House Hunters International in Ecuador: Answers to the Questions

(Blogger’s Note: The House Hunters International episode featuring our home buying experience in Ecuador will air this Thursday night at 9:30 Central on HGTV.)

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Setting up living quarters in another country isn’t something you do every day. Dana and I always dreamed about it, but until about 18 months ago never knew if things would come together in such a way that we could actually pull it off. So because written communication is what I do, and is actually the way I process things mentally, we decided from Day 1 to take the unique experience and chronicle much of it on my blog so family and friends could take part, too.

The whole ordeal has made for some interesting conversation, and we get lots of questions almost every day about all sorts of things. People want to know what it was like to do what we did, and what it was like to be on the show.

house hunters international in ecuador

Our “realtor,” Joel Lewis, getting wired for sound in one of the three homes we toured on the show. The mother and daughter in the left background are from Australia, and are the actual residents of this home.

These are some of the questions we’re often asked, and the answers we give:

Q: Is House Hunters International real? I’ve read it’s fake.

A: The short answer is this: It’s television. HHI is a reality show, and in my opinion, an entertaining and educational one. The television medium has lots of restrictions. It’s not easy to convey a couple’s home buying experience on another continent in 22 minutes. So for the sake of television, concessions are made. No one in their right mind flies into a new country, looks at three houses in a day and decides to buy one at the end of the day. Our actual experience in deciding to build a home in Ecuador was a 10-day process, and I would never recommend anyone move as fast as we did because that’s very fast. Still, the producers worked very hard to replicate our experience as best they could, and I think the show will be an accurate reflection of what it’s like to buy a home in Puerto Cayo. It glosses over a lot of the hard stuff, and our experience in building a home and acclimating to a new culture posed some real challenges, but that’s not what the show’s about. Is House Hunters International real? It’s more real than most of the television you probably watch.

Q: What did you enjoy most about being on the show?

A: Dana and I became fans of HHI during a formative time in our marriage. In 2009, the economy and a few bad decisions forced the closure of my publishing business and a career that I loved. For the first time in my life, I was uninspired, very uncertain about the future and pretty depressed. There were many nights when we’d watch the show, and for 30 minutes I’d be rescued from that depression. HHI actually inspired me to dream again, and ultimately took our life, and our marriage, in a direction I never imagined. The day we learned we’d been chosen for the show, it felt like a victory over something that had been a very hard fight. So being on the show was very much a celebration of that victory.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

Q: Have you seen the show yet?

A: No. We will see if for the first time when it airs.

Q: What is life like in Ecuador?

A: That’s a lot like asking what life is like in the United States. It depends on where you live. The coastal region where we built our home is not a tourist or expat destination as you might imagine. Ecuador is a wonderfully diverse country and life can be radically different depending on your locale. The Ecuadorian coast is actually very rural, and has a relatively poor economy. Locals make their living fishing, farming or making crafts. The infrastructure (roads, utilities and other basic services) is in its infancy. We’ve driven lots of gravel roads, and became accustomed to very sporadic electric service. I think many times people believed we were sipping pina coladas by a pool every day, and nothing could be further from the truth. Latin America is not for everyone.

Q: So why would you want a home thousands of miles away in a place like that?

A: Many reasons. First of all, because it is the education of a lifetime. Learning to live a new way, and making friends in a different culture is riskiest, and most educational thing I’ve ever done. Dana and I are never more alive than when we are pushing our comfort zones in Ecuador. Secondly, it gives me an entirely different perspective on my writing, and our lives in general. And finally, even though the economy is still very much emerging and developing, we are going to see unbelievable opportunity on the Ecuadorian coast over the next 15 years. I want to see that, and be part of it.

Q: What do you do when you’re there?

A: Mostly, I write a lot and take a lot of photos. Travel and major changes of environment really inspire my writing. But when we’re there, the culture forces us to slow down a lot, and that’s another reason we enjoy it. We spend a lot of time visiting with local friends, sharing new experiences and we learn something new almost every day.

