We believe we have found the key to happiness. It's the brilliant warming orb in the sky called the sun.
That it took us this long to discover that sunshine really is the key to happiness ... well, that's another matter.
You see, we got sidetracked by something else called "life."
Courtesy of Glynna Prentice, InternationalLiving.com
Back in Omaha, Nebraska, where we're from, our adult years were spent slaving away inside. During the winter, the sun would come up after we were already firmly entrenched in our cubicle or office. And it would disappear long before we were finished working for the day.
Weekends were spent doing all those chores you must do when you work every day during the week: cleaning the house, tidying the yard, washing the car, grocery shopping, kids activities, and so on...
And in the summer, all we could do was wistfully stare out the office window and wish we could be out there soaking up some sun love. Weekends ... well, we still had those same commitments to kids and household chores that we had in the winter.
The sun was but a distant acquaintance.
But as we grew a bit older and a bit more financially secure, we began to take vacations to some of the sun-drenched beaches and other retreats we'd always dreamed of visiting. We went diving in Belize and Mexico, to visit the Maya ruins in Guatemala, and to explore Costa Rica and Panama...
Wow, we thought, what might it be like to live in a place like one of these places ... where the daily struggle wasn't about earning enough money to heat the house in the winter or to buy snow tires and anti-freeze for the car ... or heavy-duty winter survival clothes...
Would it actually be possible ... some day ... to live in a place where the sun shines practically every day of the year?
You're darn right it would.
Courtesy of Hugo Ghiara, InternationalLiving.com
And here we are today -- sitting on our terrace sipping fresh-squeezed lime-aid we've made from the limes that grow year-round in our garden and looking up at an incredibly blue sky dotted with two or three puffy white clouds and, of course, that glorious sun.
While our friends and family are digging out from yet another horrific snowstorm, we're strapping on our sandals and preparing to saunter over to one sidewalk café or another where we can enjoy our leisurely lunch under a shady umbrella.
The only survival gear we need is sunscreen, a sun hat, and a good pair of sunglasses.
Yes, we've become far better acquainted with the sun these days. You might say we've fallen in love with it.
Because here's what this constant, benevolent companion does for us:
The climate where we live, in the Andes Mountain of Ecuador, is so perfect ... thanks to a combination of latitude, altitude, and our blessed sun, that we need neither heat nor air conditioning for our home. We pay $2.50 for a tank of gas for cooking and hot water that lasts about six weeks. We pay $18 to $24 per month for our electricity.
Not only do we enjoy 12 hours of precious daylight and 12 hours of soothing night every day of the year, but we have no real seasonal weather swings. Yes, it rains on occasion, but that's why fruits and vegetables are always in season and their abundance makes them so affordable. Just $5 or $10 worth of produce purchased at our local open-air mercado lasts us for an entire week.
Because the weather is so nice, we can be outside all the time -- and we are. The natural Vitamin D we get from our friendly sun is good for us. And instead of digging out the car to go about our daily errands, we walk. As you might imagine, that increased activity is good for us, too. And it makes doing errands a pleasure. We see our neighbors on the street, we stop and chat ... and we laugh and smile a lot.
Here in the Ecuadorian sunshine, we are healthier and happier than ever.
And lest you think that the sun has had the opposite affect and has frozen our hearts, you'd be wrong. We know, of course, that the real key to happiness is love: family and friends.
But as you might imagine, they, too, like to escape the cold, dark winters -- and even the hardships of northern workaday summers -- as often as they can. And where do they come? To us ... in the land of the sun.