts for about 6 months, and it is generally sunny during the day with late afternoon rains which often clear by dinnertime. It typically rains again throughout the night before we have yet another beautiful day’s sun breaking up morning mists the following day. And also for the record, Vilcabamba never even comes close to the sort of cold you are talking about … perhaps this might be valid if you had hiked up one of the nearby mountains, but not in the valley itself at 1500 metres.

    The main point I want to make … which admittedly it would be difficult for you to glean in your huge five day allotment of time here, is that most of the foreigners who move here are the antithesis of what you describe. They move here, buy their land OUTSIDE Vilcabamba-central, build their sanctuary, and interact with the centre only when they wish to (cultural event, art exhibition, convention, speaker etc … of which there is a considerable amount here). Therefore those cultural interactions you seem keen to champion … happen all the time, with their neighbours and other friends near where they live.

    Just for your knowledge, per capita of foreigners here, Vilcabamba has an EXTRAORDINARY number of very smart, very worldly, well-qualified folks, many of whom are contributing in substantive ways to various eco, community and sustainability projects. These folks made a conscious decision to leave the first world and its wretched excess behind, and probably spend 80 to 90% of their time OUTSIDE the centre of Vilca. I can assure you they have as little wish as you to be associated with the type of boorish gringo you speak of.

    In closing, I just want to point out the error of reaching the sort of conclusions you seem to have, by drawing from such a limited data set, and without proper contextualization or analysis of that data. If you had bothered doing this, I wouldn’t have felt the need to respond, but as it stands, I thought the town of Vilcabamba itself, as well as the many awesome folks who live here, deserved a lot better than the negatively biased slamming you decided to dish out.

    Happy travels Jasmine!

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Let´s skim through your comment, shall we?

    As a 3-year resident and the only licensed real estate agent in Vilcabamba, I would hardly call your observations ´´objective,´´ that is, if we are using the same definition of the word: uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. You obviously have a vested interest in ensuring that Vilcabamba´s pristine reputation isn´t dare challenged, lest a wealthy retiree take their money to another expat destination like Boquete in Panama.

    As a travel blogger, it is my duty to write about a place the way that I, from a SUBJECTIVE view, see the place, the people, the culture, the climate, etc. I´m not a guidebook, I don´t work for the tourism bureau of Ecuador. The majority of travel writers spend little time in a written-about destination. My blog is not called the expat chronicles; it is geared towards backpackers and travelers. If you did even a quick scan of the most popular or even obscure travel blogs, you´ll note this.

    As a backpacker, I did not enjoy Vilcabamba, and so I will share such thoughts, notes, and observations with my readers who I think deserve my honest opinions. That is why people come to my blog, to read about my experiences in a given place and to get information when they´re planning their own route through any of the countries I have visited.

    I also don´t think that seeking out a place with no expats is necessarily right either, as you referred to in your point about the ´´native village´´. The point was that Vilcamba has more foreigners and expats per head, according to my observations, than any other place I have visited in the world. To me, that´s excessive.

    ´´All places of value get discovered eventually, and have their place on the development timeline accordingly. It’s just the way of the world, as you’ll gather with more travelling.´´ I have noticed this trend, as I have been traveling for three years through 24 countries. However, you seem to allude that this type of ´´development´´ is a good thing… maybe like in Cambodia with the child sex tourism and other parts of Southeast Asia rampant with the prostution that has developed as such thanks to tourist influences. But that´s just the ´´way of the world´´ right?

    You also assume that pumping up a small town with foreign money equates to a positive outcome. However, with so much money being thrown around, I´ve seen pueblos that have turned touristy and the ideals and the vibe of the place and the people change because the original values have evolved into more materialistic ones. I´m not saying that has happened to Vilcabamba, but be careful before you assume that foreign investment is always a good thing.

    As far as the rainy season goes, I got the information from http://www.vilcabamba.org/location.html and also http://hubpages.com/hub/Vilcabamba which both state the rainy season lasts from October to May. The note of the climate being freezing, I´m from Florida so if I can see my breath and need 2 jackets, to me that´s freezing. Would it make you more comfortable if I said ¨a refreshing 45 degrees Fahrenheit¨?

    Thanks for the grammatical feedback, I must admit that my English has taken a backseat as I continue to develop my Spanish. Since we´re swapping editing tips, you´re a bit hyphen happy. Not sure why the terms real-estate or peace-of-mind need the hyphens?

    It seems you have little tolerance for those who have a differing opinion than yours. But that´s just the ´´way of the world,´´ which is something you will learn as you continue ´´developing.´´

    PS – I didn´t even edit all the self-promotion rampant through your note, nor in your attached link, which I´m sure you´ll benefit from as even more links point back to your site that contain the word ¨Vilcabamba.¨ Nice SEO strategy.

