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While thumbing through archives, I noted a reply that I posted a year ago on an Expat forum.  Several discussions focused on the problems one encounters when living in third world countries, and one person asked, “With all of the problems, why would anyone want to stay?”

December 24, 2011 – Coactur Bus was almost empty!

Play-it-safe conservatives often don’t understand the psyche of the wanderlust.   They second guess their loved ones, who react with self doubt or guilt.   It’s not everyone’s destiny to stay put;  many of our ancestors had the wanderlust spirit and left loved ones behind.  Entire continents were settled by people who had moved on.   Some say that it’s easier to move on than to be left behind; people mean well, though they sometimes pull us apart when they question our choices.

I have met many people who rejoiced in moving to a destination that felt right for them, but their loved ones implanted that twinge of guilt.   “How can we make them understand?” is a question I am often asked.

“Why would anyone want to stay?”   After pondering the question, I scribbled my reply while traveling by bus and later presented it to the forum.    Gary Phillips – Pro Ecuador Blog shared it with his readers as well.  (Thanks again, Gary!)  Hopefully what follows might help others to understand!

Enjoy!  Z

“Why Would Anyone Want To Stay?”  

When someone presented this question on the forum, my first thought was to refer to Thoreau’s popular quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  There are times when people ask about my choices about where I live, and I smile and reply, “…and not, when it came my time to die, find I had not lived.”

Dear Sister Kate wasn’t sure about asking the policeman for a photo op!

The people who know me can never say that I am not living! A person can stay in the same place for a lifetime where the parameters and boundaries give an
emotional cushion/comfort. The security of a nice support system/network and
structured life is fairly rewarding yet, for me it is so – – – predictable!
I never cared for the materialism that affects so many in our world, and with
relief I am glad that I was in Ecuador and not trying to navigate the streets
‘back home’ on Black Friday!

I have experienced all of the Central American countries, and because of that
travel history, my circle of unique friends continues to grow in all directions!
I cannot imagine not having these people as my friends, and we would never have met had I stayed home!

/Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, USA – A melting pot of friendship!

All countries have their strong points as well as weak ones. I was first nudged
to Ecuador while living in Costa Rica; most everything that I was buying for my
CR home was made in Ecuador.

The many colors of Otavalo Ecuador

Hammocks from Ecuador. Masks from Ecuador. Pottery from Ecuador. I wanted to visit the country that was producing so many incredible products that were for sale in Costa Rica! Ecuador has rarely disappointed me.

“Oops!”  Barb happily divides her time between Oregon, Costa Rica and Panama.

I suspect that most of the extranjeros who are happy in Ecuador would be happy anywhere on the planet. We carry our happiness with us. Life can come from behind and kick our feet out from under us, but we’re going to get up and keep marching forward. When we face our greatest challenges is when we grow most as people.  Moving to new areas forces us to keep growing emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

“Why I Don’t Drive At Night”

There are dangers anywhere. As to why we don’t talk about it is sort of like
when you smile instead of frown when someone asks, ‘Hi, how are you?’
We might be having a bad day, but we smile and answer, “Fine, thanks!” Surely
every town in the world has its own dark moments of history, though positive
people focus on the good things. When one can share a disturbing story that
teaches a lesson and helps us all grow, then yes, it should be told.

Playa San Miguel Costa Rica from the Air – Copyright Lisa Brunetti

I’ve lived part time in a quiet area of Costa Rica since the year 2000, and over the years, theft became a serious concern. People could no longer leave their houses unattended for fear of thieves stripping their homes of valuables.  It saddened me when my sweet little community shrugged off the growing problem with an attitude of apathy.  

So far that’s not happened in the area where I live in Ecuador. It’s pretty sweet and serene, though I believe all of the stories and am aware that things can change in an instant. In time, petty crime might taint my life here in Manabi, but so far I’ve been blessed. We should all stay on the offensive to keep from defending our personal safety or our property or our honor, no matter which country we call home!

Watch television or the view? The television distracts from dining pleasure!

When I am in the states, I am amazed at how many people use television as a drug to disconnect from the day. They turn on the television and stop interacting with one another. I’m not talking about ball games or ‘intelligent’ programs.  It’s the ‘Junk TV’ that bothers me.  Many restaurants in Latin America have televisions as well; boo, boo, BOO!

In Belize and Costa Rica, I have experienced almost-daily reactions to the MSG
used in mom & pop restaurants. (Most chicken bouillon cubes, instant soups,
sauces, seasonings have MSG)…  Many hot sauces contain MSG as well.

MSG, a brain excito-toxin, creeps into the food chain.

 My life in Ecuador is pretty toxic free unless I walk through the door of a fast-food restaurant! (Postscript:  I regret to report that MSG now taints a lot of the food here, especially from bright-yellow chicken bouillon cubes and seasoning/breading mixes.)

One last look at Chimborazo!

One last look at Chimborazo! Photo by Marie Groff – (Thanks, Marie!)

Why would I want to stay? For me, it’s the natural evolution of my life, which
constantly nudges me in new directions. I want to live – not exist! I want to meet new people and experience new cultures and discover foods and healing plants and alternative lifestyles. I love a climate where temperatures never go below freezing! I cherish the option of drinking mineral-rich water straight from a just-cut coconut — when worldwide there’s a sobering fear of what comes out of the taps.

How do you spell juice?  Orange juice, Blackberry (Mora) juice, Passionfruit (Maracuya) juice, Tomate de Arbol juice, Grapefruit juice!  Quinoa is $1.50 a package or less!  Gasoline is $1.50 a gallon for regular! Restaurant prices are creeping higher, to my dismay. Has the increase in tourism triggered that hike?

I like to walk outside at night and see a Carl-Sagan sky or walk through the
jungle/bosque and watch monkeys or suddenly stop in my tracks and identify the source of a subtle fragrance! How many of you have ever experienced the aroma of Palo Santo? Ahhhh, it’s unique and soothes the soul!

Colorful, Healthy and Delicious

Ten years ago my back ached, my hands hurt and my blood pressure was creeping higher. Cutting out toxins like MSG and aspartame plus having access to the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables is probably 80% responsible for no more aches or pains and a blood pressure of 110/70 and a pulse in the 50’s.  

When I paint custom floor designs, I can now crawl around on a floor for hours and hours, and I rarely ache! I feel much younger than I did a dozen years ago. I am 56 but feel 30!

Yes, I miss the people that I love that are still bound to a life that owns them
in the ‘states. (Skype helps bridge that distance.)  Given a choice, I want a life that I own, not one that owns me!  The quality of my life is much greater here on a daily basis.  There’s even a year-round supply of Lima beans for this southern girl!

I can easily tap into nostalgic memories of shelling Lima beans!  

I hope that this epistle helps explain the mystery of the wanderlust!

Why would anyone want to stay?  Why NOT?