Expat Community

A Taste of Expat Community Living

Earlier this year, Troy and I were looking for our next “home-base” after living in Colombia for four months. We had several video and marketing projects to complete. We again explored pet and house sitting as a way to slow down, stay in one place to enjoy an area, and complete our projects. We looked for a pet-sitting job somewhere in South America and found a listing on Housecarers for neighboring Ecuador, in a gated ex-pat community in Manabí province on the Pacific coast. This opportunity was perfect, not only in a country that we wanted to explore more, but it was an opportunity for us to try something new – to get a taste for Expat Community living for the first time.

This opportunity was perfect, not only in a country that we wanted to explore more, but it was an opportunity for us to try something new – to get a taste for Expat Community living for the first time.

Expat Community

Entrance to Mirador San Jose Community

What is an Expat?  

The full word for this is an expatriate, someone living in a different country from where they were born or raised. There are many reasons why someone may choose to leave their home country, in the case of people born in western countries, it may be to live in a warmer climate, enjoy a more inexpensive standard of living, simpler living, a work situation or falling in love with person or place.  Often there are developments created to attract foreigners looking for a western style lifestyle, yet living in a different country. We don’t currently classify ourselves as expats because we are currently location independent living but this pet sitting gig allowed us to try a different version of foreign life.

Expat Community

Some of the multiplex homes looking onto the beach (from behind)

This Expat community where we stayed was called Mirador San Jose, is an up and coming development, between Puerto López, a fishing village we visited three years ago, and the larger fishing port of Manta. It is a 130-acre Canadian development; mostly composed of Canadians residents, and also Ecuadorians and Americans who have bought one of the 1,300 purchased lots from the 1,700 available. Although at that time only a few hundred homes were completed.

Our lodging and petsitting duties at this Expat Community

We stayed there from May 5th to July 25th, when many of the residents had gone back to Canada for the summer. Often we would take the dog for a walk, not seeing any homeowners, only the local workers that were building houses. We did get to know a smaller group of full-time residents.

Our housesitting home (owned by our new friends Bill and Elaine) was a lovely two-bedroom house with rooftop deck. The community has a pool built for the complex of homes around it, a full-size soccer field, and running track. The long, semi-private stretch of San Jose beach was just a kilometer away from the house, perfect for long beach walks with our temporary pooch, Tag. This kind of amenities was heavenly, especially in keeping up with our workout routine for the three months we lived here.

Expat community

Our cozy petsitting home for 3 months

Expat Community

Taking Tag for one of his daily walks on the beach

We had no idea what to expect from living in an Expat community like this, but we did acknowledge a few takeaways. 

Our Observations of Expat Community Living

1. It’s not just for retirees

Building a home in a neighborhood like this isn’t just for retired people. In fact, we met several singles and couples our age, who bought homes here, some as an investment to live part-time, or flip as an investment property, or to live here full-time.  This mix of owners brought a diversity of age and backgrounds. Internet was pretty good, once it becomes more consistent in the area, which is why we were wondering how come there couldn’t be more digital nomads living here.

2. Expat community living is an excellent segue to moving to a foreign country

If you read any of our work, we often write about the importance of a community that can support you, encourage you and, in this case, make it easier to transition into life in a foreign country where virtually everything is different. Neighbors help one another with car rides to the city. A community Facebook group assists the group with information, such as where to buy various products, how much you should be charged for a cab ride, and who is the best lawyer to use to prepare residency papers. Some neighbors help one another with Spanish translation, while others organize meet-up lunches. It’s an open community to help one another with information and tips.

Expat community

Booby’s Beach Bar and Grill – A popular restaurant and bar 15 minutes away where a lot of the residence of Mirador San Jose like to hang out (named after the Blue-footed booby birds found in the national park)

 3. It is a courageous step into the unknown

Everyone that lives at Mirador San Jose has an interesting story of how they made the decision to move away from the comforts of home and to live in a different cultural experience in another part of the world. Many took the decision to move and set up their homes here with only a brief visit to the area. In some cases, some have not visited the place at all but bought their property in advance! We were so surprised by the comments we received about our location-independent lifestyle. Many felt it was a big step, but we felt they were more courageous to invest their money where laws are different, language is a barrier, and insurance risks are completely not the same.

The people are committed to the future potential of the community. No doubt this move was a positive life change for them, just like ours was for us. Who wouldn’t want to live on the coast with average temperatures of 25°C each day?

 4. Owners become entrepreneurs, serving the community

At first glance, Mirador San Jose is just a big development of homes, with a small convenience store and a restaurant. Many of the owners, however, have invested their time and money to serve the community. The location of the community is rather remote, and it does take some time to get anywhere by local bus or car. New additions include a gym, a pizzeria, scooter and motorbike rentals, grocery store, gelato, dessert and a coffee cafés.

Another in the pipeline is a managing the processes of Ecuador agency. Some of the longer-term residents have become so good at understanding the Ecuadorian processes that they have created businesses to assist others in applying residence cards and driver’s licenses.

Expat Community

Future multi-business complex – A gym, art gallery, and property development office are some of the future tenants

Expat Community

Future café in the community

 5. You can live affordably

Living in Ecuador is a fraction of what it costs to live in North America. It’s hard not to consider buying a lot for roughly $30,000 USD and building for only $65-95 USD per square foot. A comfortable, spacious home can be built for $100-150,000 USD and steps away from the ocean.

The cost of living is very affordable as well with an average price of $1.50 for local bus transport, and $1.00 for an 18L of refillable water. Numbeo, a valuable cost of living online resource, shows more cost of living pricing for this area of  Ecuador.

Expat Community

Some of the completed homes or homes in progress

 6. At times, living can get too comfortable

With the addition of amenities each day, for some it would be easy  just to stay in the community and not venture out to the towns and villages in the vicinity.  Spanish is the native language spoken in Ecuador, but in Mirador San Jose, it is French and English. Since the developer is French Canadian, most of the marketing is done in Quebec.  To us, the adventure of moving to another country is the exploration of a new culture and language, so venturing out on the local bus, visiting Puerto Cayo, Puerto López and Manta, were some of our favorite things to do and just 45-60 minutes away by bus. Many of the owners here take advantage of that. At times, you will be hard pressed to hear any Spanish at all, except visits from the coconut water vendor and the fruit and vegetable truck  who visit the property each week.  From our experience, learning Spanish by immersion is the best way to learn it, and to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes a lovely Ecuadorian couple in the complex invite neighbors for Spanish immersion evenings or there are also Spanish teachers who visit the area to teach students. There are some good avenues to learn the native tongue.

Expat community

Fruit and vegetable truck that comes every Friday


Is Expat Community Living for Us?

Maybe. We are still enjoying our location-independence lifestyle, not having the responsibilities of owning a home, or ‘settling down’ to one particular place. We do like the idea of living in a community one day and totally immersing ourselves more in local areas instead of Expat neighborhoods  to better learn the culture and to get much better at  Spanish, but we never know where our plans will take us.

To learn more about the Expat Community of Mirador San Jose, you can find it here.

What is there to do in this area of Ecuador? Check out our post about Whale Watching and visiting the Blue-Footed Booby.

Thanks to Kelley, one of the homeowners here for the updated photos of the community activity. 

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 Expat Community




About the Author Dorene

Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com

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