Healthy Living on the Coast in Jama

The Story of Expats Shirley and LeRoy

Healthy living was a priority for Shirley and LeRoy when they moved to Ecuador in 2005. These two adventurous, music-making seniors from the United States arrived first in Vilcabamba "with just suit cases and musical instruments; with no regrets." Now they are basking in the good life in Jama on the Ecuador coast. Here's their story in Shirley's own words.

Life in the U. S. Was Getting Too Expensive

In 2004 we were looking at what was happening in the U.S. LeRoy said, "If gas goes to $3.00 a gallon, that's it. We can't afford to live here any longer."

About that time we got a magazine from International Living. For some reason Ecuador stood out.

I looked at a map and said, "That's a long ways down there," but we ordered the book on Ecuador anyway. It came with a special report on Vilcabamba.

LeRoy said, "This sounds too good to be true, but let's go check it out."

"Buy the tickets before you back out!" my brother advised.

The 90-Day Move

We came to Vilcabamba for ten days in February, 2005, and fell in love with it. We went back to our home in Arizona on February 23rd and put our home up for sale without a realtor. It sold in 6 days.

We were back in Vilcabamba in 90 days with just suitcases & our musical instruments; with no regrets. This is not for everyone, but it worked for us.

LeRoy was 77 and I was 67 when we came to Ecuador. It hasn't all been easy. There were many difficult times.

We didn't speak Spanish, but in Vilcabamba there is lots of English spoken, so it's a great place to start. LeRoy built a nice little house there and I landscaped it. It was beautiful. Then LeRoy built a second house for a neighbor.

We loved entertaining friends and making music. We thought Vilcabamba was heaven and thought we would live there the rest of our lives.

Health Problems in Paradise

By then LeRoy was beginning to have some health problems and didn't know what was wrong. In August of '08 he took a little trip to the Ecuador coast with a neighbor, just to get away for a while.

When he returned he was so excited. "I didn't hurt the whole time I was there!" he told me.

I went with him to check the coast out and I could breathe so much better, too. We hadn't realized that we were having problems with the altitude in Vilcabamba.

So at 70 & 80 years old we sold out in Vilcabamba.

It was hard to leave our many wonderful friends. We loved it there. It is truly a wonderful, magical place. We will always be so thankful for that special time we spent there.

We Bought Two Houses, Not One

So we came to Jama, bought a lot at Coco Beach and started all over. Many times we wanted to go back to Vilcabamba. Everything was much easier there.

Here in Jama very little English is spoken. Shopping for building materials is about three hours away and makes it a long, hard day.

But that is fast changing with the new bridge now open at Bahia. A new four-lane highway is going in all along the coast. We are seeing a lot of change already just in the two years we have been here.

Our beach house is almost completed. I'm doing the landscaping now. We rented a big house for a couple months while we were building at the beach and liked it so well, we bought it, too, and remodeled it.

The beach house is our vacation home. It's just 3 miles away, but LeRoy doesn't want to rent it or sell it for now. He likes to go there and just relax. (Ed Note: Their beach house is now for rent. For an update on LeRoy and Shirley, click here.)

This place we live in has about ten acres with lots of coconut trees, mangos, bananas, one papaya, about thirty lime trees. We have over 1000 chocolate trees and 50 papayas started. They'll be ready to plant when the rains start in January.

We really love the people in Jama. Our full-time worker Jose has been with us from day one. He is absolutely great. We can trust him and that is hard to come by here.

We pay him $60 a week, which is good for here. Most make $40 if they are lucky and don't have steady work.

People ask us what we do all day. Well, there aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do, plus the daylight hours are shorter here on the equator.

We Feel No Need to Go Anywhere Else

We've never gone back to the states not even to visit and don't have any plans to go. We have a wonderful, full life here.

We've made new friends.

If our family and friends want to see us, then they can come here. It's a great opportunity.

Some of our family have come to visit us and they loved it and want to come back. We can't think of any place we would rather live.

Heaven is Waiting for You, Too

So if you are looking for heaven, come on down. But you have to be willing to change your lifestyle a little. You won't find a Wal-Mart down the street.

October, 2005 LeRoy, had a bad gall bladder attack and had to have his gall bladder removed. The doctors were wonderful. They brought their families in to visit Leroy, which really lifted his spirits. The cost for his operation was only $800. Try that where you live!

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Every morning we wake up and listen to the birds. I love the motmot (momotus momota), a beautiful bird with a blue crown and long tail.

Our Health Improved Dramatically

We are really enjoying the wonderful coco leche (coconut milk) and papaya smoothies I make every day. I add mangos or bananas or pineapple to LeRoy's. The health benefits are hard to believe.

I have been drinking smoothies twice a day since the first of August and LeRoy since the first of September. We rarely take a nap in the afternoon any more.

LeRoy says he can't even sleep now. We both have so much energy! And he has lost most of that belly. He can get around better and looks good! He turned 83 the 29th of November. He is doing good except his feet are giving him problems, but they are improving.

It's cheap to have a healthy living here. The Sunday market is loaded with wonderful fresh fruit and veggies of all kinds - things we've never seen or heard of before.

LeRoy and I are very happy with our new life in Ecuador. Both of us are glad we made the decision to risk it all and find a new life. We don't regret it at all.

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