Q: How did you find a realtor?

A: We didn’t. There are some people who call themselves realtors in Ecuador, but most have no formal training or licensing credentials, and a good number of them are fairly corrupt. Not all, just most. Dana and I conducted our search on our own which made the learning curve even higher.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

Q: Is it safe in Ecuador?

A: In the US, I think we unfortunately stereotype Latin America to be unsafe. I’ve never been fearful in Ecuador, but I also always use a lot of common sense, and am very respectful of the culture. Any international traveler I’ve ever visited with said the media almost always paints a darker picture than that which really exists, and that’s true all over the world. Ecuador is quite safe.

Q: Biggest challenges?

A: (1) Driving in the big cities is madness. Crazy madness. If you don’t have nerves of steel, avoid it. (2) Always remembering that even though I’m a property owner there, I’m still a guest. This very much requires us to forget everything we think we know about right and wrong, take one day at a time, lose our judgmental nature, and laugh a lot. (3) Knowing that when someone in Ecuador says that something conforms to US standards, it will never be true. Only two or three people in Ecuador even know what US standards (especially in construction) mean. That’s partly joke, mostly truth.

Q: Biggest perk?

A: Gas prices regulated by the government at $1.48 per gallon. No contest.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

A: I think anyone who builds a home from the ground up knows what it is to have hindsight. We definitely made some mistakes. But do I regret even the most difficult experiences we had? No way. And I’m eager to see what future adventures are in store.

Q: What advice to you have for other people who are even remotely considering doing what you did?

A: (1) Do a lot of research, but understand that no amount of research can substitute an exploratory trip to wherever you may be considering. (2) It’s very easy to get into a mindset that you could never do something like this. Lose that mindset. Barriers are easier to overcome than you think. (3) If you are close to buying a new house in a foreign country, never, never, never close the deal until you personally witness how the property reacts to a heavy rain. Oh, the humanity.

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Linda Benya “Breathes in Freedom” on House Hunters International

(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories about the experience Dana and I had filming with HGTV’s House Hunters International. The show, depicting our experience of buying a second home in Ecuador, should air in late August or early September. Here’s the link to the first post in the series: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-1bh)

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Linda Benya, (second from right, and on my right) was the director for our upcoming HHI episode. This is a shot of Dana and me with the entire crew.

Linda Benya, (second from right, and on my right) was the director for our upcoming HHI episode. This is a shot of Dana and me with the entire crew.

Linda Benya’s spent her entire career telling stories. And for her, telling stories about others people’s’ adventures around the world keeps life exciting, and fulfills a real artistic talent.

And it doesn’t hurt that she’s always been a big fan of House Hunters International, a show for which she directs more than 20 episodes a year.

“Even as a director, I still approach the show as a fan. I think I’ve always had a real  wander lust for meeting people and going places in other countries and learning just what you can get for your money,” Linda said. “I love going into people’s homes and seeing how they live. And that’s the appeal for everyone who enjoys the show, I think.”

A graduate of New York University Film School, Linda worked both on and off camera early in her career. She worked on Animal Planet’sDogs 101,” “Cats 101,” and “Pets 101,” as well as “Selling New York” and “The Martha Stewart Show.”

She’s produced shows with the likes of Dancing with the Stars’ Tom Bergeron and hosted on camera with Jeff Probst.

house hunters international steve and dana watkins

Breaking for a keepsake photo with Linda during the “packing scene” in our bedroom in Jonesboro.

It was at the conclusion of filming a “Dogs 101” episode that she struck up a conversation with a videographer who mentioned he was flying to Columbia on assignment the next day.

“I asked him what he was up to and he said he was heading out for a shoot with House Hunters International. I told him I loved that show, and he said I’d be great.”

Even so, her career went on and Linda said there was a time when she spent six consecutive months working an “office job” for “Selling New York.” For someone like Linda, six months in an office is a long time.