    Happy expatting!

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Let´s skim through your comment, shall we?

    As a 3-year resident and the only licensed real estate agent in Vilcabamba, I would hardly call your observations ´´objective,´´ that is, if we are using the same definition of the word: uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. You obviously have a vested interest in ensuring that Vilcabamba´s pristine reputation isn´t dare challenged, lest a wealthy retiree take their money to another expat destination like Boquete in Panama.

    As a travel blogger, it is my duty to write about a place the way that I, from a SUBJECTIVE view, see the place, the people, the culture, the climate, etc. I´m not a guidebook, I don´t work for the tourism bureau of Ecuador. The majority of travel writers spend little time in a written-about destination. My blog is not called the expat chronicles; it is geared towards backpackers and travelers. If you did even a quick scan of the most popular or even obscure travel blogs, you´ll note this.

    As a backpacker, I did not enjoy Vilcabamba, and so I will share such thoughts, notes, and observations with my readers who I think deserve my honest opinions. That is why people come to my blog, to read about my experiences in a given place and to get information when they´re planning their own route through any of the countries I have visited.

    I also don´t think that seeking out a place with no expats is necessarily right either, as you referred to in your point about the ´´native village´´. The point was that Vilcamba has more foreigners and expats per head, according to my observations, than any other place I have visited in the world. To me, that´s excessive.

    ´´All places of value get discovered eventually, and have their place on the development timeline accordingly. It’s just the way of the world, as you’ll gather with more travelling.´´ I have noticed this trend, as I have been traveling for three years through 24 countries. However, you seem to allude that this type of ´´development´´ is a good thing… maybe like in Cambodia with the child sex tourism and other parts of Southeast Asia rampant with the prostution that has developed as such thanks to tourist influences. But that´s just the ´´way of the world´´ right?

    You also assume that pumping up a small town with foreign money equates to a positive outcome. However, with so much money being thrown around, I´ve seen pueblos that have turned touristy and the ideals and the vibe of the place and the people change because the original values have evolved into more materialistic ones. I´m not saying that has happened to Vilcabamba, but be careful before you assume that foreign investment is always a good thing.

    As far as the rainy season goes, I got the information from http://www.vilcabamba.org/location.html and also http://hubpages.com/hub/Vilcabamba which both state the rainy season lasts from October to May. The note of the climate being freezing, I´m from Florida so if I can see my breath and need 2 jackets, to me that´s freezing. Would it make you more comfortable if I said ¨a refreshing 45 degrees Fahrenheit¨?

    Thanks for the grammatical feedback, I must admit that my English has taken a backseat as I continue to develop my Spanish. Since we´re swapping editing tips, you´re a bit hyphen happy. Not sure why the terms real-estate or peace-of-mind need the hyphens?

    It seems you have little tolerance for those who have a differing opinion than yours. But that´s just the ´´way of the world,´´ which is something you will learn as you continue ´´developing.´´

    PS – I didn´t even edit all the self-promotion rampant through your note, nor in your attached link, which I´m sure you´ll benefit from as even more links point back to your site that contain the word ¨Vilcabamba.¨ Nice SEO strategy.

    Happy expatting!

  • http://www.wanderingtrader.com WanderingTrader

    I have 20 on jasmine… round two.. DING DING!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    I share your frustration towards expats who maintain their bubble (both linguistic and cultural).

  • The Father

    AND WHAT

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    I thought you might… there are few things that repulse me more than the expat bubble

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Your follow-up response shows me you´ve really gotten your panties in a twist here. And excuse me, you deserve links back? For being self-righteous, I´ve stripped all of your hyperlinks.

    The majority of your follow up argument is based on the weather, which is a lot of time and energy wasted. If you have a reliable source you can provide me based on the weather of Vilcabamba, I´ll gladly adjust the length of its rainy season accordingly.

    I won´t be publishing your reply comment because it´s long, boring, and a waste of my time. So do me a favor and stay off my blog. Thanks.

  • Globetrotter since Birth

    Sounds very much like Mainstream Media censorship in a dictatorship

  • Raulrey18

    I was not feeling great today, but then I read your takedown of Nick and I have a pretty big smile on my face. You are fearsome girl!

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    It´s more like not tolerating abuse on my website.

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    hehe thanks :) I don´t mind people sharing their opinions, but purely aggressive, hostile abuse is really not necessary.

  • http://www.vagabondjourney.com Wade | Vagabondjourney.com

    Right on, Jasmine,

    If someone is looking for run of the mill, “objective,” to the line, reporting on a place, then read the travel section of a newspaper. The hallmark of blogging is that it is a subjective expression of experience at a certain time in a certain place. The interpretation of these experiences may change from time to time as the author learns more in their journey, but the temporal nature of blogging is key: these are not highly edited articles, they are travelogue entries — they are suppose to be real, raw, and honest.

