view across the valle of vilcabamba ecuador

How Living In Vilcabamba, Ecuador Can Put Years On Your Life

World’s Healthiest Retirement Haven?

In 1973, the village of Vilcabamba, Ecuador was put on the map by an article in National Geographic by Dr. Alexander Leaf from Harvard.

Leaf had traveled to Ecuador to investigate the world’s healthiest and longest-living people. Or so they were believed to be at the time…

Later accounts revealed that the local residents had exaggerated their ages (sometimes by decades). “Very Old People in the Andes Are Found to be Merely Old,” ran a 1978 headline in The New York Times.

The upside of this media coverage is that, over the following decades, more people traveled to see Vilcabamba for themselves. And some, like John Curran below, chose to stick around.

With just over two weeks to go to our 2019 Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference, I wanted to give a shout-out to Vilcabamba. It’s not for everyone… but, for those seeking a truly tranquil and healthy environment, it could be home (even for a few months of the year).

Read John’s account of life in Vilcabamba below…

Live Healthier In Ecuador’s “Valley Of Longevity” 

As a marketing slogan, “Die Healthier” will never replace “The Valley of Longevity” moniker that Vilcabamba acquired when it was identified as a place where people tended to live longer than usual. But, for truth in advertising, “Die Healthier” is closer to reality.

As research has shown, many local residents exaggerated their ages—some had claimed to be over 140 years old. So, Vilcabamba may not help prolong your life, but it does offer you the opportunity to live a healthier one.

Life In Slow Motion Means Less Stress

As an architecture student, I learned on day one that buildings under stress fail at their weakest point. It wasn’t much of a stretch to see that people reacted to stress the same way. Avoiding stress is easy enough in Vilcabamba, because everything here happens in slow motion. Until the last generation, this area was well isolated from the outside world. While a paved road, a reputation, and the internet have made the area a destination, it’s still a peaceful place today.

A Healthier Diet By Default

The year-round growing season here means a constant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Much of the food is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Local tomatoes have only one ingredient—tomato. And, despite what they leave on our back porch, the local chickens are 100% chicken. Most of the plants and animals here are naturally organic.

The absence of fast-food outlets also contributes to a healthier diet—from Vilcabamba, the nearest fast food outlet is the KFC in Loja (a 25-mile mountain drive away).

It may not be the “fountain of youth,” but the valley’s water has just the right mix of minerals—not only does it taste good, it’s healthy, too. While it’s safe to drink tap water in and around town (and many do), a five-gallon jug of local water costs just US$1.75.

Eternal Spring And Crisp, Clean Air

The air here is clean and crisp with most of the weather coming from the Amazon to the east. This area is one of the world’s sweet spots for temperature. While many locations under the equatorial sun are uncomfortably hot, the 5,000-foot elevation keeps temperatures pleasant—usually between 60 and 85 degrees. Practically speaking, there are only three temperatures in Vilcabamba: short sleeve, long sleeve, and sweatshirt.

The air here is clean and crisp with most of the weather coming from the Amazon to the east. This area is one of the world’s sweet spots for temperature. While many locations under the equatorial sun are uncomfortably hot, the 5,000-foot elevation keeps temperatures pleasant—usually between 60 and 85 degrees. Practically speaking, there are only three temperatures in Vilcabamba: short sleeve, long sleeve, and sweatshirt.

Get Juiced In The Rain

Those rains make for countless water molecules crashing into each other in the mountain streams, producing an abundance of ions that negatively charge the air. Those in the know tell me that negatively charged air helps with mood, stress, and breathing.

Or, as a neighbor once said, “It makes me feel juiced!”

Four degrees south of the Equator, Vilcabamba receives approximately 12 hours of sunlight every day. That consistency helps regulate temperatures over the course of a year, so a body doesn’t have to adjust to extremes.

Go Calorie-Burning In The Hills

Speaking of body, the weather and scenery encourages a more active lifestyle. At the very least, you’ll find yourself walking more. At altitude, and because the mountain setting makes for a lot of upping and downing, the physical intensity of any walkabout is increased.

While the area provides a healthy environment making it possible for me to live a healthier lifestyle, there’s something else needed, something only I can provide… the proper attitude. It’s up to me to take advantage of what’s here, and I do—especially when I’m working, machete in hand, on our nearly 2 acres of riverside property.

When people ask why I moved to Vilcabamba, I like to reply, “Because life’s too short to live someplace ugly.” Sometimes I find myself standing… staring… wondering what I did right in my life to live in such a beautiful place.

Disclaimer: Warning! Life in Vilcabamba may lead to increased physical activity, weight loss, and a peaceful, easy feeling. In extreme cases, you may experience a sense of euphoria. Do not live in Vilcabamba if you are a Type-A personality, as long-term exposure to the slower-paced lifestyle may lead to frustration, anger, or even resentment. Side effects include reduced stress from no longer caring what happens in the United States, increased focus on what’s really important, and a heightened ability to enjoy your life. Long term, Vilcabamba may result in a healthier life and even death… from old age. Results may vary.

Ask a local old-timer for more information.

John Curran

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