“After those six months, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ I’ve got to get back out into the field.”

The rest was history, and that moment led her to a steady opportunity with House Hunters.

For Linda, directing House Hunters International is a job that fits her professional talents, creative personality, and her interests in pushing her own comfort zones.

“There are a ton of responsibilities with this. You fly into a country where you’ve never been, meet up with some freelance assistants you’ve probably never met and you don’t know the culture. You hit the ground running and are required to keep an American schedule in a different culture and that almost never works,” she explained. “And it’s your job to be the creative manager in capturing all this reality.

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s never boring.”

I explained to Linda countless times that the venti latte was to be in my dressing room at 7:09 sharp every morning! Honestly, she was such a great sport to allow us to have so much fun.

I explained to Linda countless times that the venti latte was to be in my dressing room at 7:09 sharp every morning! Honestly, she was such a great sport to allow us to have so much fun.

One of the most challenging aspects of filming a show like House Hunters International is that the scenes aren’t filmed consecutively in the sequence that television viewers may see. It’s all about logistics, efficiency and a clock that never stops ticking.

“We’re weaving in and out of a story and really flying by the seat of our pants, but it’s the challenge that makes it fun. I love the challenge that we inevitably have, and I love working with a team.”

Linda uses both her technical and artistic sensibilities in laying the groundwork for capturing hours of video to hand over to producers who create this relatively brief show.

“This doesn’t just happen. There’s a lot of time and work that goes into a 22-minute show. On TV it looks like we just stopped by and captured a moment of your life, and that’s exactly the way we want it to look, but in reality, there’s a ton of work that goes into one of these shows,” Linda said.

Pulling the whole thing off is an art form, she said, and requires huge attention to detail.

“You have to be keenly aware of everything that’s happening around you, and you have to know how to key in on what makes it special.” But she’s also very much a manager of personalities. “You have to sincerely like people, and there has to be a genuine curiosity somewhere inside of you. It helps a lot if you get excited about learning and discovering new things.”

As director for the show, she’s required to be a subtle micro manager of details without getting in the way of the story.

“My job is to make sure we capture moments. We don’t make those moments you see on television. We simply capture those moments, and if we do it well, it’s a really entertaining show.

“I’m the band leader and I set the tone. I always tell myself, never to let anyone see me sweat. It’s about being decisive, firm and never letting anyone see whatever internal struggle you may be dealing with in the moment. Then at the same time you balance all that with letting the story play out. Gut instincts are important, and you have to know when one thing is less important than another. The work in putting a show like this together is a constant struggle and decision-making process about what’s most important, and how can I accomplish all I need to get done within all the challenging parameters that we’re working within.”

In the last year, Linda’s directed more than 20 shows with four days of filming each show. She’s been in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Argentina, Sweden, France, Germany, Malaysia and Mexico.

She said she finds some common characteristics among participants who go on the show.

“Everyone has a different reason for why they set up shop in a different country, but I think more than anything, they all have a sense of adventure. Whether it works out or not, you definitely can’t do something like the people do on the show without having a real sense of adventure and learning.”

Just the same, Linda said House Hunters has a common appeal to those who enjoy watching.

“I think people love the show, because to some extent we all have a voyeurist nature. It appeals to a sense of adventure and education, especially about how people live in other places. It gives you a realistic look into the lives of people who are choosing to live differently, and that appeals to a lot of us.”

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House Hunters International: How We Got On

(Blogger‘s Note: For four days during late March and early April, Dana and I filmed with House Hunters International, for an episode that’s coming up on HGTV in a few weeks. Until then, I’m writing an occasional blog post about the experience. This is the first in the series.)

***

It was December 21 last year. After building a house in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador for nine months (with 100% of the communications via internet) Dana and I got on a plane, beside ourselves with excitement to fly way South, and spend just more than three months in our new far-away, get-away. Truth is, we really didn’t even know if we’d come back.

