COASTAL, ON-LINE ISSUE 01
By: JP Stonestreet
We were living the dream. We owned a nice house in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. We drove nice cars. We had a nice, conventional life. But then everything changed.
One afternoon, while walking Daisy (one of our dogs) around the neighborhood, I found it increasingly difficult to lift my feet. My legs felt heavier and heavier with each step. I had noticed some strange nerve sensations over the previous few months, but never weakness like this.
Struggling to walk, I finally made it home and called Amelia, then my doctor. An hour later, I was in the doctor's office getting my blood drawn. They ran a battery of tests to see if I had ALS or some other terrifying neurological disease. My life flashed before my eyes. Luckily, those tests came back negative.
The next step was an MRI, which revealed a shattered disc in my neck that had nearly pinched off my spinal cord, plus 3 pancaked discs in my lower back. Soon after, I was in emergency surgery to replace the disc in my neck, and four months later I was in surgery again for a 5-level lumbar fusion. My spine was literally falling apart at age 43. My life would never be the same.
Those two surgeries cost nearly one million dollars. My insurance covered most of it, right before they dropped me, but my new insurance was going to cost $1,200/month. After being out of work for almost a year while I relearned how to walk and manage the pain, I found that was simply unaffordable. We didn’t know what to do.
The whole experience made us take stock of our lives. We asked ourselves if any of it really mattered. The house? The cars? The stuff? The dream? We were given the gift of more life just when we thought it was about to end, and we didn't want to waste it.
That's when we made the decision to sell everything we owned, move to South America with our two dogs, and live our unconventional life in Cuenca, Ecuador. We chose Ecuador for a variety of reasons, one being the excellent, affordable healthcare, which is something I have to think about for the rest of my life.
After we had been living in Cuenca for a year, we decided to start sharing our story and our lives on YouTube, hoping to encourage other people to take a risk; to live a different, more meaningful and unconventional life.
In February 2020, we moved to the coast of Ecuador and now live in the small rural community of Olón. We wanted to live at a lower altitude and closer to the beach. We still miss Cuenca, but we’re enjoying our new adventure living just a few blocks from the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Since we first pressed record on our camera, we've posted over 200 videos sharing nearly every aspect of our expat lives here in Ecuador. From trips to the mercado to an interview with a health insurance agent to our cost of living to a procedure performed on Amelia by our favorite dentist, if you want to know something about Ecuador, we've probably covered it, or we will soon.
We post our expat videos each week on our YouTube channel, "Amelia and JP." We’ve been told our videos are informational, but many of our subscribers say they watch just to smile and laugh along with us. We sincerely hope our “joie de vivre” is contagious!
Amelia and I are so fortunate and thankful to be living our unconventional life here in Ecuador. We hope you'll join us on YouTube for our incredible adventure!