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Eight months living in Ecuador

Photo provided Karla Berger eats at one of her favorite restaurants in Ecuador, where a meal of soup, chicken, rice, salad and juice costs $1.25.

Karla Berger said she was always very adventurous, dreamed of being a missionary as a child and took a lot of road trips. But she only had her first plane ride about five or six years ago.

Within the last year, though, the Wadena family has moved to Cuenca, Ecuador, and back.

Karla Berger is an independent distributor with Young Living Essential Oils. Her husband, Dave Berger, recently retired and now does more help with Young Living. Karla said they first got the idea through the company's 2,000-acre farm there. They took an exploratory trip a year before moving.

Even though the company did not need help at the farm at the time, they decided to move to Ecuador anyway and got in touch with friends who lived four hours away in Cuenca.

With Karla able to conduct business through the internet and by phone, they were not tied to a traditional job when they decided to up and move to the Southern Hemisphere. The youngest six of their eight daughters and sons went with them: Lydia (22), Daniel (17), Josiah (15), Isaac (13), Esther (11) and Gabriel (9). They lived there from November 2010 to the end of June 2011.

"Any time I did a meeting where the people did not speak English, I hired an interpreter, who was a friend of ours that did very well with both languages," she said. "And then we also had a meeting for gringos down there, or North Americans who live in that city - there's a lot of North Americans there."

They learned enough Spanish to get by and lived at an elevation of about 8,500 feet, with temperatures around 70 degrees.

"I loved it down there. I have a lot of really, really good friends down there now," David said.

They said the lifestyle is generally healthier. They walked everywhere or occasionally took taxis - they didn't have a car - and bought food at the market.

"They're not everybody living in a shack or a tent or anything," David said. "They have a lot of really nice houses, and they have supermarkets ... two or three malls. And then they do have the American entrapments."

Karla said that fumes from the buses affect the air quality, but it is generally a healthy lifestyle.

"We noticed other North Americans who were living down there, they were losing weight, they were getting healthy," she said, adding that while soft drinks and fast food are getting more popular in Cuenca, they are not a tempting novelty for people who are already used to them.

"You can go and live in the country for three months without purchasing a visa," Karla said.

She said that they intended to get residence visas and stay longer, but that didn't work out.

During the time in Ecuador, she was able to go back to the States a few times, and is now planning to visit back as well as having Ecuadorian friends visit them in North America.

Karla Berger celebrated 10 years in business at Pizza Ranch on Oct. 12. She said that it has totally changed the family's financial situation, but since it takes a while to get off the ground and money is needed up front, is not a good idea for someone who has lost a job and has no existing income.

"It's easier for somebody to start something like this if they have a traditional job, even if it's part time," she said.

Even in the States, their life involves many road trips. They were in Valley City, N.D. on Tuesday and were getting ready to go to a Sioux Falls weekend expo at the time of the interview. Work has brought them to Nebraska, Iowa, Montana and a variety of fairs and conventions. Karla also earned a cruise through the company.