In my 47 years it’s among the most exciting adventures I’ve taken.

Three days after our Memphis departure, we arrived, just as the workers were putting the finishing touches on our Casa Azul. That’s actually what everyone calls our house, and it’s even our “official” address, as much as addresses exist in Puerto Cayo.

After nine long months, it seemed, in the blink of an eye, we were home owners in Latin America. Crazy stuff for a couple of country kids from Arkansas.

Dana, during a filming break at the Agua Blanca mud bath. This is a scene you'll see on House Hunters.

Dana, during a filming break at the Agua Blanca mud bath. This is a scene you’ll see on House Hunters.

During the next few weeks, we learned about things like cisterns, suicide showers, scorpions, freshly caught langostinos , driving where driving rules don’t exist, and we “unlearned” everything we thought we ever knew, embracing life in a new culture. I hate the cliche’, but it’s true. Our lives have never been, and will never again, be the same.

Puerto Cayo (key port), is a small and beautiful, but remote village on Ecuador’s central Pacific coast. The town has about 4,000 people with maybe 100 “foreign” expats.

Its remote proximity and small size add to the irony that two couples who ultimately became our friends, had previously done their own shows with House Hunters International. When the filming company that produces the show contacted them about anyone else they knew who might be interested, they recommended us, and the lines of communication quickly opened.

A few days later, we found ourselves Skyping several times zones away with a casting director in London, where it really all begins.

The phone call was surreal. There had been days when things (about life in general) weren’t so hopeful. Just a few years earlier we’d invested all we had in our own business – dynamic publishing company – that was born just about the time the economy crashed. I closed its doors in less than a year, and spent a long time wondering what was next. It was during this uncertain time that we became HHI fans and spent many nights dreaming the craziest of dreams despite the circumstances.  It was crazy, irrational and unrealistic that we would dream such dreams. But I’m oh, so glad we did. I’m glad we never gave up on dreaming.

House Hunters International is one of those shows that appeals to both men

Me, getting a much needed and first haircut in Latin America. My barber, Antonio, shows the approval of his handiwork.

Me, getting a much needed and first haircut in Latin America. My barber, Antonio, shows the approval of his handiwork.

and women – especially couples who love adventure and don’t mind stepping out of their comfort zones. And there are many things about buying a house in a far-away country that will NOT feel comfortable.

For 45 minutes on the Skype call we shared our story about all the things that had drawn us to Ecuador … childhood dreams, a crazy sense of shared adventure, and a touch of rebellion, all carefully mixed together with a pinch of mid-life crisis … and I knew the conversation was going well. At the call’s conclusion, casting director Michelle James said she’d like to move the process to the next step, and asked us to produce our own three-minute casting video about us and our lives in Puerto Cayo.

I told her it would be ready in seven days.

I couldn’t believe we were really, seriously talking to the people who could actually make it happen, and that they wanted to continue a conversation with us.

Fortunately, Dana had enough foresight early on to bring a tripod on our trip. Over the next three to four days we filmed in our house, on the beach, shopping in town and any number of places that would help convey life in Puerto Cayo. I was the creative director and logistics guy. Dana was executive producer. Three minutes quickly became seven, and we let the length stand, uploaded it to Vimeo and waited. We thought it would be three to four weeks before we heard a peep from them, if we heard back at all.

Four days later, Michelle responded, said the producers loved it, and invited us to work with them.  I’ll never forget telling Dana we were going to be on the show.

In life’s grand scheme it’s pretty insignificant, but it felt wonderfully redemptive.

And filming the show was … so … much … fun.

(Future stories in the series: A feature story on our director, Linda Benya, who talks about why she loves HHI; another profile on our videographer, Doron Schlair, who’s filmed just about every star you can imagine; a behind-the-scenes look at some things that happened during our filming that you’ll likely never see on TV; HHI: is it real or is it fake, you tell me; and what it’s really like to live in Ecuador.)

