Why I don’t regret leaving Canada

There was a recent article in CuencaHighLife about why Expats go home. Many try to avoid that I told you so from friends and family by making up a cover story. It’s a sick parent that needs care. My kids need my support. I need surgery and would feel more comfortable having it at home. Many simply admit that they miss some of the things back home, like Christmas with family or being able to shop at Wal-Mart.

This got me thinking about my own decision to move to Ecuador and, most recently, the thought of being forced to return to Canada if I couldn’t get my residency here, on which I came close. What would I be returning to? Basically I would have been homeless in Toronto, a city I loathe. My pensions would not have been enough to live on pretty well anywhere in Canada. I would have my meds paid for which helps, but, as my dear friend put it, I would basically be “molding”, waiting to die. Not much of a life.

As with any major life-changing decision, there were many, many factors involved. Someone said to me that you need to consider why you are moving to somewhere and not why you are moving from somewhere. That’s easier said than done. I knew that I was far from happy living in London, Ontario and had to make some kind of move. It boiled down to leaving the country or moving back out West where I had spent fourteen of the best years of my life.

The problems with moving back out to the Okanagan were numerous. First and foremost, it’s very expensive to live in the Okanagan. It’s become the lifestyles of the rich and famous to live there and my pensions would mean I could barely afford rent. At sixty-five there’s little chance that I would find any kind of employment and for the life of me I couldn’t think of any business idea that would make me some extra money. The other issue was lifestyle. My wonderful years in the valley were spent with numerous friends and loads of activities, pretty well none of which I would be able to do now, both from a financial standpoint and my deteriorating health. My life was full of physical activity, like skiing, roller-blading, dirt-biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, playing racquetball, hiking, biking and dancing two or three nights a week at the Corral. When I first left the Okanagan to go to Panama I sold everything I had. I no longer had any of my “toys” like my snowmobile, my dirt-bike, my boat, my truck or anything like my water skis, my cross-country equipment or my downhill skis. I would be starting over with nothing and my health would mean I couldn’t do pretty well anything anyway, so moving back out West was ruled out.

Another huge factor about moving out West was that my parents were now both gone. I originally had moved out West back in 1993 to be with my mother who had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and was only given a five percent chance of living another six months. She defied all odds and lived until 2007 so I got to spend a lot of great times with her. Although my relationship with my Dad was rocky at times, we still had great times dirt biking around Kelowna and in Revelstoke. They lived on the lake in Westbank so we had a lot of great times at their place. After Mum was in a home I had sold their place, so that was gone now. My sister had pulled my mother out of the care facility I had worked so hard to get her in and that was a total disaster. I blame her for basically ending my mother’s life, for which I cannot forgive her. My brother was useless from the start and couldn’t even care for Mum for one day to give me a much needed break. It boiled down to not having any family out West.

As for my own family, when I came back from Panama to Toronto in 2009 I hoped I would be able to reconnect with my kids and meet my five grandkids as well. Despite my best efforts I had not seen or even spoken to my daughter since moving West in 1993. My brief connection with my son when he found himself in trouble with the law about his work ended just as quickly. We had reconnected briefly when his job brought him to London but that ended badly as well and we haven’t spoken since. Despite my horrible situation with my kids I am a strong believer in family and hoped that we could put things back together, but my dear friend again said I could sit around waiting for them until I died. If I moved to Ecuador and somehow magically they wanted to reconnect there’s always Skype and I could return to Canada for Christmas maybe. It sounded like a much better alternative.

Of course living in Canada means dealing with winter. When I was out West I loved the winter because I cross-country skied two or three times a week. I ran the hiking club even in the winter. I snowmobiled around Kelowna and mostly in Revelstoke with my brother-in-law and we had a ball. I downhill skied at Big White and Silver Star as often as I could afford. I even got to skate on the lake one year when Green Bay froze. Once I moved to London, Ontario the winter was just cold and miserable. I froze waiting for the buses. Driving was horrible. I never did a thing in the five years I was in London and it was just plain cold. Nothing was good in the winter. I knew I wouldn’t miss it a bit.

Since arriving in London I had worked all day, every day, trying to find a job and I had applied for over a thousand jobs and never got one interview. The only job I got was at a call centre, Stream Global, the worst company I had ever worked for in my entire life. I was making the grand sum of eleven dollars an hour, thirty percent of which went to my landlord because I was in a geared to income building. Revenue Canada also came after me and got a garnishee for another thirty percent of my income, so I was left with pretty well nothing to live on. As I approached sixty-five I accepted that I was never going to find a job anywhere. I had been accepted into a self-employment program but that was running out in December so I would only have my pensions to live on. I was also looking at London Housing and ODSP coming after me for undeclared income which would only make things worse. I had declared bankruptcy and had just finished the two years paying for it and didn’t want to go through that again. I knew that they couldn’t touch me in Ecuador.

So, I get it. If I had a great relationship with my kids and grandkids naturally I would miss them terribly and this might well make me want to return to Canada to be with them, but this isn’t the case, much as I wish it were. Christmas? I’ve spent the last five years alone with no real Christmas. Friends? Despite my best efforts I was never able to make a single friend in London. It’s a cold town. Winter? Nothing to miss there. I much prefer year round spring here in Ecuador.

Finally, is life in Ecuador perfect? No. Things are a lot different here. The language barrier is huge and I need to improve my Spanish. The pace of life is a lot slower and getting things done can be frustrating. There’s a ton of things I miss, like being able to buy my much loved President’s Choice products or treating myself to Wendy’s. I can’t get things shipped overnight like I so often did in Canada. I can’t go to see a movie in 3D. It’s hard to find products you are used to, but you make do. The most important difference is that life here is a lot more affordable and less stressful, so it’s all well worth it.

So, I have no regrets about the decision to move to Ecuador. Not a one.