Last fall I fell upon the capital city of Ecuador.
Quito is a rather large city nestled rather high (altitude 2800 meters) in the Andes mountains. If you look at most of the airline flights in and out of Ecuador, there seem to be really only two cities: Guayaquil and Quito. The Quito area boasts upwards of 3 million people.
Quito is the center of political and business life in the entire country. So, if Quito has the beef of Ecuador, why don’t I know of any internet entrepreneurs / digital nomads who have set up shop there?
I mean, I hear a lot about places like Medellin or Buenos Aires or the Yucatan peninsula to baseline your expenses and make things happen…
But I hear nothing about Quito.
Really, I hear nothing from Ecuador in general, but you would expect Quito to be a target for aspiring digital nomads, right? After all, Ecuador boasts some of the lowest prices in South America for living… why wouldn’t an internet entrepreneur (i.e. a guy with a laptop) want to build his business from a location where he can minimize his expenses and give himself the time he needs to develop his business?
So, are Quito and Ecuador only for travelers?
I have read a number of travel blogs that talk about Ecuador. They talk about seeing the sites and going on the various touristic adventures of the country, including the Galapagos Islands. And there are various stories on the interwebs about things to do in Quito, like going to the equator monument at Mitad del Mundo, seeing the historic downtown, or riding the cable car to overlook the city.
But nothing from folks who decided to live in Quito.
As far I can tell, here are some reasons why Ecuador, and Quito specifically, might be repelling the digital nomads.
1. The crime
This is the most blatantly obvious problem in Quito. I was so bothered by it, I was inspired to write two posts about travel safety after surviving there. I would definitely say I did not feel safe walking the streets when the sun went down.
And 100%– yes 100%– of the people I know who have traveled to Quito have either 1) been robbed, 2) seen a robbery, or 3) had someone they know get robbed.
When I was there, not one but two friends were robbed. In the span of a week.
There’s simply no way an internet entrepreneur who is carrying his electronics wherever he goes would be confident of his safety in a place like that. If I was taking a Macbook Air through a place with so much crime, I might not even take it out of my bag, and I sure as hell wouldn’t stay long.
2. The weather and geography
Quito boasts clean, crisp mountain air and moderate temperatures during the day, but at night it can get really chilly. As is the custom for cities in South America, there is usually no air conditioning in rooms… so you are left to bundle up as much as possible.
I found myself donning winter garb just to go to sleep at night: wool socks, sweat pants, a fleece, plus all the blankets and covers I could muster.
Is this really desirable? I mean, I could survive there, but it was definitely uncomfortably chilly at night after stepping out of the shower, with no respite of heat waiting.
If I didn’t have a hot shower, I don’t know how I would have survived. (This was before my cold shower experiment, which by the way took place in a much warmer climate.)
Also, Quito is landlocked. There’s no beach or major body of water nearby, and it feels like one never-ending downtown, sort of like Bogotá, another city I’m not the biggest fan of.
The nearest beach is a 6 or 7 hour bus ride to the east coast, and bus rides in Ecuador are not all that great. Also, there’s no snow on the nearby mountains, so even though it’s cold, there’s no opportunity for snow-related sports like skiing or snowboarding.
So, you’re not giving a guy a lot of reason to chill out in Quito in his down time.
3. The girls
As one of my buddies wrote, if you find a hot Ecuadorian girl, you’d better hang on to her.
The truth is that if you come to Ecuador after being in Colombia, you may suffer from a certain debilitating syndrome, and you might find yourself not interested in dating at all.
I mean, it’s really not Ecuador’s fault that their neighbor to the north has such beauties.
But let’s be honest, the girl factor is huge for young people who are full of energy and looking to expand their dating possibilities.
The fact that Colombian girls are so beautiful acts as a magnet for any guy with mobility. So it’s not surprising when they leave Ecuador and head north.
4. Lack of good service
I tried to articulate this in my post about being continuously jipped in Ecuador.
Basically, the feeling I got in Ecuador after being there for 2 months was that customer service was just not a well-handled area of many businesses.
Misunderstandings and sudden extra charges were the norm rather than the exception. There were the classic Latin America delays in services. The internet connections would go out more frequently than any Westerner would be use to.
All of these point to an environment that might get on your nerves. For example, if the hot water stops working one more time, or the internet goes out again, or you are unexpectedly charged extra money for the umpteenth time, it can start to get on your nerves.
In my opinion, Ecuador is simply not helping itself in this area. (With the exception of certain places like the delectable Tiesto’s restaurant in Cuenca.)
By their very nature, internet entrepreneurs are a choosy bunch. For the reasons above, they have been looking elsewhere to set up shop.
And, until these factors change, I don’t think you can count on Quito becoming a hotspot for the young and the mobile.
By the way, I’m open to be proven wrong on this. Anyone who has set up shop in Quito for more than 2 or 3 months and intends to return, holler at me.