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House Hunters International: Our “Tryout” Story

In one form or another, I’ve worked in mass communications my entire life – and 99 percent of that as a print journalist.

Never, I repeat, never, did I have the ambition to work for a single, solitary moment in broadcast journalism, especially television.

At best, I’ve always had a face much better suited to radio.

So there’s a quirky irony that for the next three days Dana and I will work withhouse hunters international a film crew from New York to produce an  upcoming 30-minute episode of House Hunters International set to air on HGTV this fall.

Here’s the short story of how it happened.

On December 21, 2012, we left Jonesboro, AR bound for Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, in search of an adventure we’d remember a lifetime. We were looking to put down some roots here on a part-time basis that would allow us to pursue a different kind of lifestyle several months out of the year. One where, above all things, we could immerse ourselves in a different culture, broaden our horizons a bit, and live out a life on mission in a place where circumstances don’t exactly hand you a dozen roses each and every day.

We’ve been here almost 100 days now.

Steve and Dana WatkinsBut a month or so into our stay, I received an email from a friend whose family was featured on House Hunters International about six months ago. HGTV was looking for new families interested in filming, and was soliciting the help of their alumni.

So she forwarded the information to me, including a casting contact based London and said we should drop her a line if we were interested.

For years, Dana and I had spent time watching the show, living vicariously through the featured couples who pursued crazy dreams in far away places. We didn’t even think twice about giving it a go.

So early that evening I fired off an email to an HHI casting director, told her our situation, background and a few other details, pretty sure I’d never hear another word. Early the next morning my inbox contained a reply that said, “Let’s talk.”

Honestly, that was pretty exciting.

A few days later, we orchestrated a Skype session from our home base in Puerto Cayo to Michelle James in London. We discussed our goals, our interests, our cultural philosophies, etc. Mostly, I’m pretty sure she just wanted to get a good look at us. By the end of the conversation, Michelle said she’d like to move forward with our story, but we’d need to produce our own four-minute “casting video” to give the producers better insight into our personalities.

We told her we’d have it ready in a week.

Did I mention I am a print journalist?

The next day, Dana and I sat down and drafted a rough film script outlining where we’d film ourselves and doing what exactly…

We filmed ourselves from the top of Puerto Cayo’s overlook, where we’d first seen this picturesque fishing village and its beautiful coast. Took shots on the beach riding our moto-scooter. Shopping and relaxing in Puerto Lopez, and several other special locations. Going into the self-made casting video, the producers told us they really wanted us to express our personalities and give them a glimpse of what we are really like.

We’re not shy. So we let it all hang out and went for broke.

Dana downloaded it all to Vimeo and the producers said we’d hear back in a few weeks. I put it all out of mind, and life went on.

Just a few days later I had an inbox email from London.

I’m quite sure they say this to everyone they bring on, but nevertheless, Michelle said the producers loved our story, and they invited us to come on the show.

Dana was cooking breakfast when I looked up from my computer to tell her.

“House Hunters wants us on the show,” I said.

“What?!” … was her reply … and I think the eggs and toast burned at this point.

Dozens of Skype sessions and a plethora of emails later, we have our casting call today and filming begins at sun up tomorrow. Ten to 12 hours a day for the next three days, and a full day of filming back home in Arkansas on April 4.

The show should air in late July or early August.

Fun times.

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Check Out House Hunters International – Tonight!

house hunters international in puerto cayo

Our friends Gary and April Scarborough on House Hunters International tonight!

Just a reminder to anyone who enjoys House Hunter’s International, or who’s dreamed about a beautiful home on the beach – check out tonight’s show featuring Gary and April Scarborough, two friends we made during a visit to Puerto Cayo, Ecuador last May.

The storyline: Natives of Atlanta, the Scarboroughs owned two thriving businesses in 2008 – a home construction company, and an electrical company. When the economy crashed, they did extensive research on “cheap places to live,” and were consistently pointed in the direction of Cuenca, Ecuador.