    I appreciate you honesty here.

    Just a note:

    After 6 years of blogging, any commentator who uses points of spelling or grammar as leverage in an unrelated argument against me gets the delete button as a rule: they are missing the plot.

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    You’re right. I still treat my blog like a public diary most of the time, and of course a diary is far from objective.

  • http://www.theinternationalrambler.blogspot.com jeff

    Great post about Vilcabamba and I love the tiff with the real estate guy. It is so funny he mentions objectivity — he’s the town’s real estate guy! I’m still laughing.

    I am now in Cuenca and will probably be in Vilcabamba soon. You have solidified my concerns about the place, but will still want to go to see it. Like a car wreck maybe?

    Anyway, my question is did you actually see any really really old people, locals not N. Americans? I have yet to meet one traveler who has seen some ancient soul around Vilcabamba. But my guess is you won’t find them at a reiki session or yoga class.

    Happy travels

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Hey Jeff,

    We saw a few old people… but not enough to live up to the reputation. I imagine they stay on their own properties with their family and not ambling through the central park. I saw some maybe in their 90s but I’ve also seen people as old as that in other parts of Ecuador.

    Stop by again after you go and let me know what you think :)

  • jeff
  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Excellent article Jeff :)

  • Paul

    the old people in vilcabamba,not lives in the central park, you should visit more places to know the real old people that is around 100 years old…… I´m from Loja city…

  • http://dev.jasminewanders.com Jasmine Stephenson

    Hola Paul, Tienes razon. Pense que seria mas viejitos por todo el pueblo, pero no. Me imagino que es dificil encontrarles si estan en sus casas y en sus fincas o lo que sea.

  • Miin

    Dear Jasmine,

    Hola!  Just my two cents on this issue.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion on Vilcabamba, or anywhere for that matter!  We all have different experiences depending on so many factors, but as travellers (and especially people who blog about our travels!) we have to be very conscious and aware of how we easily make generalisations, especially when we don’t spend very much time in a place.  We should write what we honestly think, which I believe you did- sometimes this gets us in trouble, it certainly has in the past in our case! 

    According to people we spoke to there (and none of them were hanging out in the square drinking beer and hollering) and books/ websites we’ve read, the influx of foreigners did not begin with guidebooks.  It began way back in the early 1960s with a guy called Jonny Lovewisdom and has attracted people since there for a myriad of reasons, a very small one being the easy retiree life and possible triple digit ages. Don’t forget it is Ecuadorians selling their land to foreigners, and inflating the prices- it takes two to tango.

    Note that I’m not a Vilcabamba advocate, there are many problems there and yes, also a lot of oblivious, ignorant baby boomer Americans who see advertisements in international magazines about Vilcabamba and have no idea about the impact of their actions there, but they are the exception.What is true integration?  That is difficult to know, because every place is different and the combination of people definitely affects that.  It’s easy to say “Learn Spanish” but that is not all there is to it.  The other way of looking at it is think about friends you have at home- they are usually from the same socioeconomic class and often have much in common with you in one way or another.  You don’t (well maybe you do!) necessarily go out of your way to “integrate” with homeless people on the street, people who live in trailer parks or those who have a completely different ideology from you (e.g. hippies, religious types, the elderly, the conservative etc).  Just because you are living in a different country doesn’t mean integration is something automatic- sometimes there are more differences than can be solved merely by language.We had a great time in Vilcabamba (10 days) because we Couchsurfed and then stayed with a couple, met lots of different people and got involved in what is going on there.  Of course it helps that we are interested in many of the eco/ sustainability/ health/ spirituality movement that is going on there.  From what we gather, the non integration is due to both foreigners and Ecuadorians who have very different views on life and come from varying cultures.  The Couchsurfer we stayed with spends all his time (he’s American but hasn’t lived there in a long time, and has travelled extensively) working to get Ecuadorians and foreigners to communicate with each other and share ideas on improving Vilcabamba on more equal footing- there are many in the community working to do this.  The people we rented a room from are in their late 20s and have many Ecuadorian friends (one of them is from Lima), although they find it harder to really get involved with the older Ecuadorian generation, but the point is they constantly work at it. I think it is a complicated issue, but a lot of it stems from people wanting different things.  Many (but not all) foreigners in Vilcabamba are often world leaders in many areas (Brian O’Leary- google him- recently passed away there), they are interested in spirituality, higher consciousness, a shift in the world’s paradigms and being less consumerist and materialistic, while Ecuadorians are striving for having big SUVs, plasma TVs, big concrete houses and making money off tourists.  It’s a big crazy gap there!So in conclusion, I think that although you are totally entitled to your opinion, it may not be a well rounded one.  (The weather was perfect the entire time we were there, with a little drizzle in the afternoon on two days, for example).Enjoy your travels!MiinPS None of the Real Estate agencies in town have a good reputation, and certainly not VREC, so it doesn’t surprise me he kept trying to plug his agency and perhaps gloss over things a bit!

