I moved to Ecuador because the US was too expensive. I'd love to move back to Montana and be near my grandkids but I can't afford it.

  • Lonita Jensen, a retired nurse, said she moved to Ecuador because of high prices in the US.

  • Jensen said her apartment in Ecuador would cost three times as much in her home state of Montana.

  • Montana is among the western states where high housing costs are pricing out some locals.

This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with 71-year-old Lonita Jensen, a retired nurse who is from Montana but currently living in Ecuador. Business Insider has verified the rental prices. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in Billings, Montana. I was born and raised there. I never left Montana until I was in my thirties. I went to college in Bozeman.

My husband was in construction, and we ended up moving a lot when I was in my thirties. So I've lived in other places, but I keep coming back to Montana. But then the last time I tried to come back, the prices had just gone up so high.

I was a nurse, but I retired to become the nanny for my grandson in Dallas. I did that for three years, and then I couldn't survive down there. It was so expensive. So I checked Montana because my daughter lives there, and that wasn't going to work either because the rents were so high.

My sister had come down to Ecuador and she said, "Well, you can afford to live down here." So that's why I ended up here about four years ago.

I'm in a city called Cuenca at the base of the Andes. My kids all want me to come home to the US. I have six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, and I would love to go back, but they all live in a place that I can't afford — Billings, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Dallas.

It is really sad. I'd like to be by my grandkids and my kids, and it's just not possible.

Ecuador is beautiful and a lot cheaper

I would move back to Billings if I could. It's only 60 miles from Red Lodge, which is one of the entrances up over the Beartooth Highway into Yellowstone.

In Cuenca, I pay $750 for three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a private patio. Something Similar to this in Billings would be about $2,400 a month.

The climate is beautiful in Cuenca. It stays pretty much the same year round and we don't get snow, but I grew up in snow, so it's not like I can't handle it.

People are very nice here. Fresh fruits and fresh vegetables are very cheap here. There's affordable healthcare here.

View of the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, with it's many churches and rooftops, on a cloudy day
Cuenca, Ecuador, is located at the base of the Andes and has attracted a lot of US expats.AlanFalcony/Getty Images

My sister was living here when I moved, so I met people through her. But if she wouldn't have been here, it would've been a whole lot scarier.

There's quite an expat community here and a lot of single women. Maybe they've had a loss of a spouse, which I have had, or they just didn't make as much money in the workforce, so they didn't have the resources to stay in the states because things have gotten so expensive.

There's men here too. Most of them have pretty much the same story. They can't afford to live in the states anymore.

Pretty places are getting too expensive to live

I tell my kids I couldn't come back to Montana or to Colorado or any of those places without going back to work full time. All I have is social security, and I'm almost 72. I can't bend over like I did for surgeries for hours on end like I used to.

The thing I miss most about Montana is the outdoors. The kids are all involved in sports and camping and fishing, and I grew up doing outdoor stuff all the time, camping and going to Yellowstone Park or Emerald Lake.

When I visit Colorado or Montana we always go fishing because I really miss being able to do that. We would catch fish all summer long and freeze them for the winter time, and people were always so friendly and so welcoming.

Ecuador is not home. It's my home for now. Who knows. We're never guaranteed of a tomorrow. My daughter-in-law says, "We're going to bring you home at some point." But I don't want to be a burden to my kids. They have their own kids and then my great granddaughter.

I love Montana. It will always be home. But any place that's pretty now is so expensive you can't live there.

I feel bad for the people that were born and raised in all these different places, even little towns in Montana or in Colorado. They've lived there their whole lives, and now everything has gotten so expensive.

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