Gary, April, and their children, Peyton and Carson, packed up their two dogs and 22 suitcases and headed for a new life in Cuenca. When Gary received the opportunity to build a beachside community in Puerto Cayo, on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, they moved once again to the quaint fishing village of Puerto Cayo.

They live there today, and the development of www.laspalmasecuador is experiencing great success as a first-class expatriate community.

Dana and I know the Scarboroughs and count them as friends and partners, as they are now overseeing the construction of a home we are building in Puerto Cayo. We were sold from Day One.

gary april scarborough

The spectacular view from the Scarborough’s home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

Check it out tonight at 9:30 CST on HGTV … and if you have further questions about life at Las Palmas please contact gary@laspalmasecuador.com or april@laspalmasecuador.com.

You can find a story I previously wrote about the Scarborough’s HHI behind-the-scenes experience here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-Lq

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House Hunters International – Behind the Scenes in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

Expatriate living in ecuador

After 15 hours of travel, Dana and I reached our destination of Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, where we met Gary and April Scarborough. The moment we saw it, we knew it was a special place.

(Blogger’s Note: Dana and I met Gary and April Scarborough during a whimsical trip to Puerto Cayo, Ecuador earlier this year. We took on both a friendly and business relationship when Gary agreed to manage the construction of a home we’re building there now. In less than three weeks, the Scarboroughs will make headlines as their own expatriate adventure is featured on House Hunters International, Tuesday, October 23 at 10:30 p.m. EST. This is a behind-the-scenes look at their HHI experience, and the official link to the upcoming episode can be previewed here.)

Puerto Cayo Ecuador

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When an outfit like House Hunters International rolls into a small Ecuadorian fishing village, well, it’s safe enough to say it causes heads to turn.

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Over the last five years, the Scarborough family has made some critical life decisions, that in retrospect, couldn’t have been timed any better.

las palmas puerto cayo ecuador

Gary and April Scarborough will be featured on House Hunters International on October 23 at 10:30 p.m. EST.

Natives of suburban Atlanta, the Scarboroughs ran a thriving construction business that allowed Gary to pursue a special talent for home construction and design. But some time around 2008 the warning signs of a failing U.S. economy caused them to think through the potential ramifications on their business and how to make the most of their present and future circumstances.

“The possibilities and adventures of pursuing an expatriate lifestyle were something we’d always thought about,” Gary told me back in April. “We were fortunate to cash out everything we had just ahead of the recession. Just like anyone who seriously considers a move outside the states, we were anxious about the future, but excited about the possibilities of moving to a beautiful country that we thought had so much potential.”

Just a few months later, the Scarboroughs made the bold move to Cuenca, Ecuador and began exploring opportunities where Gary could practice his craft on foreign soil.

“As excited as we were, I remember the reality of packing our things up just before the move. We’re really going to do this, I thought, and it was a bag of mixed emotions.”

The Scarboroughs spent two years in the cosmopolitan city of Cuenca, located in the southern inland highlands of Ecuador. Cuenca had all the amenities allowing for a comfortable life – modern shops and malls, movie theaters, a solid communication and transportation infrastructure, not to mention, a delightful climate.

But Gary and April eventually found they made little use of the same comforts they were afforded back in Atlanta, and had a desire to become even more immersed in the lifestyle of the local culture.

“We almost never took advantage of the movie theaters, and there were just so many things we didn’t do,” April said. And so they began a new exploration that would lead them to the Ecuadorian Pacific coast and its miles of quaint fishing villages and uninhabited beach.

Las palmas ecuador

The facade of the Scarborough’s beachside home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador featured on an upcoming episode of House Hunters International.

After weeks of exploring the southern and northern coast, they came upon Puerto Cayo, a village of about 3,000, where new roads, utilities and other improvements were just under way, and Gary immediately recognized a unique opportunity to use his gifts to create something special.