    PPS  We found it difficult to really get to know Ecuadorians in comparison to the abundance of Colombian friends that we made (through Couchsurfing and other means), mainly because of cultural differences.  Colombians, as you surely know, are some of the most warm hearted, generous and kind people you could ever meet (in general, again!) whilst we found Ecuadorians more reserved and difficult to engage in deeper conversations (of course there were fine exceptions!).  We happen to think that foreigners living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, had absolutely no excuse to not integrate with their Mexican counterparts because Mexican culture is also very open and warm!

  • Benito

    @Miin It’s funny that you think Ecuadorians want to make money off tourists, did someone actually swindle you into buying something you didn’t want? In any case, I understand that what you wrote was perhaps your experience in Ecuador, but I found it to be incredibly single minded and without any true perspective as to how Ecuadorians really are, specifically your comparison to Colombians who truthfully are wonderful people, but I can’t think of Ecuadorians as reserved people, much less difficult to engage. Maybe in Vilcabamba, where you will hardly find any typical Ecuadorian. That would be like going to Harlem and thinking most people in the US are uneducated, disrespectful and black, or being 10 days in West VA and thinking everyone in the US must be an ignorant hillbilly, who will shoot at you if you seem foreign. Obviously those are two stupid stereotypes that can not define people in a nation. Ecuador may be small, but we have a vast variety of peoples, languages and cultures. 
    It’s also quite ridiculous how you imply “cultural differences” as being an impediment. I don’t believe in cultural differences, if you have an inability to break from the cultural barrier, it’s not the language or where you grew up, it’s a skill you still haven’t developed.

  • http://weareallmadeoflove.wordpress.com Miin

    @Benito

    Thank you for your reply.

    What are you actually saying though? It seems like you are venting and feeling a little insecure about my personal experience in Ecuador. I know it was not enough time, but I did spend a few months travelling through the whole of Ecuador, met many different people and experienced many cultures and languages. I did clearly say there were many exceptions to my generalisation about Ecuadorians being reserved and more difficult to engage- I suppose that is the danger of generalisations, they can be miscontrued and taken personally.

    You are picking and choosing only negative parts of what I said, and have not even tried to make a more balanced analysis of my comment. People EVERYWHERE try to make money off tourists- Ecuadorians are no exception- so don’t take that too personally (it didn’t only happen in Vilcabamba). I also purposely did not mention that Quito was the only place anyone tried to rob us on our entire trip and the only place our van was broken into, but I never held that against Ecuador as a country, just as I do not hold the fact that we were threatened by police in Mexico for money, against Mexico itself.

    You may not believe in cultural differences, which is perfectly your right and opinion, but I find it somewhat judgmental of you to imply that I lack the skills to overcome cultural barriers, especially seeing as I am Chinese Malaysian, an Australian resident, who has been travelling for over 3 years, two of those in the Americas, having lived in Taiwan and travelled to over 30 countries in my lifetime, and I speak several languages.

    You are making assumptions about me based on opinion/ comment I wrote on a blog.

  • Pavito

    cuidado con los de la hosteria ruinas de quinara, y el duenio que pone cosas para dormir las turistras dentro de las bebidas

  • expat1

    I live in Cotacachi and have had a similar experience with the expats here.  They don’t even attempt to integrate and make me embarrassed to be a North American.  Sadly, I have to admit it is difficult to learn Spanish with so many English speakers around!  I’m trying, but it’s quite the journey.

  • tom s

    Nice post, it is about time someone started posting the truth. There in not much that is good in Vilcabamba. The land prices are extremely overpriced, there are no good restaurants, The locals constantly try to overcharge the foreigners. The realtors attempt to inflate their commissions, there are no good home builders. The raining season as is you said very long. It is not inexpensive to live there prices are constantly rising to the point I would consider hyperinflation. The expats are constantly searching for aliens and conspiracy theories.

  • http://www.latinandcaribbeantravel.com Michael Esposito

    I don’t know if this scene would have set me off, but one that did was when I was in the Bahamas and saw pizza strewn all over the floor outside someone’s room in the hallway of the hotel I was staying at. That prompted a soapbox speech from me to the hotel clerk telling her how it bothered me to see people do those things when they visited another country, where they are guests and should carry themselves accordingly. I don’t know what she thought of me or my speech, though.