Fast Forward Two Years

The Scarboroughs have now become Puerto Cayo’s most prominent expatriate pioneers. For all practical purposes, they’ve discovered the New West – a beautiful and tranquil coastal locale that others are also now beginning to find.

Las Palmas in Ecuador

After two years of work to modernize and refurbish Los Suenos Del Mar, Puerto Cayo’s most beautiful resort hotel, the Scarboroughs have now moved on to the expatriate living puerto cayo ecuadordevelopment of a new coastal community called Las Palmas – a 38-lot beachside community on one of the most pristine sites of the South Pacific. Las Palmas is just a short trip from the famed Galapagos Islands.

On an almost-daily basis, Gary and April now work with clients from around the globe who are pursuing the very same dreams they envisioned five years ago.

House Hunters Comes Knocking

In January of this year, with a new project that consumed nearly every minute of every day, Gary got a surprise email from the producers of one of HGTV’s most popular feature shows.

The Scarborough’s work somehow popped on the radar screen of House Hunters International, and producers inquired as to the Scarborough’s interest in sharing their expatriate adventure with a world audience.

las palmas ecuador

A spectacular view of the coastal Ecuadorian cliffs from the bedroom balcony of the Scarborough’s home.

“At first we were excited and ready for the adventure of making a TV show.  But
then we became a little anxious. It was just stage fright, I guess. We always enjoy being around other people and getting to know new friends, and that’s a very big part of our business, but this was taking things to a whole new level,” Gary said.

“We actually thought about not accepting the offer. After a few days of watching as many HHI episodes as we could get our hands on we finally decided it would be a fun experience and that we would have something to talk about for years to come. After completing all of the forms and paperwork, we went through about three different interviews and evaluations. By the end of April , we knew June 1st would be our beginning film date.”

Back and forth from Puerto Cayo to Cuenca, the HHI filming totaled three days, each day packed with dozens of tapings and location setups. It didn’t come without its challenges.

“As anyone who’s been there knows, coastal Ecuador is a unique place with a unique culture. Our director was a little overwhelmed by the difficulties that Ecuador can throw at you.ecuador on equator

“We were all mic-ed up by 8:30 each morning, and we filmed four hours straight. Each entrance into a new room was shot multiple times to ensure the editors
had plenty to work with.  After a one-hour lunch we were back filming until 6:30
each day.

“Living in a small town like Puerto Cayo, we stood out quite a bit. Being followed around by a camera crew, being filmed eating lunch and dinner, we felt like celebrities – tired celebrities to say the least.”

Gary,  April, and their children, Peyton and Carson, said they were fascinated by the process of being involved in a hit television show, and learned a lot about acting and taking directions from producers and camera crews.After filming the details of their beach-side home purchase in Puerto Cayo, family and crew headed south to “back shoot” the beginning of the story in Cuenca.

“In Cuenca, we shot a one-day reel of our ” back-story” where we lived before moving to Puerto Cayo, and some of the things we enjoyed doing when we lived there.  We went to the central park, visited the flower market and did some shopping. The final shoot was an evening at the home of a wonderful family we befriended in Cuenca. We are so blessed to have the Salazar family as dear friends. We enjoyed  coffee and desserts while laughing and playing games. This truly was one of the highlights of the entire filming.”

The Scarboroughs said they don’t regret one minute of the time they took out of their schedules to work with HHI. It’s a memory they’ll treasure always, they said.

Carson (left) and Peyton Scarborough

“We hope this shows the beauty of Puerto Cayo to as many people as possible,” Gary said. “It truly is one of the most beautiful, undiscovered places in the world. We also hope everyone who watches this episode, and has ever had the most remote of thoughts to explore an expatriate lifestyle in the natural beauty of Latin America will consider the Ecuadorian coast. It’s a wonderful community that keeps getting better and better with time.”

(For more information about Puerto Cayo, Ecuador and the Las Palmas community, or to be in touch with the Scarborough family, visit this link for contact information.)

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